Having a Good Cry

Effeminate Feelings and Pop-Culture Forms

Robyn R. Warhol

“Rather than denigrate the denigrated aspects of stereotyped femininity, Warhol gives it performative status and rewrites the feminist theoretical canon on sentimentality, sexuality and gender, and the public and private life of affect. Finally a book that takes the study of femininity—in women, in men, in the identificatory spaces in between—in new and important directions!”—Robyn Wiegman, Margaret Taylor Smith Director of Women’s Studies, Duke University

Robyn Warhol’s goal is to investigate the effects of reader’s emotional responses to formulaic fiction of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries on gendered subjectivity. She argues that modern literary and cultural studies have ignored nonsexual affectivity in their inquiries. The book elaborates on Warhol’s theory of affect and then focuses on sentimental stories, marriage plots, serialized novels, and soap operas as distinct genres producing specific feelings among fans.

Popular narrative forms use formulas to bring up familiar patterns of feelings in the audiences who love them. This book looks at the patterns of feelings that some nineteenth- and twentieth-century popular genres evoke, and asks how those patterns are related to gender. Soap operas and sentimentalism are generally derided as “effeminate” forms because their emotional range is seen as hyperfeminine. Having a Good Cry presents a celebration of effeminate feelings and works toward promoting more flexible, less pejorative concepts of gender. Using a psychophysiological rather than a psychoanalytic approach to reading and emotion, Warhol seeks to make readers more conscious of what is happening to the gendered body when we read.

Robyn R. Warhol is professor of English at the University of Vermont.


Jan 2003
Narrative studies, women’s studies, film
216 pp. 6x9

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