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American Wild Zones

Space, Experience, Consciousness

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Edited By Jerzy Kamionowski and Jacek Partyka

The contributors understand the wild zone as denoting the existence and experience of a group (ethnic, social, sub-cultural, sexual, religious, etc.) which is/was marginalized in American society. Reaching far beyond the boundaries of original agenda (Edwin Ardener’s and Elaine Showalter’s), the term’s applicability has been significantly enlarged. Its fluidity or fuzziness, however, ought to be taken as a blessing: in the rapidly changing contemporary («liquid») world it is the language that needs to keep up with new circumstances and developments, not the other way round.
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Introduction: Moving Wild Zones

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← 14 | 15 →Marek Wilczyński

Elaine Showalter’s now classic essay “Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness” was published thirty-three years ago. Today, feminist criticism in the United States is no longer where it was then – a fully legitimate and fairly obvious part of academic discourse even in Poland, where changes follow those in the West usually after about twenty years. In turn, Showalter, to refresh our memory just in case, borrowed the concept of “wild zone” from the British anthropologists, Shirley and Edwin Ardener, who in the early 1970s came up with an articulation of a discursive relationship of the ideologically dominant and the muted group. According to the feminist critic’s brief synopsis of the Ardeners’ argument, “[b]oth muted and dominant groups generate beliefs or ordering ideas of social reality at the unconscious level, but dominant groups control the forms or structures in which consciousness can be articulated. Thus, muted groups must mediate their beliefs through the allowable forms of dominant structures.” Showalter paraphrases this line of reasoning for her own purposes thus: “Another way of putting this would be to say that all language is the language of the dominant order, and women, if they speak at all, must speak through it” (Showalter 262). As a result, some part of the muted group’s experience, in that case women’s, must remain mute because the dominant language has no means to name and convey it. In Lacan’s idiom then, which, although unacknowledged, informs both the Ardeners’ and Showalter’s approach,...

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