Cambria Press Publication Review: Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s)

Congratulations to Professor Lynne Greeley (University of Vermont) on the outstanding review of her book Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s) in the journal Women’s History Review.

women-in-theatre

The book review praises Fearless Femininity because:

Greeley has assembled a very large ‘cast’ of female artists: their ranks include the ‘first feminists’ (p. 215) Megan Terry and Bobbi Ausubel; Martha Boesing, cofounder of the feminist Minneapolis theatre company, At the Foot of the Mountain; Spiderwoman Theater, the Indigenous all-female (and all family) company; and commercially successful representatives of ‘third-wave’ feminism, such as playwrights Eve Ensler, Rivka Solomon, and Sarah Ruhl. Greeley also discusses the work of playwrights and performers who challenge not just the masculinity of American theatre but confront its whiteness and hetero-normativity: Latina playwright Caridad Svich; African American playwright Lynn Nottage; and artists Adelina Anthony, Young Jean Lee, and Najla Said, who (respectively) work from the perspectives of Ch/Xicana, queer, Asian American,and Arab/Palestinian American theatre and performance. Greeley brings to her research a deep-rooted knowledge of both American theatre history and feminist work’s place within it. Throughout the book she stresses women’s choices, their agency and activism, in crafting female or female-identified characters, ones made in the face of an art form and profession that has historically been dominated by men.

The journal review further recommends the book because “students of American theatre history, American women’s and gender history, and the histories of American feminism will have much to learn from Greeley’s own fearless approach to her subject.”

Fearless Femininity is part of the Cambria Contemporary Global Performing Arts Series headed by Professor John Clum (Duke University).

Order this book on Amazon.

  • Hardcover: 588 pages
  • Publisher: Cambria Press (February 6, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160497883X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604978834

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Cambria Press New Publication: The Fiction of Thea Astley

Cambria Press is pleased to announce a new publication The Fiction of Thea Astley by Susan Sheridan.

This book is in the Cambria Australian Literature Series, headed by Dr. Susan Lever.

This book will be launched at the upcoming 2016 Association for the Study of Australian Literature conference hosted by UNSW Canberra at ADFA.

The following are excerpts from the new book.

Thea Astley

From the introduction:
“This oppositional stance—in relation to the Church, and in relation to the nation and the colonialism on which it was founded—fed into Astley’s critique of other social institutions and practices. Her work is driven by a moral revulsion against greed and corruption, against class prejudice and the cruelties practiced on social outsiders, against the racism of colonial dispossession and exploitation of Indigenous people, and against the presumption of male superiority and the physical and psychic violence practiced against women.”

From Chapter 3:
“By the time she published Beachmasters, in 1986, Astley had developed a political perspective on colonialism that allowed her to move beyond disillusionment with human relationships structured by marriage, or human relationship to the divine as structured by the Church, to a critique of the structures themselves. This novel takes colonialism as its subject, rather than assuming its presence, and depicts expatriates and indigenous people inhabiting the same socio-political space, drawing out the complications of hapkas familial and cultural identity. Such a perspective on power structures, as we shall see in later chapters, comes to inform her representation of gender and sexual relations as well as colonial race relations, providing a strong intellectual foundation for her intensely imagined fictions.”

From Chapter 7:
“With Drylands, her final novel, Astley returns to the present day and a setting in a small north Queensland inland town of that name. […]The stories are framed by the narrative of Janet Deakin (a name suggesting she is a descendant of one of Australia’s founding fathers, Alfred Deakin) […] The stories, including Janet’s own, are all tales of violence, of behavior which ranges from the verbal sneers that Janet suffers, through to domestic violence and attempted rape. Another woman is victim not to violence but to domestic servitude to her husband and six sons. In this book, Astley’s feisty feminist barbs at marriage as an institution of male privilege and female slavery recur (‘Is it a boy or a drudge?’ asks Janet’s mother when she is born, 103) but the predominant theme is masculine violence.”

Buy The Fiction of Thea Astley on Amazon.

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Interview with Lynne Greeley on Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s)

Cambria Press Author publication theatre women's studies

Cambria Press Interview with Lynne Greeley on her book Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s)

The following is an interview with Dr. Lynne Greeley on her book, Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s), which is currently on display at the ATHE conference in Montreal. You can also browse the book here.

Q: What led you to write this book?

I decided to write Fearless Femininity by Women in America Theatre 1910s-2010s because feminists, for the most part, in the United States have historically rejected the conventions of femininity. My position in the study is to reclaim the idea of femininity from its negative stereotypes and proclaim its importance to feminism by demonstrating how artists in theatre have used it for over one hundred years as a dramaturgical tool to empower women both onstage and off. Seeking a feminist femininity in plays and performances by American women, I demonstrate how artists in theatre have proved that the performance of the feminine no longer belongs to a mystic created by men but to the women who choose to be, to do and to sell as they please. In so doing, I also show the development and change of feminism itself as through time the representations of women on the stage have come closer to the lives of real women.

Q: What do you hope your readers take away from your book?

I hope readers will be inspired by the choices the writers and performers have created for their characters. The book shows what happens when women writers create female leads that claim their agency and act. None of the characters written by any of the included playwrights is passive, even though the world inside the play is often hostile, and not all the characters succeed as they seek self-fulfillment or the realization of an ideal. Happy endings are not a motif. However, all the plays and performance texts are political—indisputably political—thereby asserting not only the power of theatrical performance to inspire social change but the efficacy of art’s influence over life. My hope is that readers, like the audiences attending productions of the plays, will move forward with new visions of what the world can be and who they are in it. In addition, their sense of the importance of women in American theatre will be expanded with their view of a century of intelligent, experimental, fearless, and highly theatrical artists at work.

Q: What other research do you believe is needed on this topic?

Very little work has been done on the workings of femininity as a dramaturgical tool. Both recovering femininity and the women who use it for empowerment is a new direction for critical analysis. Furthermore, the ongoing study of gender and power in theatre is crucial for bringing balance to an art form still very much dominated by men with many female artists yet undiscovered or unrecognized. In addition, as the plot of the book moves from the push of the first wave of feminism for the vote alongside the African American protest of lynching, to the second wave’s demand for social and economic equality, to the third wave’s expectation that all voices have a right to be heard, women’s issues are again taking center stage. With mainstream playwrights such as Lynn Nottage, Caridad Svich, Sarah Ruhl, and Eve Ensler achieving acclaim in what has been called a new renaissance of women playwrights, the possibilities remain endless for researchers to discover other female and female-identified artists in regional, local, alternative, or educational theatres who are changing lives through performance.

This book is part of the Cambria Contemporary Global Performing Arts, headed by John Clum (Duke University).

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