chapter  17
14 Pages

Transnational Feminisms and “Double Understanding”: What Academic Women’s Memoirs Reveal


Like language, literature plays a role in both shaping and reflecting cultural evolution. This symbiotic relationship can be seen in the interlacing of the human rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s in society at large with the “culture wars” in university English departments. On both sides of the Canada-United States border and throughout the Commonwealth, academic activists transformed literary studies by arguing for the inclusion of texts coming from outside of the dominant British and American traditions, authors outside the “pale male” and heterosexual norms, and noncanonical genres. New courses based on a critical pedagogy of empowerment, scholarly associations, and academic journals proliferated for such subjects as Canadian, Québec, Black Canadian, women’s, gay and lesbian, and First Nations’ literature; meanwhile employment equity legislation led to new hiring practices to encourage the diversification of the professoriate. Controversy and backlash continue, however, that often pit equity against “excellence” (Side and Robbins).