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Becoming-Woman

1996
Author:

Camilla Griggers

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Analyzes the construction of the feminine in contemporary American culture.

Griggers analyzes contemporary articulations of the feminine in American cultural practices ranging from fashion to feticide, from Hollywood’s production of feminine charismatic military leaders to pop-mediated lesbianism, from serial killing to domestic violence to psychiatry. Becoming-Woman shows how expressions of the feminine are determined by optical and electronic media, psychopharmacology, the war machine, the chemical industry, plastics technology, and bioscience.

A powerful and provocative mapping out of the machinations involved in becoming-woman. Camilla Griggers winds a deft path through Vogue fashion spreads, lesbian serial killers, prozac and the theories of Deleuze and Guattari and gives us a feminist assemblage that is more than equal to the rigors of cultures she describes.

Elspeth Probyn, University of Sydney

What is woman becoming in U.S. culture at the end of the twentieth century? She is becoming predatory (in 1991 Aileen Wuornos became America’s first female “serial killer”); depredatory (by 1985 U.S. women were aborting 1.5 million fetuses a year); militarized (in 1990 Linda Bray became America’s first woman in combat). She alters her mind with Prozac and her body with implants. She is, in the words of Camilla Griggers, an abstract machine concretely produced by late-twentieth-century technologies and capital. Becoming–Woman is about that machine-its conception, construction, and operation.

Griggers analyzes contemporary articulations of the feminine in American cultural practices ranging from fashion to feticide, from Hollywood’s production of feminine charismatic military leaders to pop-mediated lesbianism, from serial killing to domestic violence to psychiatry. Becoming-Woman shows how expressions of the feminine are determined by optical and electronic media, psychopharmacology, the war machine, the chemical industry, plastics technology, and bioscience. These expressions, Griggers argues, emerged from turbulent and unstable terrains in the period after World War II.

In analyzing the construction of the feminine in a mass-mediated American culture, Griggers focuses on the centrality of dysfunction, abjection, violence, and phobia in contemporary mediations of desire. She shows how the feminine social body, though only an abstract expression of a collective illusion, is nonetheless produced, reproduced, exchanged, and legitimized as both a material body of signs and a social ensemble of bodies bearing the marks of race, gender, class, and nation-state.

Complex, fascinating, and steeped in the culture of the fin de millennium, Becoming-Woman marks a significant advance in the debates taking place in the United States between a pragmatically oriented feminism and the poststructuralist cultural theory of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

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Camilla Griggers is the Endowed Chair of Women’s Studies at Carlow College.

Book Default Image

A powerful and provocative mapping out of the machinations involved in becoming-woman. Camilla Griggers winds a deft path through Vogue fashion spreads, lesbian serial killers, prozac and the theories of Deleuze and Guattari and gives us a feminist assemblage that is more than equal to the rigors of cultures she describes.

Elspeth Probyn, University of Sydney

Following theoreticians Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Griggers embarks on a deliberately nonlinear description of the emerging product of the new technologies of femininity. . . . Here, science, industry, and politics are treated as literary texts-to be mined for the signs and symbols that give them meaning as well as power. . . . The book combines striking and wonderful invocations of women in fashion, in the military, and in the doctor’s care.

CHOICE

Capturing the pace, the frenzy, the rhythm of Deleuze and Guattari’s work, Griggers’s book contains an astonishing array of inventive historical and aesthetic juxtapositions.

Signs