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Dead Women Talking

Figures of Injustice in American Literature

Brian Norman uncovers a curious phenomenon in American literature: dead women who nonetheless talk. These characters appear in works by such classic American writers as Poe, Dickinson, and Faulkner as well as in more recent works by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Tony Kushner, and others. These figures are also emerging in contemporary culture, from the film and best-selling novel The Lovely Bones to the hit television drama Desperate Housewives.

Dead Women Talking demonstrates that the dead, especially women, have been speaking out in American literature since well before it was fashionable. Norman argues that they voice concerns that a community may wish to consign to the past, raising questions about gender, violence, sexuality, class, racial injustice, and national identity. When these women insert themselves into the story, they do not enter precisely as ghosts but rather as something potentially more disrupting: posthumous citizens. The community must ask itself whether it can or should recognize such a character as one of its own. The prospect of posthumous citizenship bears important implications for debates over the legal rights of the dead, social histories of burial customs and famous cadavers, and the political theory of citizenship and social death.

About the Author

Brian Norman is an associate professor of English and director of African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland. He is author of Neo-Segregation Narratives: Jim Crow in Post–Civil Rights American Literature and The American Protest Essay and National Belonging.

Reviews

Insightful and powerfully affecting, Dead Women Talking deepens our understanding of how the dead remain a vital presence and social force in American life and literature.

- Kristin Hutchins - Women's Studies

Norman examines an original, intriguing phenomenon in American literature—stories with deceased female characters... The study is well researched and offers an array of critical approaches. This important contribution to the study of American fiction should endure for some time.

- Choice

Dead women have been speaking out in literature for a long time. What Norman does with this book is to bring our attention to them as a group so that we might bring the concerns of these women to the forefront of our discussions.

- Dana Benge - Rocky Mountain Review

Endorsements

This book succeeds splendidly in identifying a meaningful tradition in American letters and demonstrating its value to the understanding of national cultural (and multicultural) membership and memory, literary and otherwise.

- Leonard Cassuto, author of Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9781421415727 : dead-women-talking-norman
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$29.95 USD
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240 Pages
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