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A Handmaid’s Tale: The Critical Heritage

  • Marjorie Stone
Chapter
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Part of the Women Writers book series (WW)

Abstract

Reception histories of an author’s work typically privilege the opinions of reviewers and critics: they present ‘the critical heritage’, to cite the title of one well-known series. Like literary histories in general, such collections and surveys do not record the responses of the culturally marginalized. Nor do they include responses expressed in pyschological and social transformations rather than in writing. Ironically, however, the socially marginalized and/or socially mobilized often dramatically alter history in ways that official histories obscure. In Frederic Jameson’s words, history is a ‘process of the reappropriation and neutralization … of forms which originally expressed the situation of “popular”, subordinate, or dominated groups’, with the result that there are innumerable silenced ‘utterances scattered to the winds, or reappropriated’ by the hegemonic order.1 Yet it is precisely these silenced utterances that constitute the seeds of historical change and the sites of historical struggle.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Cited by Barton Levy St. Armand, Emily Dickinson and Her Culture: The Soul’s Society (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1984) p. 120.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    The Letters of Emily Dickinson ed. Thomas H. Johnson and Theodora Ward (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1958) vol. 2, p. 404.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Cited by Dorothy Hewlett, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (London, Cassell, 1953) p. 291.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Cited by Dolores Rosenblum, Christina Rossetti: The Poetry of Endurance (Carbondale & Edwardsville, Southern Illinois Press, 1986) p. 1.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    Lewis E. Gates, Studies and Appreciations (New York, Macmillan, 1990) p. 32. For Herridge and Bradfield, see the Selected Bibliography.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    The Letters of Edward Fitzgerald ed. Alfred McKinley Terhune and Annabelle Burdick Terhune (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1980) vol. 1, p. 407.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    John W. Cunliffe, ‘Elizabeth Barrett’s Influence on Browning’, PMLA, 23 (1908) 169–83;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Laurie Magnus, English Literature of the Nineteenth Century: An Essay in Criticism (London, Andrew Melrose, 1909).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Marjorie Stone 1995

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  • Marjorie Stone

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