Tagged: class

24. Reading: Madame Bovary

So I am actively tackling my classics aversion, and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary was the first victim. I bought a nice second-hand hardcover version with some melancholic picture on it to make me want to pick it up. Fortunately, after getting used to the style, it wasn’t difficult to follow. For me, the one question with every book considered a clssic is, of course: why would I still read it? As I see it, novels – or fiction in general – has the potential to educate sentimentalities. Reading the same books will make us have a common ground from which to explore and explain our worlds, so if I want to talk to people who explain their worldviews in terms of, say, Werther’ian descriptions of nature, I will have to read Goethe’s Werther to be able to do so. In my case, I wanted to follow through an argument made by Eva Illouz in Why love hurts.

But after a few chapter I only rarely went back to that argument, and instead reall wanted to know how Madame would have to confront her life choices. As is well known, the story is about a young women with aspirations in a provincial French setting who, out of boredom and a desire to be moved, has two affairs, even though she is married to a loving husband. Apart from the love story, there will also be medical experiments, economic problems, and the quest of a young women trying to find joy in a life that is not created for her to find joy in much more than homely chores. And this focus on women’s lives at a different moment in time (and of course the tension to see how her affairs will be revealed) made this worth reading for me.

How did I come across the book?

That’s kind of a weird question with a classic, isn’t it? Let’s rephrase it to: “Even though you have heard about it much earlier, what made you decide to read it now?”. In this case, the answer is – as I jusr said – I stumbled across it in reading Eva Illouz’s Why love hurts, and I think she also mentions it in Cold Intimacies. She mentioned it in terms of the construction of the idea of romantic love and based on social understandings of class, so I thought it would be a good combination of word and pleasure.

When and where did I read it?

Mostly before going to bed. The last session was particularly long because I just couldn’t put it down for the last 60 pages.

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6. Reading: Wounds of Passion

I’ve been meaning to read some bell hooks for quite some time, and now that I find myself again in a little crisis about making my work more political, while at the same time exploring and discussing forms of writing, Wound of Passion (1997, Owl Books) came my way. To be honest, it didn’t much help me in both aspects, and especially in the beginning I was tempted to just let it be. But I’m not really good at not finishing books, so I went through with it, and halfway in, it finally hooked me. (Yeah, excellent pun, I know.)

What I liked best about it is probably the way she makes small, everyday problems in a relationship appear meaningful for a feminist project, and how she conveys the subtleties (and often not so subtle ties) of racism and classism. The book gave me a good idea about what intersectionality means “in the real world”, in which one has to provide for oneself. I thought it had little of writing for being subtitled “a writing life”, but then again the fact that it was hard to even find the little space for writing there is, shows how real the struggles hooks describes are.

How did I come across the book?

I was searching for something radical, feminist, by a person of color, on writing, to see if there was any way for me to make discussions about genre more political. I had read a chapter of Black Looks during my bachelor’s degree and remembered her name.

When and where did I read it?

During fieldwork in Bogotá, on several afternoons in cafés, but also on the bus to the library, or before going to bed. I also had it with me on a trip to Chile, where I didn’t look into it, however. On the plane there, it got me involved in a conversation with a priest, who thought (guessing from the cover motive, which shows two hands with red crosses on them) I was reading something religious. He was a little disappointed when I told him what the book was about.

If you want to read books that focus on black women, you better start writing and keep writing. (p.99)