UPDATE: PAMLA 2010 Conference: Women's Writing Today: Distinct or Equivalent?

full name / name of organization: 
PAMLA Annual Conference, 13-14 November 2010 (Chaminade U, Honolulu HI). Presiding Officer: Terri Baker
contact email: 
terribaker7@gmail.com

In her essay, “I am not a woman writer”, Toril Moi argues that the subject of the woman writer has disappeared from feminist theory. Moi recalls how, in_A Room of One’s Own_, Virginia Woolf famously asks women to write androgynously and how Simone de Beauvoir reminds us that, in “a sexist society, man is the One, she is the Other” (Moi 264). In the 1970s and 1980s, écriture féminine and the subject of women’s writing were very popular, but Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Roland Barthes contributed to the rejection of the importance of an author’s gender. The question of the gendered author becomes even more complicated with Judith Butler’s concept of gender being a performative act. Recently, novelist Rachel Cusk argues (The Guardian 12 Dec. 2009) that women’s writing should not “seek equivalence in the male world” but rather “express a distinction, not deny it.” According to Cusk, a woman author on Woolf’s terms is “a victim, a prisoner…. actively disbarred” whereas on de Beauvoir’s she is “fawning for scraps from the male table.” Cusk goes on to suggest that women who fail to recognize their writing as feminine are not freer due to the postfeminist notion of feminist goals achieved but rather because “[s]ometimes society is receptive to the language of oppression; at other times it is not, and oppression becomes a cause of shame.” What exactly, asks Cusk, are “female values”? Have women stopped promoting female literary texts as “women’s writing” because of this shame?

Should contemporary approaches to texts written by women—be they historical texts or more recent—ignore the gender of the author? Is emphasizing the author’s gender a privileging strategy? Or does it condemn discourses on women’s writing outside of mainstream literarature? Can we find evidence for Cusk’s proposal that shame is a symptom of oppression in the writings of women in the Western tradition? Can we find similar evidence in the writing of women in the postcolonial tradition?

This panel welcomes contributions from any perspective that brings into focus contemporary approaches to women's writing . Although it is not necessary to be a member of PAMLA in order to submit a proposal, presenters must be current with their PAMLA dues by 4 May 2010. Submit abstracts of 500 words or less online by 4 May 2010 at http://www.pamla.org/2010/sessions/women-literature

Please visit http://pamla.org for more information. Following the conference, session presenters will be encouraged to submit their papers to be considered for publication to PAMLA's peer-reviewed journal_Pacific Coast Philology_.

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