"The house was a garbage dump"*: waste, mess and aesthetic reclamation in 1960s and 70s ‘mad housewife’ fiction

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    This article examines the representation of waste and re-use in a selection of 'mad housewife' novels of the late 1960s and 1970s in an effort to redress feminist critics' assessments of the genre as historically important but of dubious literary worth. Focussing on Anne Richardson Roiphe’s Up the Sandbox!, Sheila Ballantyne’s Norma Jean the Termite Queen, and Alix Kates Schulman’s Memoirs of an Ex Prom-Queen, I argue that the novels in this genre enact their protagonists’ departure from convention through the adoption of a fluid, collagistic structure that moves between temporal modes, narrative perspectives, and reality and fantasy, and through their incorporation of a range of external media (newspaper excerpts, recipes, advertising slogans) that ‘mess up’ the tidy structure of the popular realist novels that they seem, at first glance, to emulate. In their relentless attention to literal and figurative waste matter, and through the use of literary devices that defeat the attempt to bind the story within a linear narrative, Roiphe, Ballantyne, and Schulman create a carnivalesque disorder of both their protagonists’ homes and the novel form. In examining these ideas, I seek to complicate existing accounts of waste in literature and 1960s and 70s countercultural writing, both of which remain heavily focused on writing by male authors. © 2018, Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The attached document (embargoed until 16/02/2020) is an author produced version of a paper published in TEXTUAL PRACTICE uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)479-505
    Number of pages27
    JournalTextual Practice
    Issue number3
    Early online date16 Aug 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2020

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