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An Examination of Rubyfruit Jungle and Her Critics

An Examination of Rubyfruit Jungle and Her Critics

Rita Mae Brown’s first novel, Rubyfruit Jungle made waves when it was first released in 1973. Its influence has not gone away over the years and is in its seventh printing. While mainstream critics failed to acknowledge Rubyfruit Jungle in their papers, magazines and discussions on contemporary literature, there are plenty of non-mainstream voices to fill the void. While these lesser-known sources are not always credible, and certainly not always accurate they have created a word-of-mouth reputation of the novel and have facilitated its continuous success.

The problem in researching such a novel is that there is very little criticism. One cannot rely on book reviews from unknown magazines and personal websites in order to properly examine secondary sources.

Knowing that there is virtually no critical analysis on Rubyfruit Jungle changes the questions that the novel itself raises, and forces one to examine why this novel was not worthy of discussion. There could be several answers to this mystery, the most obvious being that it was written by and is about a lesbian. America has never fully allowed people to “come out” without reprimand and up until the time of this novel, the only fiction that focused on lesbians emphasized their shame and grief over their sexual identity.

The idea that Rubyfruit Jungle has not been looked at in academic circles simply because it is a novel about a lesbian who feels no shame or guilt about her sexuality is only part of the problem, it is not the only reason why Brown’s first novel is not discussed. While Molly Bolt is a lesbian and proud of it, other lesbians are not so proud of her and what she stands for. Rubyfruit …

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…unity that is still often ignored in literature. Could it be that one must wait until the next millennium in order to find voices in literature that accurately represent the society in which it is portraying?

Works Cited

Brown, Rita Mae. “Book Reviews.” Rita Mae Brown Homepage. 2 December 1999..

Brown, Rita Mae. Rubyfruit Jungle. New York: Daughters Publishing Company, 1973.

Fishbein, Leslie. “Rubyfruit Jungle: Lesbianism, Feminism, and Narcissism.” International Journal of Women’s Studies 7.2 (1984): 155-159.

Innes, Charlotte. “Rita Meter Maid.” Los Angeles Times 30 Nov. 1997: 3.

Ward, Carol. Rita Mae Brown. New York: Twain Publishers, 1993.

Webb, Marilyn. “Daughters, Inc.: A Publishing House is Born.” Ms. Magazine 2:6 (1974): 37.

A Feminist Perspective of Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice

A Feminist Perspective of Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice

Isabella’s only power could be in saying ‘no’, her ‘no’ to Angelo that she would not leave the world despoiled and soulless, ‘no’ to Claudio that she would sacrifice herself, ‘no’ to the nunnery that she had wished to enter or ‘no’ to the Duke’s offer of marriage. Isabella’s role ability to be self-determining was quite different from Portia’s advocacy in The Merchant of Venice, for Isabella was the tool of the Duke, fulfilling his scripting. Her nun’s garb should have ensured a neuter role, and she intended her pity and love for her brother to involve her in this world only so far as to counsel him in honour. Despite her self concept, two men of the world with power over her saw her as a beautiful sexual object to be acquired. Against this, Isabella’s strength was in theological purity, going straight to the sense of the Gospels. We cannot cast the first stone. We must have mercy for others, because “he which is the top of judgement” had mercy on us. Because the censors usually eliminated the word ‘God’, references were oblique, but there could be no real substitution of ‘Jove’ or ‘the gods’ here where the sense was so very New Testament. Isabella was preaching to a society which had gone far in condemnation and execution in the name of religion; she was a beacon of clear light.

Portia actively sought mercy as the greatest response and carefully gave Shylock every option to release the bond which held him when she stage-managed the last-minute dramatic revelation, showing that he too could be forfeit. Significantly, the advocacy of both Portia and Isabella was the same: mercy must be applied to the law. Could a Duke’s one gateway denouement be…

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…d expanded, and the whole prospered on the servitude and devotion of women. Petruchio did his bit, as did Isabella’s Duke, so that protectionism was the right end and repository for women’s identity and role. Yet in the next section Benedick will meet his match, and that paragon, Portia, will tactfully remain within the rhetorical framework of male supremacy, costuming her more able endeavours….

i Jill Bavin-Mizzi, Ravished (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1995).

ii Margaret Thornton, “Women as fringe dwellers of the jurisprudential community”, in Sex, Power and Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 190.

iii Charlotte Lennox (née Ramsay), 1729 -1804, actress and poet,

Women Reading Shakespeare 1660-1900, An anthology of criticism, ed. Ann Thompson and Sasha Roberts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), pp. 17-18.

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