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Title:The Myth of Superwoman: A Comparative Study of Women's Bestsellers in France and the United States
Author(s):Dudovitz, Resa Lynn
Department / Program:Comparative and World Literature
Discipline:Comparative and World Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
Abstract:In the last ten or fifteen years, women's bestselling fiction has assumed important financial and ideological dimensions in the publishing centers of major industrialized countries. Linked to the bestseller system, contemporary women's fiction in France and the United States provides women with escapist entertainment at the same time it serves as a benign means of expressing dissatisfaction with dominant social structures.
In this study I examine the contrasting value the two countries place on the bestseller system and the sales and distribution networks which market the bestseller in order to understand the ways in which women's fiction is received and integrated into that country's literary hierarchy. The imposition of the bestseller system in France by an international market has caused noticeable changes in the way books are sold and, ultimately, written.
I also look at the historical development of women's fictions in France and the United States in the nineteenth century and have found a similar increase in both places in the production of women's fiction which continues into the twentieth century. The situating of women's fiction in the two countries within the realm of "low" literature, however, has created contrasting conditions. The equating of women with professionalism in the United States and the contrary in France lead to, in the first case, the domination of the literary market by women, and, in the second, the exclusion of women.
The bestsellers written by women are an indication of women's aspirations, fantasies and visions of what the world should be like as well as what women's role within society could be like. Today's fiction proposes new models of power within a basically conservative form. The dominant social mythology embodied in the bestseller has given rise to the myth of superwoman which tells women that in order to gain power in a male dominated world, it is unnecessary and ultimately self-defeating to relinquish traditional roles.
Issue Date:1987
Description:289 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1987.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8711790
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1987

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