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Motherhood and Self-Realization in the Four Waves of American Feminism and Joyce Carol Oates's Recent Fiction


Julia Hillenbrand

The author examines motherhood and female self-realization in feminist discourse and Joyce Carol Oates’s recent fiction. While the first and second wave of feminism repudiated motherhood, the third wave claimed the right to enjoy it. The present fourth wave is now reviving the reservations about motherhood of the first two waves. This book demonstrates how Oates’s writing reflects these shifts and how Oates takes up and transforms feminist standpoints in her work without writing conventional feminist literature. Literary criticism has only marginally dealt with Oates’s mother figures. Drawing on Gender Studies and, in particular, on the transnational relation between French and American feminism, this book fills this gap.

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2 State of Research


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2   State of Research

2.1   Joyce Carol Oates

Greg Johnson’s biography of Oates, Invisible Writer, as well as numerous interviews with the author, collected in works like Lee Milazzo’s Conversations with Joyce Carol Oates,1 help to position Oates in the feminist and literary discourse of her time. The dissertation particularly consults essays, books, and interviews which give an idea of the writer’s attitude towards feminism. Johnson’s exhaustively researched biography covers the years between Oates’s birth in 1938 and 1998 and gives valuable insights into her private and professional life. Johnson, who received his Ph.D. in American literature from Emory University and teaches writing at Kennesaw State University, is an expert on Oates.2 Apart from Invisible Writer, he has published The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates. 1973–1982,3 Joyce Carol Oates: Conversations, 1970–2006,4 Joyce Carol Oates: A Study of the Short Fiction,5 and Understanding Joyce Carol Oates.6 For Invisible Writer, Johnson not only interviewed colleagues, friends, and the family of Oates, he also had access to her journals and private letters, including conversations with fellow authors. He beautifully detects how biographical elements of the author’s life have been incorporated into her work.

Furthermore, the website Celestial Timepiece, which has its name from Bellefleur and is edited by Randy Souther, who works as a librarian at the University of San Francisco, provides rich material on Oates. The website was launched in 1995 and has since then become...

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