Little Women, 1933
Barbara Sicherman offers some interesting thoughts about Little Women on the occasion of Louisa May Alcott’s 180th birthday (yesterday) and its influence on generations of women around the world (h/t to reader LKK for this.) She says that the book’s durability is due to its surprisingly modern sensibilities, perhaps most memorably in the person of Jo March, Alcott’s alter-ego:
Perhaps the most important reason for the novel’s survival is a heroine with unusual appeal. Some readers have identified with the other March sisters, but it is Jo March, the rambunctious tomboy and bookworm who is unladylike and careless of her appearance, who carries the story. The vast majority of readers, past and present, have identified with her. Jo’s presumed flaws are precisely the characteristics that speak to preadolescent and adolescent readers, themselves struggling with issues of growing up.
Alcott, who modeled Jo in her own image, created a character that continues to appeal. As J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books and herself a “Jo,” observed: “It is hard to overstate what she meant to a small, plain girl called Jo, who had a bad temper and a burning ambition to be a writer.”
For readers on the threshold of adulthood, the book’s embrace of female ambition has been a significant counterweight to more habitual gender prescriptions. For years there were few alternative models, although in my generation, the Nancy Drew books helped. Even today, some girls still respond to the portrait of Jo, the enthralled and enthralling writer.
It’s a good time of the year to consider Little Women, as the novel opens with Marmee and the March girls cooking Christmas breakfast. I think I read LW when I was eleven, in the sixth grade. I remember being so moved by the idea of Jo reading a pile of books while eating “russetts” in her “garrett” as to climb a tree with an apple in my teeth and the novel under my arm in order to re-enact Jo’s escape as best I could. Continue reading
The attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are being advanced by Republican Senators who are allied with Senator John Kerry. John McCain was widely rumored to have been asked to be Kerry’s running mate in 2004. Senator Lindsay Graham is an ally of Kerry on climate change, and Senator Kelly Ayotte is an ambitious pol from a neighboring state to Kerry’s who was probably brought on board to give the gentlemen cover from charges of sexism. Notice how whenever McCain talks about Rice, he usually mentions that if Kerry were nominated for Secretary of State, his nomination would “sail through” a confirmation hearing.
Yes, GOP Senators are enjoying this opportunity to try to beat on President Obama, but the media have credulously fallen for the notion that this is a Republican hatchet job. These senators appear to be working as Kerry’s advance guard in his bid for State.
C’est ca, mes amis!
From Alice Kaplan’s Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), pp. 41-42, a description of the some of the experiences of women in the Smith College junior year abroad program, ca. 1949-50:
At the Sorbonne itself, the experience of sitting in the “Grand amphi” set the tone. It was an auditorium complete with balconies and seats for a thousand students. The professor sat on a high stage, with statues and an enormous neoclassical mural as his backdrop. This was the ultimate theater of learning, grandiose and also slightly ridiculous, from the moment the professor walked onto his stage, accompanied by the traditional Sorbonne appariteur, a kind of classroom concierge in a dark suit, whose job was to announce the master and keep the blackboard wiped clean. Continue reading
I am so tired of reading books by people whose historical frame of reference is <100 years. (I am not thinking of peer-reviewed histories here. I’m talking about general-interest non-fiction, which is my usual “just for fun” bedside table reading. But I’m of the firm belief that non-fiction should be based on research and grounded in research and a reasonable perspective. Even polemics must be based in fact.) What has my brassiere in a twist now, you may well ask? Continue reading
Well, well, well–we finally pulled up to the ranch late on Sunday night, but with all of the stall-mucking and fence-riding to be done, as well as another holiday to prepare for, I’ve had no time at all to blog about the great time and intense learning that was the 2012 Gay-S-A in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I won’t bore you with the specifics of the intellectual conversations that I had, but rather will instead entertain you with a “slice of life” overview of the conference that will perhaps offer some useful strategies for those of you prepping for MLA, AHA, or the other large disciplinary conferences that will meet in the next few months. (Tenured Radical, Madwoman with a Laptop, and GayProf have all beat me to the conference round-up, so you can go there for the intelleckshul content. This blog post is–mostly–a bagatelle, a lagniappe if you will–just for fun.)
Among the many interesting things I learned:
- You can make new friends and impress important people if you show up at a graduate student panel at 8 a.m. on a Friday morning. I don’t want to go into it, but you can get a (perhaps undeserved) reputation for being a decent person for doing something like that, something you might have done anyway just because you were interested in hearing the papers. Shhhhh!!!
- This may be especially important if you disappointed a lot of people at your panel. The panel was a great success, especially for a first-day, almost first-thing in the morning panel. But as I whispered to GayProf as we were being introduced, “I have the feeling that thirty people in this room are disappointed, thinking ‘that’s not what I thought he/she looked like!'”
- I like to go swimmin’ with bare-naked women and swim between their legs. True! (And that naked woman will apparently be me this weekend, because I foolishly left my brand-new bathing suit in the hotel bathroom. Oh well–I didn’t like the bottoms, although the top was super-cute–see photo below.) And it’s also true that you can have substantial intellectual conversations and engage in serious problem-solving while swimming in the ocean or pool, and while sitting around afterwards in your bathing suit or sundress. I think this might be due to the fact that it’s difficult to be pretentious or cagey when you’re only half-dressed (or worse.) Continue reading
Tenured Radical has all of the details. What will happen when four academic bloggers meet to talk IRL and before an audience? (We’re waiting to hear if a certain invisible plane has been cleared to land in U.S. airspace.) At least we’re meeting close to Paradise Island, very close to the Bermuda Triangle.
And Madwoman with a Laptop doesn’t think I look like a cowgirl. Phoo! I say, this is what cowgirl looks like!