Engendering the Subject

Gender and Self-Representation in Contemporary Women's Fiction

By Sally Robinson

Subjects: Literature
Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory
Paperback : 9780791407288, 248 pages, September 1991
Hardcover : 9780791407271, 248 pages, October 1991

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Introduction: Engendering the Subject

Feminist Theory and Identity Politics
"Women's Writing" and Self-Representation
Toward a Contestatory Practice of Narrative


1. Repetition and Resistance in Doris Lessing's Children of Violence


The Female Oedipus: Gender and the (De) Structuring of Martha's Quest
A Theory for Martha: Gender and the Production of Subjectivity
Gendered Address and Martha's Self-Representation


2. Angela Carter and the Circus of Theory: Writing Woman and Women's Writing


Derrida: The Affirmative Woman and the Feminist
Irigaray: Mimicry, Contradiction and the Subject of Feminism
The Anti-hero as Oedipus: Gender and the Postmodern Narrative
Difference as Spectacle: Deconstructing Mythologies of Gender


3. "We're all consequences of something" Cultural Mythologies of Gender and Race in the Novels of Gayl Jones


Black Female Essence: Slavery and the Cultural Production of the Black Woman
Corregidora: Black Female Subjectivity and the Politics of Heterosexuality
Eva's Man: Excess as Subversion


Epilogue On Representation and Self-Representation
Bibliography of Works Cited


Robinson sets up a dialogue between feminist critical theory and contemporary women's fiction in order to argue for a new way of reading the specificity of women's writing. Through theoretically informed readings of novels by Doris Lessing, Angela Carter, and Gayl Jones, the author argues that female subjectivity is engendered in discourse through the woman writer's strategic engagement in representational systems that rely on a singular figure of Woman for coherence. Through this engagement, women's self-representation emerges as a process through which women take up multiple and contradictory positions in relation to different hegemonic discursive systems, and through which they engender themselves as subjects.

Finally, Engendering the Subject suggests how women's fiction can provide a model for a feminist practice of reading that would simultaneously work against the historical containment of Woman, and for the empowerment of women as subjects of cultural practices.

Sally Robinson is Assistant Professor of English at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


"I like best the clear, direct, and unrelenting manner in which Robinson sets forth her argument. She writes lucidly and avoids jargon. As a result, the text is most enjoyable reading.

"Her basic approach takes us to the heart of some very pressing issues. By choosing to focus on the question of the subject position, Robinson elects an extremely significant and timely topic which is both important within current debates in feminist criticism and theory, and significant to broader critical and theoretical debates in the field today." — Elizabeth Meese, University of Alabama