March 02, 2002
A little less topical
Bitch Magazine: O is for the Other Things She Gave Me: Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and Contemporary Women’s Fiction.
Female novelists dominated the development of the novel in the U.S. through the 19th century, and when male authors wanted to distance themselves from what Nathaniel Hawthorne called the “horde of scribbling women,” they often did it by attacking the types of novels associated with women writers (mostly the sentimental novel, roughly the 19th-century equivalent of the chick flick). Regionalist fiction, a form popularized mainly by women at the turn of the century, was dismissed by later literary critics on grounds similar to the Oprah “socio-fiction”—namely, the joint charges of autobiographical self-indulgence and raw nonfictional description. Because regionalist fiction usually relied on the writer’s first-hand knowledge of a picturesque locale, it got written off as a kind of artless transcription of personal history—as if all a person needed to write a good story was a quaint birthplace and a quill pen. Like women themselves, women’s fictional forms were considered sentimental, unskilled, and self-obsessed.