Event Title

Session Two: Panel 3 - Agency, Resistance and Legibility

Location

Marsh Hall 101

Start Date

17-10-2009 1:45 PM

End Date

17-10-2009 3:15 PM

Description

Making a New Woman: Reconstructing through Death the Identity of Mary Rogers in 1840s New York (Mark Bernhardt)

In my paper, I analyze the 1841 murder of a working class New York woman named Mary Rogers and the manner in which three individuals – newspaper publisher James Gordon Bennett, author Lydia Child, and criminal Charles Wallace – engaged her story. My central argument is that society created a social ideal concerning women’s gender roles in response to the Second Great Awakening and new market economy, the Rogers murder revealed ways in which the ideal had broken down in her life (and the lives of other working class women), and Bennett, Child, and Wallace sought to prop up the ideal by recreating the reality of Rogers’s life. Specifically, the three attempted to rectify the ideal of innocent, virginal young womanhood with the alleged sexual behavior of Rogers and the real sexual risk in which her life as a working class woman placed her. The narrative about the case gives insight into the dominant culture’s attempt to establish control over female sexuality by the way Bennett, Child, and Wallace constructed a new identity for her after she was dead, making her out to be an innocent victim within the immoral world of working class youth in New York City. Their ability to construct a positive identity for a young, independent working-class woman was directly connected to violence and the fact that she was dead. A positive image would have been impossible to construct if she had still been alive to violate society’s ideal with her actions.

The Madwoman Speaks: Madness and Motherhood in Angie Cruz’s Soledad (Cristina Herrera)

My paper will examine the treatment of female “madness” in Dominican-American writer Angie Cruz’s novel, Soledad. Female madness as a major theme in British and American 19th century women novelists was first explained in Sandra Gilbert’s and Susan Gubar’s groundbreaking work, The Madwoman in the Attic, as a mode in which women authors could subtly challenge patriarchy through their mad female characters. To date, little research has been conducted on the treatment of madwomen characters in literature by Latinas. As Marta Caminero-Santangelo counters in her study, The Madwoman Can’t Speak, however, the mad woman does not necessarily challenge patriarchy because she is essentially a static figure, offering more of “the illusion of power” rather than power itself (3). I intend to push beyond Gilbert and Gubar’s and even Caminero-Santangelo’s arguments by examining how Cruz suggests that her mad mother, Olivia, does in fact, speak. Despite her madness which has left her comatose for months, Cruz’s complex narration of the novel grants Olivia the opportunity to speak in dream-like sequences, allowing readers to hear her inner thoughts. In addition, the novel suggests that motherhood may grant Olivia agency; she is able to transcend madness through motherhood and by rescuing her daughter Soledad from death at the end of the novel.

The Ambiguity of Love: A Mother-Philosopher Reconsidering Oedipus. (Kimberley Parzuchowski)

The Oedipus myth, as presented by Freud, is both deeply culturally alive and highly problematic. Its tenacious grip on the public consciousness bespeaks, if inaccurately, its relevance as a profound human truth, and a problem: Namely, that our parental relationships have a grip on our psyche that never lets go. Our efforts to liberate the psyche demand an improved understanding of this relationship. The ambivalence of the parent-child relation, for Freud is characterized as charged with sexual tensions, particularly in the triangle between the sexes of both parents. I hope to revise the practical understanding of the intimate bond between mother and child, toward an improved understanding of the subsequent ambivalence and ambiguity of the parent-child relation. I argue that the relation, rather than being explicitly sexual, is utterly sensual—far beyond the reach of Freud’s account.

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Oct 17th, 1:45 PM Oct 17th, 3:15 PM

Session Two: Panel 3 - Agency, Resistance and Legibility

Marsh Hall 101

Making a New Woman: Reconstructing through Death the Identity of Mary Rogers in 1840s New York (Mark Bernhardt)

In my paper, I analyze the 1841 murder of a working class New York woman named Mary Rogers and the manner in which three individuals – newspaper publisher James Gordon Bennett, author Lydia Child, and criminal Charles Wallace – engaged her story. My central argument is that society created a social ideal concerning women’s gender roles in response to the Second Great Awakening and new market economy, the Rogers murder revealed ways in which the ideal had broken down in her life (and the lives of other working class women), and Bennett, Child, and Wallace sought to prop up the ideal by recreating the reality of Rogers’s life. Specifically, the three attempted to rectify the ideal of innocent, virginal young womanhood with the alleged sexual behavior of Rogers and the real sexual risk in which her life as a working class woman placed her. The narrative about the case gives insight into the dominant culture’s attempt to establish control over female sexuality by the way Bennett, Child, and Wallace constructed a new identity for her after she was dead, making her out to be an innocent victim within the immoral world of working class youth in New York City. Their ability to construct a positive identity for a young, independent working-class woman was directly connected to violence and the fact that she was dead. A positive image would have been impossible to construct if she had still been alive to violate society’s ideal with her actions.

The Madwoman Speaks: Madness and Motherhood in Angie Cruz’s Soledad (Cristina Herrera)

My paper will examine the treatment of female “madness” in Dominican-American writer Angie Cruz’s novel, Soledad. Female madness as a major theme in British and American 19th century women novelists was first explained in Sandra Gilbert’s and Susan Gubar’s groundbreaking work, The Madwoman in the Attic, as a mode in which women authors could subtly challenge patriarchy through their mad female characters. To date, little research has been conducted on the treatment of madwomen characters in literature by Latinas. As Marta Caminero-Santangelo counters in her study, The Madwoman Can’t Speak, however, the mad woman does not necessarily challenge patriarchy because she is essentially a static figure, offering more of “the illusion of power” rather than power itself (3). I intend to push beyond Gilbert and Gubar’s and even Caminero-Santangelo’s arguments by examining how Cruz suggests that her mad mother, Olivia, does in fact, speak. Despite her madness which has left her comatose for months, Cruz’s complex narration of the novel grants Olivia the opportunity to speak in dream-like sequences, allowing readers to hear her inner thoughts. In addition, the novel suggests that motherhood may grant Olivia agency; she is able to transcend madness through motherhood and by rescuing her daughter Soledad from death at the end of the novel.

The Ambiguity of Love: A Mother-Philosopher Reconsidering Oedipus. (Kimberley Parzuchowski)

The Oedipus myth, as presented by Freud, is both deeply culturally alive and highly problematic. Its tenacious grip on the public consciousness bespeaks, if inaccurately, its relevance as a profound human truth, and a problem: Namely, that our parental relationships have a grip on our psyche that never lets go. Our efforts to liberate the psyche demand an improved understanding of this relationship. The ambivalence of the parent-child relation, for Freud is characterized as charged with sexual tensions, particularly in the triangle between the sexes of both parents. I hope to revise the practical understanding of the intimate bond between mother and child, toward an improved understanding of the subsequent ambivalence and ambiguity of the parent-child relation. I argue that the relation, rather than being explicitly sexual, is utterly sensual—far beyond the reach of Freud’s account.