chapter  15
World-Literature, World-Systems, and Irish Chick Lit
BySORCHA GUNNE
Pages 13

Women’s commercial fiction, or “chick lit” as it has become known, is immensely popular around the world.1 For example, one of the genre’s leading authors, Irish writer Marian Keyes, has sold 25 million copies and her novels have been translated into thirty-five languages (see Jacques 2014). Chick lit is, however, a contentious and divisive topic as critics consider definitions of the genre in addition to its literary value and politics, most notably its feminist potential or lack thereof. When searching for an accurate characterization of chick lit, Stephanie Davis-Kahl cites the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of chick lit as “‘literature by, for, or about women; esp. a type of fiction, typically focusing on the social lives and relationships of women, and often aimed at readers with similar experiences’” and comments that this is a definition “most reflective of the true intentions of the genre” (Davis-Kahl 2008, 18; see also Harzewski 2011). But the OED’s definition, it seems to me, is too vague, not least because it does not do enough to distinguish chick lit from literature more broadly which also, presumably, can engage with people’s social lives. What other definitions most commonly highlight is the type of social lives that chick lit is invested in registering-that of a typically middle-class single woman in her twenties or early thirties who has a career, but is looking for a romantic relationship. Keyes has thus referred to chick lit as funny post-feminist fiction that best captures the zeitgeist of contemporary (middle class) society.2 Across the genre, writers of chick lit appear to pride themselves on addressing the experiences of a new generation of career women who are economically independent and still “singletons” into their late twenties and beyond. Davis-Kahl herself posits that chick lit involves stories “about modern women struggling and succeeding with work, relationships, motherhood, infertility, finances and yes, the right shoes to wear with the right dress” (Davis-Kahl 2008, 18). The generic depiction of modern women’s lives is then overwhelmingly characterized by a struggle to balance careers with personal relationships and involves a considerable amount of fashion and shopping, or, put another way, consumerism and romance.