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Refusal and Transgression in Joyce Carol Oates' Fiction

Refusal and Transgression in Joyce Carol Oates' Fiction

by Marilyn C. Wesley


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This comprehensive and sophisticated feminist analysis contradicts the negative evaluations of earlier feminist critics to define Oates' feminist accomplishments. Wesley presents Oates' fiction as a dynamic structure that grew out of her obsessive concern with the American family and shows her literary patterns of resistance to the gender ideology that shapes it. She illustrates how Oates' disturbing portrayals of troubled families can and do address complex issues of power in contemporary society—economic dislocation, gender inequity, and violence—as they are experienced in intimate relationships.

The author defines and exemplifies the central concepts of family, power, and resistance in Oates' work with reference to her own literary criticism and the theoretical principles of Frederic Jameson. She begins by examining the presentation of the mother and the father in Oates' earliest works and then charts mother and daughter, brother and sister, and other family relationships. Wesley contends that the power dynamics of Oates' families relegate daughters to a position of impotence and sons to one of isolation and shows that the evolution of the children's refusal to identify themselves with their male or female models is a major focus in Oates' fiction.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780313284625
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/18/1993
Series: Contributions in Women's Studies Series , #13
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

MARILYN C. WESLEY is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. She received her Ph.D. from Syracuse University (1988) with a concentration in American literature and literary theory and has published a number of articles in her field with particular emphasis on Joyce Carol Oates.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Power Family Resistance

Mothers and Fathers: The Demotion of the Ideal

Mothers and Daughters: The Refusal of Innocence

Brothers and Sisters: The Refusal of Substitute Relation

Fathers and Sons: The Refusal of Violence

Transgression I: Mother-Son Romance

Transgression II: Father-Daughter Incest

The Feminist Unconscious

The Transgressive Other




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