Iconography: Let's Get Lit Started
Hello, gentle readers. The good people at Bitch have made a terrible and now, I fear, irrevocable mistake, having hired me to write for you for the next eight weeks. There is an upside, however. I’m going to be writing about the greatest thing in the whole world: literature!
So, welcome to this here series called Iconography. We’re going to look at the formation and celebration of feminist literary icons, both characters and creators. You better get ready for a trip through time and space* because we’re going to explore icons from sixteenth century China to one Sookie Stackhouse. Sometimes, we’re going to have running themes. Shortly, for example, you’re going to endure my joyful tears over the late twentieth century feminist science fiction scene: Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia E. Butler and James Tiptree, Jr., my favorites! There will be crime and Harry Potter and picture books.
It’s not simply a matter of listing “literary greats,” however. The place of icons in feminist discourses is one I find disquieting, and I want to unpack why. When I first started to put together my list of characters and creators, I was horrified to see that just about everyone on it was white and American. Why were such particular kinds of icons, not of my culture or experience, the only ones I could think of? That’s why I want to look to the cultural processes governing who gets to be an icon, why they do, and the place of icons in feminism. Which new characters and creators are likely to be the icons of the future? How about women’s ways of doing fiction? I love the collaborative formations of women’s culture springing up in fan fiction communities and in the rewritings of Austen and her contemporaries that are presently so popular. And I keep thinking about why women’s cultures, women’s genres, are castigated as not properly literary.
Before we start in earnest, I want you to get thinking about feminist icons. Why are they important to you? How does fiction help us to process feminist issues going on in the real world? Are you experiencing the same problems I did in coming up with a list actually representative of those whom feminism claims to represent? By the time we finish up here, I hope I’ll have sparked some thinking about how these icons function in your lives and in feminism generally speaking.
At this stage, you’re probably wanting to know who I am. I’m Chally. My home blog is Zero at the Bone, and I also write for Feministe and FWD/Forward. I’m @challyzatb on Twitter. I live in beautiful Sydney in Australia; I am looking out on the sparkling Pacific Ocean as I type this! This means that I am in a different time zone to most of you and therefore may take a few hours to respond to comments. When I’m not typing feverishly about gender, race and disability, I’m an Arts student: a double English and history major, as may be obvious from the topic of this series! As a girl, my mother—a teacher, mind you—used to beg me to go and play instead of having my nose in a book. I may often blink in sunlight, but at least I’ve cultivated a lifelong love of books.
I’m looking forward to spending some time going over my favorite literary classics and some I’ve not read before. Get comfortable, grab a stack of books and join me!
*That one was for the Doctor Who fans out there.
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