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36. Joanna Russ: The Female Man

Jeanne Cortiel

Subject Literature

Key-Topics science fiction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405112185.2005.00038.x


When Sarah LeFanu said, “Joanna Russ is the single most important woman writer of science fiction, although she is not necessarily the most widely read” ( LeFanu 1988 : 173) she crystallized the complexity and depth of Russ' accomplishment as well as its intellectual and aesthetic challenge. Joanna Russ writes not for quick and facile consumption; she pushes the envelope of genre conventions and literary style, but also of contemporary political thinking, particularly after her move into feminism in the late 1960s. Her fiction takes feminist theory to some of its most radical conclusions, but simultaneously destabilizes its most fundamental assumptions, crossing it with contradictory, indeed opposed theories of social and cultural critique. Rooted in materialist political thinking, it creates a separatist - women-only - Utopian society that also anticipates the explosion of the category “woman” in poststructuralist feminist theory (see Cortiel 1999 ) and the creation of the “cyborg” as a critique of postindus-trial labor practices (see Hicks 1999 ). Reading Russ is never light work, but always deeply rewarding. Within Joanna Russ' oeuvre, which runs the gamut of science fiction, fantasy, Utopian, and mainstream fiction through eight novels and countless short stories, The Female Man is arguably the most influential work; it is doubtlessly her most critically acclaimed novel. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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