During my first term as a new lecturer in twentieth/twenty-first century women’s writing and gender studies, a male colleague said that he would never teach H.D. in a course with Pound and Eliot because she “just wasn’t in the same league, at all.” When I disagreed, a second male colleague offered to sit down with me “and go line by line and prove why her poetry was not as good as that of her male counterparts.” The cocktail-party conversation
There is a lag between the advent of a major social change—the right to vote, the availability of education, working for pay outside the home—and the moment when any one individual avails herself of the opportunities arising from such a change. Activists and visionaries fight for the change long before it comes; pioneers are the first in line to participate; others hesitate and face resistance. Each woman changes her mind at a different rate from the legal and policy changes of the culture at large, and writing by women dramatizes the sometimes liberating, sometimes uneasy responses to those cultural changes.
Contributing to a discussion about feminism, modernism, and methodology is a daunting prospect. Not only is “feminism” a notoriously slippery concept to define once and for all (the “for all” is the part that tends to generate the most difficulty), but also the term “methodology” seems too antiseptic, too premeditated, to describe feminist work in the humanities. Social justice work in the humanities is often messy (in the generative sense described by Martin Manalansan) and contingent.
“Mind the Gap! Modernism and Feminist Praxis” marks Modernism/ modernity’s first forum dedicated to feminism and women modernists. Our forum situates its arguments at the nerve center of twentieth-century feminism, engaging diverse aspects of modern women’s lives through equally diverse methodologies. Feminism serves as a mode of critical discourse as well as an object of study, a rich doubling that shapes our dialogues about two constitutive aspects of modernism
It runs like this: First, a film has to contain two female characters; second, they have to talk to one other; third: they have to talk about something besides a man.
Who today hasn’t heard of the Bechdel test? Having gone viral, it increasingly serves as a litmus test in class discussion for marking outsized gender bias in texts. The test provides a handy algorithm, generating a consistent output: a fundamental feminist insight that far too many texts do not contain women who talk about anything besides a man.