Originally a euphemism for Princeton University’s Female Literary Tradition course in the 1980s, "chick lit" mutated from a movement in American women’s avant-garde fiction in the 1990s to become, by the turn of the century, a humorous subset of women’s literature, journalism, and advice manuals. Stephanie Harzewski examines such best sellers as Bridget Jones’s Diary The Devil Wears Prada, and Sex and the City as urban appropriations of and departures from the narrative traditions of the novel of manners, the popular romance, and the bildungsroman. Further, Harzewski uses chick lit as a lens through which to view gender relations in U.S. and British society in the 1990s. Chick Lit and Postfeminism is the first sustained historicization of this major pop-cultural phenomenon, and Harzewski successfully demonstrates how chick lit and the critical study of it yield social observations on upheavals in Anglo-American marriage and education patterns, heterosexual rituals, feminism, and postmodern values.
The explosion of a new type of novel by and for women—dubbed, for better or worse,‘chick lit’—has provoked much controversy in the mainstream press and in the literary world. Despite all the commotion over the works by the latest mob of ‘damned scribbling women,’ as Nathaniel Hawthorne called women writers of the nineteenth century, little scholarly attention has focused on these texts. Harzewski’s is one of the first full-length studies devoted to chick lit, and the most wide-ranging to date. Chick Lit and Postfeminism is written in a clear, readable style and is a solid book that will be read with interest and no doubt taken up and debated.
Like Carrie Bradshaw in her Manolo Blahniks, Chick Lit and Post-feminism steps out in style. Smart, thoughtful, and well-written, it offers a historical understanding of this decidedly postfeminist genre, while offering insight into contemporary gender politics and femininity.
Chick Lit and Postfeminism is a bold and fascinating exploration of the ‘most culturally visible form of postfeminist fiction’—chick lit. Demanding and sometimes dizzying in its range and readings, the book moors the genre in the commodified context of women’s lives in the twenty-first century, refashioning our understanding of this irreverent, ubiquitous, and (contrary to popular belief) important genre of fiction.
AAUW knows how important it is to read feminist books with positive portrayals of women all year long. So the next time, and there will be a next time, we curl up with a heart-warming chick lit boo book, let's take a cue from Harzewski and consider how the protagonist is being portrayed, what her real goals are, and then, for fun, how we would change the story, the protagonist, and even the love interest.
Postfeminist chick lit published since 2001 has served to provide humor in an otherwise humorless decade of unemployment, the events of 9/11, and a downturn in the economy, according to Harzewski. In this light, recent chick lit has tended to be somewhat repetitious and in danger itself of falling prey to caricature, much as the predecessors it initially parodied. Yet, as Harzewski reminds readers, chick lit is responsible for transforming the genre of the novel, thus reinvigorating a form of literature that has "come full circle" in the nearly three centuries since its invention.
Stephanie Harzewksi's study of chick lit yields important social observations about the upheavals in today's marriages, our courtship rituals, feminism, and postmodern values.
Stephanie Harzewski is Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of New Hampshire.