Female Transgressive Writers of all time (Part 10)

  1. Amelia Opie

  2. Elfriede Jelinek

  3. Eleanor Catton

  4. Laurell K. Hamilton

  5. Jennifer Weiner

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There are many more fantastic Transgressive writers who happened to be a woman as well but I have decided to stop this series right here with Amelia Opie, Elfriede Jelinek, Eleanor Catton, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Jennifer Weiner.

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Amelia Opie

(12 November 1769 – 2 December 1853)

Amelia Opie was an English author who published numerous novels in the Romantic period up to 1828. Opie was also a leading abolitionist in Norwich, England. Hers was the first of 187,000 names presented to the British Parliament on a petition from women to stop slavery. (source)Opie spent her youth writing poetry and plays and organizing amateur theatricals. (source) Opie completed a novel in 1801 titled Father and Daughter showing genuine fancy and pathos,(source) the novel is about misled virtue and family reconciliation.

This book is about the story of Agnes Fitzhenry, whose seduction by the libertine Clifford causes her father to descend into madness. The theme is rooted in the social conditions of late 18th - 19th century Britain and I can say this novel is both an affecting narrative and a compelling social commentary. Opie’s writings normally address issues of female sexuality and the social construction of gender. For example in the first novel, Dangers of Coquetry, the story of a young woman who, while possessing many virtues, is given to coquetry.

Encouraged by her husband to continue writing, she published Adeline Mowbray, an exploration of women's education, marriage, and the abolition of slavery. This novel in particular is noted for engaging the history of Opie's former friend Mary Wollstonecraft, whose relationship with the American Gilbert Imlay outside of marriage caused some scandal, as did her later marriage to the philosopher William Godwin. (source) It may be because of Godwin's notion against marriage as an institution by which women were owned as property (source). The novel also engages abolitionist sentiment, in the story of a mixed-race woman and her family, whom Adeline saves from poverty at some expense to herself.

Yes, Mary Ann, I freely grant,
The charms of Henry's eyes I see;
But while I gaze, I something want,
I want those eyes — to gaze on me.

- Amelia Opie

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Elfriede Jelinek


Elfriede Jelinek is an Austrian playwright and novelist. She is one of the most celebrated authors writing in German today and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004 for her "musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that, with extraordinary linguistic zeal, reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power".(source)The nature of Jelinek’s texts is often hard to define. "They shift between prose and poetry, incantation and hymn, they contain theatrical scenes and filmic sequences." (source) The primacy in her writing has however moved from novel-writing to drama.

Her first radio play, wenn die sonne sinkt ist für manche schon büroschluss, was very favourably received in 1974. She has since written a large number of pieces for radio and the theatre, in which she successively abandoned traditional dialogues for a kind of polyphonic monologues (source) What she puts on stage in plays from recent years are fewer characters than “language interfaces confronting each other.

Jelinek’s most recent published works for drama, the so-called “princess dramas” (Der Tod und das Mädchen I–V, 2003), are variations on one of the writer’s basic themes, the inability of women to fully come to life in a world where they are painted over with stereotypical images. Jelinek was a member of Austria's Communist Party from 1974 to 1991. (source) Many foreign governments moved swiftly to ostracize Austria's administration, citing the Freedom Party's alleged nationalism and authoritarianism. The cabinet construed the sanctions against it as directed against Austria as such, and attempted to prod the nation into a national rallying (Nationaler Schulterschluss) behind the coalition parties. (source) This provoked temporary heating of the political climate severe enough for dissidents such as Jelinek to be accused of treason by coalition supporters. (source)

One of my favorite novels from her which turned into a movie as well is "The Piano Teacher" in which most of the story is pleasingly transgressive in which I kept asking myself what will Erika - the female character - do next? This interesting yet problematic relationship between her and Walter changes when Walter comes off as earnest and naive, but that must have all been for the show because he ends up being a brutal rapist by the film's end. What I love about this story is how the female character comes up as the assailant yet by the end she was just a victim that changed Walter by sharing her fantasies, just as a good lover should.

“Her body is one big refrigerator, where Art is well stored.”
― Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano Teacher

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Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton is a Canadian-born New Zealand novelist and screenwriter. Her second novel, The Luminaries, won the 2013 Man Booker Prize. Catton met Chicago-born poet Steven Toussaint at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and Toussaint moved to New Zealand in 2011 to begin a Ph.D. in US avant-garde poetry at Victoria University of Wellington. (source) Catton describes Toussaint as the first reader of her drafts, and he prevailed in an argument over whether one character in The Luminaries should be killed off. (Ibid.)

However, in regards to Transgressive fiction, The Rehearsal is my favorite. It was the debut novel by Catton and released by Victoria University Press in New Zealand in 2008. The Rehearsal was later bought by Granta Books in the UK and released there in July 2009. In 2016, the film adaptation was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the Toronto International Film Festival. (source)This story is about a teacher's affair with his underage student. It is where a group of teenage girls into a new awareness of their own power and desire in the practice room where they rehearse with their saxophone teacher is the safe place where they can test out their abilities to attract and manipulate. Catton describes the theme of this novel as "themes of performance and performativity". (source) For me, this is a story of obsessive love and attraction.

“A woman fallen has no future; a man risen has no past.”
― Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries

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Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell Kaye Hamilton is an American multi-genre writer best known as the author of two series of stories, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter and Merry Gentry. Entertainment Weekly and USA Today have identified Hamilton as having a significant impact on urban fantasy. (source) In 2008, Time

declared that the popularity of the genre "owes everything to Laurell K. Hamilton".(source) Her books normally include all manner of shape-shifters, erotic partners, and monster hunters, and a lot of vampires which is not my thing to read but had to include this fantastic author in the list.

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
― Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral's Kiss

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Jennifer Weiner

A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Jennifer Weiner’s books have spent over five years on the New York Times bestseller list with over 11 million copies in print in 36 countries. She's is an American writer, television producer, and journalist. Her debut novel, published in 2001, was Good in Bed. Her novel In Her Shoes was made into a movie starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, and Shirley MacLaine. I love her because she has been a vocal critic of what she sees as the male bias in the publishing industry and the media, alleging that books by male authors are better received than those written by women, that is, reviewed more often and more highly praised by critics.

For me, what makes her a transgressive writer is not that she boldly explores sex in her stories but it's her own personality and the way she openly criticizes what's the so-called norm in literature when it comes to gender. In 2010, she told The Huffington Post, "I think it's a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it's literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it's romance or a beach book – in short, it's something unworthy of a serious critic's attention. ... I think it's irrefutable that when it comes to picking favorites – those lucky few writers who get the double reviews AND the fawning magazine profile AND the back-page essay space AND the op-ed ... the Times tends to pick white guys." (source)

Also, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, she stated that "When a male writer simply writes adequately about family, his book gets reviewed seriously, because: 'Wow, a man has actually taken some interest in the emotional texture of daily life, whereas with a woman it’s liable to be labeled chick-lit. There is a long-standing gender imbalance in what goes into the canon, however, you want to define the canon." (source) As for the label "chick lit", Weiner has expressed ambivalence towards it, embracing the genre it stands for while criticizing its use as a pejorative term for commercial women's fiction. According to Guardian, Jennifer Weiner has launched a campaign against the wall-to-wall coverage Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom, is receiving. Dubbing the pre-publication furor "Franzenfrenzy", Weiner put out a call to her 15,000 Twitter follows "for non-Franzen novels about love, identity, families" (Freedom deals with the breakdown of an American family) under the hashtag #franzenfreude. "Don't dislike him, per se. Disliked his response to being Oprah pick, over coverage in Times, elsewhere. There are other books," she wrote.


“He loved me. He loved me, but he doesn't love me anymore, and it's not the end of the world.”
― Jennifer Weiner, Good in Bed

Well, here we are at the end of the Women Transgressive Writers series. Stay tuned for more on Transgressive fiction reviews, writing tips, and interviews.