Show for Nov 24, 2013. Literary critic Helene Moglen.
That old 60’s phrase “consciousness raising” may sound quaint and overblown today, but for a generation of progressive intellectuals it wasn’t hyperbole. Feminism, for example, was more than a push for equality and social justice; it was a wholesale re-evaluation of all sorts of unexamined “truths” about the world and the stories we tell.
I think it’s easy to underestimate at our remove how much the ground shifted back then, which is why I wanted to talk to Helene Moglen. She was there for, and part of, the whole shebang. She began her career as a literary scholar in the Madmen-era 1950s, when the utterly apolitical, de-historicized New Criticism was all the rage. She found her voice in the civil rights and women’s movements in the 60’s and made the turn to feminist criticism, working to show how the complexities and contradictions of gender influence so many narratives, literary and otherwise.
In this interview, Helene offered an engrossing look at her life and times, including:
- Studying at Yale when the New Criticism reigned supreme
- Getting swept up in the women’s movement, and what those feminist consciousness raisings were really like
- The work of her TV-producer husband, Sig
- Her academic career, from NYU and SUNY to UCSC, where she became the first woman dean in the University of California system
- An intro to feminist criticism, including feminist readings of Robinson Crusoe and Frankenstein
- What happens when feminists have sons
Helene Moglen in her current role as emerita professor literature and feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz.
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