Leaving Cinderella in the Ashes: The Self-Actualization Novel

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Patricia Jennifer Rohrer-Walsh (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
SallyAnn Ferguson

Abstract: Literature proscribes and prescribes ethically. When stories reinforce a society's unhealthy prejudices, responsible readers should find others. The Bildungsroman has fostered the perspective that women are expendable, that coming of age terminates in adult identity formation, and that acculturation is the access to happiness and success. "Cinderella" is the current American companion tale for female coming of age. In both, male success trumps female success, female happiness depends on attachment to a male, adult coming of age is the end to human development, and happiness depends upon social acculturation. Such tales diminish females unacceptably. Although many critics have challenged the ethical merits of perpetuating the Bildungsroman and "Cinderella" agendas, none have proposed an alternative. This dissertation explores that possibility in the new genre of the "self-actualization novel," a nomenclature highlighting the importance of Abraham H. Maslow's famous concept. Frequently written by marginalized authors, this genre avoids the pitfalls of the Bildungsroman and the American "Cinderella" marriage master narrative. The novels of Jade Snow Wong, Julia Alvarez, Lisa Alther, Ntozake Shange, and Fannie Flagg explore family, education, friends, work, community, and love as alternatives for enriching women's lives and their worlds. Although these self-actualization novels vary in their approaches to characterizing ethical females, they all promote a lifelong journey of self-fulfillment and social responsibility (Motivation 217). The self-actualization novels of marginalized authors offer great hope that all women can establish their voices and places--for themselves and for others.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2008
Bildungsroman, Coming of age, Self-actualization
Maturation (Psychology) in literature $x Women.
Self-actualization (Psychology) in literature $x Women.
Feminism and literature $z United States $y 20th century.
Cinderella (Legendary character) in literature.

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