Date of Degree

9-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Nancy K. Miller

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature

Keywords

standpoint, feminism, imagination, Grace Paley, Hannah Arendt, Adrienne Rich

Abstract

While literary critics have long shown modest interest in writer-activist Grace Paley’s short fiction, no scholarship has yet focused on her extensive record of nonfiction writing. This thesis concentrates on Just As I Thought, an anthology of Paley’s essays, articles and speeches organized by Paley herself in lieu of any memoir or autobiography. Hannah Arendt’s theorizations of time, thought and standpoint serve as frameworks to establish the essay collection, arranged according to Paley’s political life along a timeline of feminist history, as a political storytelling project. Political storytelling, in the Arendtian sense and in context of this thesis, aims to establish a polis or political realm in which freedom and equality rely on a public memory maintained only when subjects are able to grasp the existence of standpoints including and apart from their own. Arendt, a political theorist who eschews collective philosophical systems and movements such as feminism, does not find a natural descendant in Paley, a women’s rights, anti-war and environmental activist dedicated to feminist movement. To bridge the ideological gap between Arendt and Paley, this thesis turns to Adrienne Rich’s prose on standpoint feminist theory and accountability. This thesis ultimately evaluates how Paley, who writes from her own perspective as a woman, employs rhetorical strategies such as irony, humor, dialogue, metaphor and tactical proximity to illuminate the standpoints of others and present a feminist history through stories in her collected nonfiction.

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