Gilbert Wins NEH Fellowship for Violence and the Female Imagination

Posted: February 15, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Carrie Secondo

Paula Ruth Gilbert, Modern and Classical Languages and Women’s Studies, has won a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) faculty research fellowship to work on Violence and the Female Imagination: Québec Women Writers Confront Gendered Cultures. The work is a book-length study of recent fiction by women writers from Québec, Canada.

Gilbert has found that in the 1980s and 1990s certain younger feminist women writers of Québec have created a multiplicity of voices whose narratives are imbued with a fascination for violence, torture, eroticism, and bold sexual actions and language, at times culminating in crimes of infanticide and serial killing. “Increasing numbers of women–both in the real world and in literature, film, media, and pop culture–are exhibiting outwardly directed violent tendencies and acting on them,” Gilbert says.

She chose to focus on Québec writers because the province is the least violent in Canada, far less violent than the United States. “In its own search for identity and self-determination, it is on the decentered margins, at the boundaries, but Québec’s form of violence, of revolution, has always been quiet–a war of words and political stances, often reacting to constitutional experiments by the Canadian Federation,” she says.

Gilbert will spend the year answering whether violence in the media–especially in media from the United States–is affecting writers of Québec fiction. She will research, for example, whether the “blame-it-on-feminism” stance some critics have taken is valid; and if women are more violent because they are now liberated, free to act like men, taking advantage of the new roles and opportunities now available to them. Her book will also explore women’s imitating men, feminizing violence or regendering violence, and what that means to our society.

Gilbert has also completed two other book manuscripts this year, Doing Gender: Franco-Canadian Women Writers of the 1900s and a coedited collection titled Violence and Gender: A Critical Reader, which she worked on with Kim Eby of New Century College.

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