Modern spectacle and American feminism's disappointing daughters: Writing fantasy echoes in The Portrait of a Lady
Joan Scott's 'fantasy echo' is deployed to analyse the trope of the mother/daughter relationship in contemporary laments about feminism's failures, exemplified by Susan Faludi's 'American Electra: Feminism's Ritual Matricide' (2010). I demonstrate that Faludi's primary argument - that young feminists do not respect the generations that precede them and therefore halt feminist progress - unreflectively relies upon a feminist maternal fantasy and ignores the prominent role spectacle culture plays in the circumscription of contemporary feminism. Building upon Scott's attention to literature to interrupt fantasy echoes and their inert visions of how feminism should appear, the article interprets The Portrait of a Lady (1908) through the tools of Scott's historiography. I argue that Henry James's novel, focused on an American 'New Woman', is an early account of how young women are sold fantasies of feminist freedom through spectacle culture and troubles the assumption that older women only forge benevolent relationships with younger women out of generosity. © The Author(s) 2014 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav.
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