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The Female Complaint


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The Female Complaint is part of Lauren Berlant’s groundbreaking “national sentimentality” project charting the emergence of the U.S. political sphere as an affective space of attachment and identification. In this book, Berlant chronicles the origins and conventions of the first mass-cultural “intimate public” in the United States, a “women’s culture” distinguished by a view that women inevitably have something in common and are in need of a conversation that feels intimate and revelatory. As Berlant explains, “women’s” books, films, and television shows enact a fantasy that a woman’s life is not just her own, but an experience understood by other women, no matter how dissimilar they are.

Pairing literary criticism and historical analysis, Berlant explores the territory of this intimate public sphere through close readings of U.S. women’s literary works and their stage and film adaptations, from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to Toni Morrison’s Beloved by way of Show Boat, Imitation of Life and the poetry and prose of Dorothy Parker amongst others.

Duke University Press, Durham, NC, 2008. Paperback, 368 pages, b&w illustrations throughout, 23.1 x 15.5 x 2.8 cm.
ISBN 978-0822342021