Between Women and Generations: Legacies of Dignity

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Before Drucilla Cornell's mother died, she asked her daughter to write a book "that would bear witness to the dignity of her death" and that "her bridge class would be able to understand." Shortly thereafter, Cornell's mother, who had a degenerative disease, decided to claim her right to die. Forceful, honest, and unsentimental, this is the book that Cornell promised to write.

The fundamental argument of Between Women and Generations is that all women have a dignity that cannot ...

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Overview

Before Drucilla Cornell's mother died, she asked her daughter to write a book "that would bear witness to the dignity of her death" and that "her bridge class would be able to understand." Shortly thereafter, Cornell's mother, who had a degenerative disease, decided to claim her right to die. Forceful, honest, and unsentimental, this is the book that Cornell promised to write.

The fundamental argument of Between Women and Generations is that all women have a dignity that cannot be lost, even if they are physically harmed or morally wronged. Therefore, we must secure and foster the conditions under which women can claim this dignity in their own lives.

Cornell uses the personal as a springboard to discuss contemporary issues concerning women today. She engages the difficult nature of intergenerational relationships between women by writing about her relationship to her own mother. In telling the story of her adoption of Sarita Graciela Kellow Cornell, her Paraguayan daughter, and of her relationship with UNITY, a cooperative of house cleaners in Long Island, New York, Cornell creates a powerful picture of the legacies of dignity between women and generations.

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Editorial Reviews

Alicia Ostriker
Drucilla Cornell's work combines scrupulous cutting-edge thought with an overflowing,compassionate and personal humanity.
Publishers Weekly
Cornell, a playwright and Rutgers University political science professor, made a deathbed promise to her mother to write a book that "would bear witness to the dignity of her death and that her bridge class would be able to understand." Cornell's premise in this self-righteous, repetitive and sometimes incoherent treatise, is that "white Anglo feminists" need to respect the dignity of mothers, grandmothers, daughters and the women who work for "us" (thereby assuming, it seems, that her readers are "white Anglo feminists"). Respect allows other women to develop their "imaginary domain" so they can dream and become who they "seek to be." After some musings on her grandmother's career, Cornell detours into feminist psychoanalytic theory, reworking Spivak, Gurewich and Butler's various interventions in feminist and Lacanian debates. Fond of the sport of renaming everything, Cornell replaces "care" with "ethical and affective attunement," "gender" with "the feminine within the imaginary domain" and "dignity" with "the law of psychic separation." After pages of postmodern bravado, Cornell's narrative returns to her adoption of a six-month-old Paraguayan girl. The need for a nanny in New York City raised Cornell's awareness of the underworld of undocumented Latinas, so she interviewed some women from a housecleaners' co-op for the last section of her book. While priding herself on having learned "to listen," Cornell can't resist upstaging her interviewees by offering more dramatic moments from her own working life or by explaining to them how racism works. Cornell's academic friends may be impressed with her effort, but the bridge club will have its doubts. Photos. (May 13) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Before she committed suicide, Cornell's mother, who had a degenerative disease, asked her daughter to write this book as an affirmation of her decision to take her own life and a recognition of her dignity. With uncompromising honesty, Cornell (political science & women's studies, Rutgers; Beyond Accommodation: Ethical Feminism, Deconstruction and the Law) writes of her relationship with her mother, using it as the backdrop to discuss intergenerational relationships between women and to argue that every woman, no matter how physically or emotionally bruised, must preserve her dignity. Although the introduction and first and final chapters trace Cornell's reflections on the influence of the lives and deaths of her mother as well as her grandmother, the book's structure seems fragmented, especially in the middle chapters, where Cornell branches out to discuss feminist theory and include interviews with a Long Island cooperative of women house-cleaners, who assert their dignity individually and collectively. Cornell intended to make this book accessible to nonspecialists, including her mother's bridge club, but the theoretical chapters will be difficult reading for those unfamiliar with the theories of Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, and several others. For this reason, the book is likely to be confined to academic collections. Patricia A. Beaber, Coll. of New Jersey, Ewing Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
In response to her mother's death 1998, Cornell (political sciences and women's studies, Rutgers U.) explores mothers and daughters and intergenerational friendship and love between women, living or dead. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312294304
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 5/17/2002
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Drucilla Cornell is Professor of Political Science and Women's Studies at Rutgers University. The author of numerous books on philosophy and women's issues, Cornell lives in New York City.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface
Ch. I The Inheritance of Dreams 1
Ch. II Darings of the Feminine 27
Ch. III The Art of Witnessing and the Community of the Ought to Be 71
Ch. IV Cooperation for Dignified Labor: Moving toward Unity 95
Ch. V Stories of Unity 121
Ch. VI Abiding by Last Rites 153
Appendices 167
Notes 193
Bibliography 233
Index 241
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2002

    An Amazing Book, Heartwarming and Challenging!

    My fiancee gave me this book, and I loved it so much I gave one to my mother. She loves it too. Drucilla Cornell tells a spell-spinding story about the loving and complicated relationships between her, her remarkable grandmother who befriended Eva Peron, her courageous mother who decided to take her life and die with dignity, and her adopted daughter from Paraguay, wise beyond her years. The personal stories Cornell tells are fascinating, but just as interesting is the way that Cornell uses these stories to illuminate complicated psychological theory in crystal clear prose. This book will move your heart and challenge your brain.

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