• Sign up for new title announcements and special offers.

  • The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture

    Author(s):
    Pages: 368
    Illustrations: 41 b&w illustrations
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
  • Cloth: $99.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-4184-0
  • Paperback: $27.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-4202-1
  • Quantity
  • Add To Bag
  • Preface vii

    Introduction: Intimacy, Publicity, and Femininity 1

    1. Poor Eliza 33

    2. Pax Americana: The Case of Show Boat 69

    3. National Brands, National Body: Imitation of Life 107

    4. Uncle Sam Needs a Wife: Citizenship and Denegation 145

    5. Remembering Love, Forgetting Everything Else: Now, Voyager 169

    6. "It's Not the Tragedies That Kill Us, It's the Messes": Femininity, Formalism, and Dorothy Parker 207

    7. The Compulsion to Repeat Femininity: Landscape for a Good Woman and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil 233

    Overture/Aperture: Showboat 1988—The Remake 265

    Notes 281

    Bibliography 319

    Index 347
  • The Female Complaint is a brilliant book that brings to point how culture creates the stereotypical woman and how the marketing of this role continues to be exploited through book and film.”

    The Female Complaint is rich with critical analysis that will make significant contributions to the ways scholars theorize American women’s relations to politics, material culture, and each other.”

    “[A] clever and insightful book. . . . “

    “[A]s a key to and model for how popular culture contributes to such narratives, The Female Complaint is exemplary.”

    “[T]he book is not an easy read. It is, however, thoroughly rewarding and worth the time it takes to fully engage with the content. The argument, developed through a sophisticated analysis of women's cultural texts, is challenging and highly thought-provoking. . . . I will keep returning to this book as I work through its implications for understanding how to confront a world with such extreme social inequalities.”

    “As we have come to expect with Berlant's scholarship, The Female Complaint is a deft contribution to the study of American literature and culture.”

    “By turns sidesplitting and devastating but always revelatory, Lauren Berlant’s new book explores why we insist that what the world needs now is love, and how much we lose in the process.”

    The Female Complaint advances and refines the relationship between intimacy and publicity in ways that suggestively rethink the category of individuality in late capitalism. . . . The Female Complaint is an uncannily hopeful book, finding value and possibility in a wholly nonredemptive account of convention.”

    The Female Complaint is a tour de force, a bracing read for feminist and postmodernist students of popular culture, as well as for genre theorists.”

    “Berlant sounds like your smartest and bitchiest friend—and the insights just keep coming.”

    “Some of the most important essays on U.S. culture produced during the past decade appear in The Female Complaint.”

    “The affective pleasure of reading The Female Complaint emerges from its unwillingness to sacrifice either incisive political critique that challenges the limits of women’s culture or textured formal accounts of the powerful emotional experience its texts provide for its consumers. . . . Theoretically ambitious and cogently argued, funny and invigorating, Berlant’s text promises to profoundly reshape how we think about sentimentality, gender, and affect in American culture.”

    Reviews

  • The Female Complaint is a brilliant book that brings to point how culture creates the stereotypical woman and how the marketing of this role continues to be exploited through book and film.”

    The Female Complaint is rich with critical analysis that will make significant contributions to the ways scholars theorize American women’s relations to politics, material culture, and each other.”

    “[A] clever and insightful book. . . . “

    “[A]s a key to and model for how popular culture contributes to such narratives, The Female Complaint is exemplary.”

    “[T]he book is not an easy read. It is, however, thoroughly rewarding and worth the time it takes to fully engage with the content. The argument, developed through a sophisticated analysis of women's cultural texts, is challenging and highly thought-provoking. . . . I will keep returning to this book as I work through its implications for understanding how to confront a world with such extreme social inequalities.”

    “As we have come to expect with Berlant's scholarship, The Female Complaint is a deft contribution to the study of American literature and culture.”

    “By turns sidesplitting and devastating but always revelatory, Lauren Berlant’s new book explores why we insist that what the world needs now is love, and how much we lose in the process.”

    The Female Complaint advances and refines the relationship between intimacy and publicity in ways that suggestively rethink the category of individuality in late capitalism. . . . The Female Complaint is an uncannily hopeful book, finding value and possibility in a wholly nonredemptive account of convention.”

    The Female Complaint is a tour de force, a bracing read for feminist and postmodernist students of popular culture, as well as for genre theorists.”

    “Berlant sounds like your smartest and bitchiest friend—and the insights just keep coming.”

    “Some of the most important essays on U.S. culture produced during the past decade appear in The Female Complaint.”

    “The affective pleasure of reading The Female Complaint emerges from its unwillingness to sacrifice either incisive political critique that challenges the limits of women’s culture or textured formal accounts of the powerful emotional experience its texts provide for its consumers. . . . Theoretically ambitious and cogently argued, funny and invigorating, Berlant’s text promises to profoundly reshape how we think about sentimentality, gender, and affect in American culture.”

  • “Guiding us through a ‘women’s culture’ animated by scenes of longing for a fantasmatic commonality, an ever-elusive normativity, Lauren Berlant illuminates, in readings unfailingly subtle and wise, the psychic negotiations and emotional bargaining that women in U.S. culture conduct to be part of an ‘intimate public.’ More dazzlingly still, she addresses what the business of sentimentality works to obscure: the possibility of political agency in the face of a cultural machinery that makes us feel helpless to do anything more than affirm our ability to feel. To read The Female Complaint is to realize how long and how much it’s been needed.” — Lee Edelman, author of, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive

    “Lauren Berlant’s voice is as unmistakable as Ella Fitzgerald singing scat. By turns seductive and bracing, gentle and wise, reassuring and disorienting, The Female Complaint asks readers to take mass-mediated women’s culture seriously. By the end of this absorbing book, you will understand the importance of living better clichés, why love requires amnesia, and how banality can be therapeutic. You will also have an irresistible craving to watch Now, Voyager one more time, in whatever setting enables you to thrive, and to give this fascinating book to someone who deserves to love better, or to forgive herself for just getting by.” — Mary Poovey, New York University

    “Of all the feminist cultural theorists whom I admire, Lauren Berlant is the one I consider to be the most theoretically innovative and politically inspiring. Yet this book exceeded even my highest hopes and expectations. Refusing to dodge the really searching political questions for contemporary American culture, Berlant maps the tricky terrain of the intimate public sphere. She has written a phenomenal study of breathtaking scope. I have no doubt that scholars and students will continue to debate the issues it raises for many years to come.” — Jackie Stacey, University of Manchester

  • Permission to Photocopy (coursepacks)

    If you are requesting permission to photocopy material for classroom use, please contact the Copyright Clearance Center at copyright.com;

    If the Copyright Clearance Center cannot grant permission, you may request permission from our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).

    Permission to Reprint

    If you are requesting permission to reprint DUP material (journal or book selection) in another book or in any other format, contact our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).

    Images/Art

    Many images/art used in material copyrighted by Duke University Press are controlled, not by the Press, but by the owner of the image. Please check the credit line adjacent to the illustration, as well as the front and back matter of the book for a list of credits. You must obtain permission directly from the owner of the image. Occasionally, Duke University Press controls the rights to maps or other drawings. Please direct permission requests for these images to permissions@dukeupress.edu.
    For book covers to accompany reviews, please contact the publicity department.

    Subsidiary Rights/Foreign Translations

    If you're interested in a Duke University Press book for subsidiary rights/translations, please contact permissions@dukeupress.edu. Include the book title/author, rights sought, and estimated print run.

    Disability Requests

    Instructions for requesting an electronic text on behalf of a student with disabilities are available here.

    Rights & Permissions Contact Information

    Email: permissions@dukeupress.edu
    Email contact for coursepacks: asstpermissions@dukeupress.edu
    Fax: 919-688-4574
    Mail:
    Duke University Press
    Rights and Permissions
    905 W. Main Street
    Suite 18B
    Durham, NC 27701

    For all requests please include:
    1. Author's name. If book has an editor that is different from the article author, include editor's name also.
    2. Title of the journal article or book chapter and title of journal or title of book
    3. Page numbers (if excerpting, provide specifics)
    For coursepacks, please also note: The number of copies requested, the school and professor requesting
    For reprints and subsidiary rights, please also note: Your volume title, publication date, publisher, print run, page count, rights sought
  • Description

    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. The commodified genres of intimacy, such as “chick lit,” circulate among strangers, enabling insider self-help talk to flourish in an intimate public. Sentimentality and complaint are central to this commercial convention of critique; their relation to the political realm is ambivalent, as politics seems both to threaten sentimental values and to provide certain opportunities for their extension.

    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. Her interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and its literary descendants reaches from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Toni Morrison’s Beloved, touching on Shirley Temple, James Baldwin, and The Bridges of Madison County along the way. Berlant illuminates different permutations of the women’s intimate public through her readings of Edna Ferber’s Show Boat; Fannie Hurst’s Imitation of Life; Olive Higgins Prouty’s feminist melodrama Now, Voyager; Dorothy Parker’s poetry, prose, and Academy Award–winning screenplay for A Star Is Born; the Fay Weldon novel and Roseanne Barr film The Life and Loves of a She-Devil; and the queer, avant-garde film Showboat 1988–The Remake. The Female Complaint is a major contribution from a leading Americanist.

    About The Author(s)

    Lauren Berlant is the George M. Pullman Professor of English and Chair of the Lesbian and Gay Studies Project at the University of Chicago. She is the author of The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship, also published by Duke University Press, and The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life. She is the editor of Compassion; Our Monica, Ourselves: The Clinton Affair and the National Interest (with Lisa Duggan); and Intimacy.

Explore More
Share

Create a reading list or add to an existing list. Sign-in or register now to continue.


Contact Us

  • Duke University Press
  • 905 W. Main St. Ste 18-B
  • Durham, NC 27701
  • U.S. phone (toll-free): 888-651-0122
  • International: 1-919-688-5134
  • orders@dukeupress.edu