Gwin, Minrose C(layton)
GWIN, Minrose C(layton)
Female. Education: University of Tennessee, Ph.D.
Office—Purdue University, Department of English, 331C Heavilon Hall, West Lafayette, IN 47907. E-mail—[email protected]
Author and educator. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, teacher and director of Feminist Research Institute, 1990-2001; State University of New York, Binghamton, teacher, 2001-02; Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, professor of English, 2002—.
Black and White Women of the Old South: The Peculiar Sisterhood in American Literature, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 1985.
The Feminine and Faulkner: Reading (beyond) Sexual Difference, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 1990.
The Woman in the Red Dress: Gender, Space, and Reading, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2002.
Wishing for Snow: A Memoir, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2004.
Washington Lafayette Clayton, Olden Times Revisited: W. L. Clayton's Pen Pictures, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1982.
(And author of introduction) Cornelia Peake Mc-Donald, A Woman's Civil War: A Diary, with Reminiscences of the War, from March 1862, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI),1992.
Erin Clayton Pitner, Stones and Roses: Poems, Chamisa Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1993.
(With William L. Andrews, Trudier Harris, and Fred Hobson) The Literature of the American South, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1997.
Contributor to books and anthologies, including New Essays on "Go down, Moses," edited by Linda Wagner-Martin, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1996; and Southern Mothers: Fact and Fictions in Southern Women's Writing, edited by Nagueyalti Warren and Sally Wolff, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2000. Also contributor to periodicals, including Women's Review of Books.
Author and English professor Minrose C. Gwin's research interests and teaching subjects include nineteenth-and twentieth-century literature—particularly U.S. southern literature—contemporary women writers, gay and lesbian literature, queer theory, feminist theory, theories of space and gender, and creative nonfiction prose.
With The Feminine and Faulkner: Reading (beyond) Sexual Difference, Gwin "has opened the territory of Faulkner criticism … in ways that are professionally risky for Gwin and psychologically dangerous as well as exhilarating for her readers," commented Richard Pearce in Contemporary Literature. The book focuses mainly on three major works by Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, and The Wild Palms. Despite its short length, the book is "densely thoughtful, while at the same time passionate, eloquent, and engaging," Pearce added. "There are enlightening and provocative comparisons with other works. And, since Gwin is as concerned with developing a feminist approach as she is with engaging Faulkner, there is much for us to learn about both."
Gwin's approach to Faulkner's texts uses "French feminist psychoanalytic theory, particularly on hysteria, to locate a female voice and position within Faulkner's texts, both as character and as narrative practice," observed Anne Goodwyn Jones in Mississippi Quarterly. Jones also noted that, although Faulkner's attitudes toward women and the feminine in his life and fiction appear at times contradictory, Gwin finds that "Faulkner, writing as a woman as well as a man almost in spite of himself, wrote within and into that 'bisexual space' where the 'feminine' disrupts the text's 'masculine' desires for mastery and control." Reading Faulkner with this "bisexual space" concept in mind makes it possible to engage in "conversations" with the male and female aspects of Faulkner's texts, Jones noted. The male and female voices in Faulkner's works "are not reconciled," Pearce commented, but instead "interact and exacerbate one another, where male characters write their desires onto women or exclude them, but where female characters reflect those desires back, [disrupting] the male narratives to express their repressed desires." The male and female boundaries in the text, and in the characters, break down, and the differences follow their natural course. Jones singles out segments of Gwin's work for particular attention, noting, for example, that "her reading of feminine desire as the force that connects the parallel texts in The Wild Palms is especially brilliant." Jones also observed that "though Gwin's pioneering work relies almost exclusively on the French feminist tradition, its usefulness goes well beyond its theoretical constraints."
A Woman's Civil War: A Diary, with Reminiscences of the War, from March 1862, edited and introduced by Gwin, is the diary of Cornelia Peake McDonald, the wife of a Confederate Army soldier from northwestern Virginia. At her husband's urging, McDonald kept the diary to record the details of domestic and home life during the turmoil of the U.S. Civil War. A Publishers Weekly critic commented that in her "thorough but academic introduction" to the diary, Gwin notes that the book is "a piece of domestic history, about the defense of family and household." The diary illustrates the private reaction and cost of war as opposed to the public experience related in other published journals of the time.
The Literature of the American South contains a diverse selection of poems, drama, and stories originating in or dealing with the southern United States. Historical sections of the anthology contain writings by figures such as John Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Banneker, and others. Gwin, along with Trudier Harris, produced the section covering contemporary southern literature from 1940 to the present. "Harris and Gwin cannot hope to satisfy everyone who might use this anthology. Their selection does, however, live up honestly to the percolating moment" of modern southern reinvention, commented Michael Kreyling in Mississippi Quarterly. Works by Randall Kenan, Dave Smith, Lillian Hellman, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Dorothy Allison define the South as a place where common ground exists among diverse peoples and where "the category 'Southern' must be adapted to the moving present or die," Kreyling stated. "The Literature of the American South shows both the mummified South and a new one in the process of being born," Kreyling observed.
In The Woman in the Red Dress: Gender, Space, and Reading, Gwin uses the motif of space travel to describe reading as a form of dislocation that opens perspective and shifts identity. Drawing its title from a poem by Native American writer Joy Harjo that evokes transformation, The Woman in the Red Dress focuses on contemporary U.S. women writers such as Toni Morrison, Jane Smiley, and Sandra Cisneros, as well as authors in other countries, such as Keri Hulme of New Zealand.
Wishing for Snow is Gwin's memoir about her mother, Erin, and the effects Erin had on her throughout her life. The title is drawn from a diary Erin kept as a young girl when she was growing up in Mississippi and wishing for snow to fall at Christmas. Erin "suffered from mental illness, probably chronic depression, throughout her daughter's childhood," noted Judith Barrington in the Women's Review of Books. But Erin was also a poet, and Barrington remarked that "Gwin, a lyrical writer whose prose is a delight, uses the poetry her mother wrote later in life, as well as the diaries she kept as a child in the 1930s, to piece together her portrait." According to Barrington, Gwin explores the conflicts inherent in "simultaneously loving and being furious at the mother whose mental illness presented her with so many seemingly insoluble dilemmas." In those instances "when memory is mined for detail and merged with the insights of an adult who can step outside her story and shape it into art … the genre shines with authenticity," Barrington concluded.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Wishing for Snow: A Memoir, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2004.
Booklist, March 1, 2004, Janet St. John, review of Wishing for Snow: A Memoir, p. 1127.
Contemporary Literature, spring, 1992, Richard Pearce, review of The Feminine and Faulkner: Reading (beyond) Sexual Difference, p. 150.
Mississippi Quarterly, summer, 1994, Anne Goodwyn Jones, review of The Feminine and Faulkner, p. 521; summer, 1997, Theresa M. Towner, review of New Essays on "Go down, Moses," p. 529; fall, 1998, Michael Kreyling, review of The Literature of the American South, p. 701.
Publishers Weekly, April 27, 1992, review of A Woman's Civil War: A Diary, with Reminiscences of the War, from March 1862, p. 260; January 19, 2004, review of Wishing for Snow, p. 61.
Women's Review of Books, May, 2004, Judith Barrington, "Motherless Daughters," review of Wishing for Snow, p. 8.
Purdue University Web site,http://www.purdue.edu/ (July 22, 2004), "Minrose C. Gwin."