Single Mother: The Emergence of the Domestic Intellectual

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Long perceived as the ultimate symbol of social breakdown and sexual irresponsibility, the single mother is now, in the context of welfare-to-work policies, often hailed as the new spokesperson for hard work and self-sufficiency. A dozen years after Dan Quayle denounced the television character Murphy Brown for making the decision to become a single mother “just another lifestyle choice,” President George W. Bush applauded single mothers for “heroic work,” and positive on-screen representations of single mothers abound, from The Gilmore Girls to Sex and the City to American Idol.

Single Mother describes the recent cultural valorization of this figure that—in the midst of demographic changes in the U.S.—has emerged as the unlikely heroic and seductive voice of the new American family. Drawing on her own life as a single mother, interviews with dozens of other single mothers, cultural representations, and policies on welfare, immigration, childcare, and child custody, Juffer analyzes this contingent acceptance of single mothers. Finally, critiquing the relentless emphasis on self-sufficiency to the exclusion of community, Juffer shows the remarkable organizing skills of these new mothers of invention. At a moment when one-third of all babies are born to single moms, Single Mother is a fascinating and necessary examination of these new “domestic intellectuals.”

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Illuminating cultural study of single motherhood. . . . [Juffer] explores the experiences of single mothers across various social and economic conditions, taking a critical look at current social policy.”
-Library Journal

“Juffer points to a new formation—the domestic intellectual—and in that gesture opens up the concept of the intellectual to a more complicated theoretical engagement. With it, she re-imagines marriage, mothering, and the spatial dynamics of private life, and returns them to a possibly radical and liberatory space. This powerful and transformative work adds to our understanding of the value of learning from ordinary life.”
-Wahneema Lubiano,Duke University

Library Journal
Some women choose to become single mothers; circumstances choose it for others. Either way, raising a child alone is a difficult task involving tremendous external and internal pressures, and it requires self-sufficiency. Juffer (English, Pennsylvania State Univ.; At Home with Pornography) uses her own experiences as the underlying foundation for this engaging and illuminating cultural study of single motherhood. Organizing her text into sections treating everyday life, spaces, and ethics, she explores the experiences of single mothers across various social and economic conditions, taking a critical look at current social policy. The single mother, Juffer proposes, has emerged organically as a "domestic intellectual," challenging the role of the traditional family and proving that she can be a self-sufficient individual in the domestic realm while belonging to an expanding group in current demographics. Juffer closely examines the portrayal of single mothers in television and film and expertly relates media examples to real-life stories obtained via her own interviews. Her own personal journal entries add a memoirlike quality to the volume. Insightful and readable, this is recommended for academic libraries and large public libraries.-Susanne Markgren, SUNY at Purchase Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814742792
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Pages: 267
  • Product dimensions: 0.75 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Juffer is an associate professor of English and women's studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of At Home with Pornography: Women, Sex, and Everyday Life (also available from NYU Press).

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Domestic Intellectuals: Freedom and the Single Mom
Part I Keyword: Everyday Life
1 Representing the Single Mom (and Watching TV with Alex)
Part II Keyword: Spaces
2 The Corporate University
3 The U.S.-Mexican Border
4 Puerto Rican Chicago
Part III Keyword: Ethics
5 Mothers and Sons
6 Choice
Conclusion: From Identity Politics to Human Rights
Works Cited
About the Author

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