From Girl to Woman

American Women's Coming-of-Age Narratives

By Christy Rishoi

Subjects: Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory, SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Paperback : 9780791457221, 214 pages, March 2003
Hardcover : 9780791457214, 214 pages, March 2003

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Table of contents


1. Identity and the Coming-of-Age Narrative


Recreating Womanhood


2. Feminism, Autobiography, and Theories of Subjectivity


Feminism and the Autobiographical Act
Western Theories of Subjectivity
Feminist Poststructuralist Revisions of Subjectivity


3. Coming of Age in America


Historical Accounts of Adolescence
Psychological Accounts of Adolescence
Literary Accounts of Coming of Age
The Coming-of-Age Narrative
American Grand Narratives of Coming of Age


4. Specifying American Girlhood: Annie Dillard and Anne Moody


Specifying the Universal in An American Childhood
Hegemonic Inscription of the Body in Coming of Age in Mississippi


5. "Lying Contests": Fictional Autobiography and Autobiographical Fiction


"Lying Contests": Signifying Coming of Age
Janie's Ways of Knowing


6. "Room for Paradoxes": Creating a Hybrid Identity


A "World of Paper Strengths": The Education of Kate Simon
Mythology and Narrative in the Creation of Identity: The Woman Warrior


Works Cited

Examines the crucial role that coming-of-age narratives have played in American feminism.


From Girl to Woman examines the coming-of-age narratives of a diverse group of American women writers, including Annie Dillard, Zora Neale Hurston, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Mary McCarthy, and explores the crucial role of such narratives in the development of American feminism. Women have long known that identity is complex and contradictory, but in the twentieth century their coming-of-age narratives finally voice this knowledge. Addressing a variety of themes—awakening sexuality, the body's metamorphosis in puberty, consciousness of difference from males, and the socialization into feminine gender roles—these narratives reject the heroine's narrative ending in romance, allowing American women writers to create alternative subjectivities by rejecting the notion that identity is ever fixed. While activists have succeeded in winning legal battles that have changed the legal status of women, these narratives perform the cultural work of exposing the painful contradictions faced by women as they come of age.

Christy Rishoi is Professor of English at Mott College.