Sleeping with the Boss opens up the feminist critical project by showing that author gender has no bearing on the creation of feminine-structure narrative. Moreover, by exposing a considerable "female consciousness" in the major fictional works of Robert Penn Warren, it departs dramatically from previous criticism of Warren. Ferriss, a novelist as well as a critic, expands on narrative poetics to suggest that female subjectivity is the central concept in defining a woman's narrative. Specifically, the subjective voice of a female character is present to such a degree that the traditional structures of masculine narrative (described as linear, forward moving, and authoritative) can no longer hold. Leapfrogging over existing feminist theory, she asserts that such female consciousness may permeate the writing of men as well as women. Within Warren's traditional masculine narrative style, Ferriss detects the complicating presence of female voice, with its potential to alter the focus and direction of the plot. As she demonstrates, the degree to which Warren distances himself from or steps inside his female characters' consciousness varies enormously across his career. Still, his novels reveal the consistent pattern of a major woman character in a liaison with a wealthy or powerful man; those sexual relationships, Ferriss maintains, are pivotal in establishing female personae whose subjective effect on the narrative disturbs or overturns conventional readings of the novels' meaning. For example, she presents a startingly subversive analysis of the character Amantha Starr (Band of Angels), heretofore viewed as a simpering victim by critics. In addition to nine of Warren's novels, Ferriss critiques his book-length poem, Brother to Dragons, which in the powerful voice of Lucy Lewis exhibits the moral and narrative limitations of the male speakers even as that female voice is itself thwarted and cut off. She also explores Warren's frequent motif of the female empty-hand
Novelist and critic Ferriss transcends current feminist theory to assert that the author's gender has no bearing on the creation of a feminine-structured narrative. Citing Warren's consistent pattern of a major women character in a liaison with a wealthy or powerful man, she demonstrates the complicating presence of the female voice altering the focus and direction of the plot within the traditional masculine narrative style. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.