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Working-Class Women in the Academy: Laborers in the Knowledge Factory Hardcover – June 10, 1993

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (June 10, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0870238345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870238345
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,528,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this stimulating and often heartfelt collection of essays, 20 female academics from working-class backgrounds address the personal, pedagogical and ideological issues raised by their experiences as teachers and students. Though some essays adopt abstract academic language, most are personal narratives, and the issue of the appropriate "voice" in academia pervades the book. Pam Annas, after proposing a reading list for a course in working-class literature, explains how she has had her students replace traditional papers with a "critical reading journal" in which they analyze works and connect them to other course materials and to their lives. Several writers struggle with isolation and the "double consciousness" inherent in their position; bell hooks urges understanding and appreciation but not "empty romanticization" of working-class backgrounds. The conventional image of a female scholar, writes Suzanne Sowinska, is "one of refinement"; her essay, like several others, suggests how "economic survival strategies" have shaped an identity defined by struggle. Tokarczyk and Fay teach English at Goucher College and the University of Massachusetts, respectively.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Written by teachers, students, and retired academics in styles ranging from formal academic essays to informal personal narratives, each of these twenty diverse and enlightened essays makes an intense and powerful examination of the various realities working-class women encounter in academic life. Several authors write of the difficulties inherent in taking part "in projects to which they are not completely committed" and the contradiction they experience when vying for jobs with "male-identified women" whose "career goals outweigh their sense of responsibility to their community of colleagues and of students." The majority discuss the often confusing and always painful privileged class assumptions predominant in academic discourse. A few, especially those previously trained to perform manual tasks, speak of their difficulty in valuing the activities of reading and writing as real work. And, without exception, all address the academy's failure - often expressed as blatant and hostile refusal - to address the reality of class issues. This collection provides the first forum for many of these scholars to analyze and discuss the recurring affronts they experience as their language, concerns, traditions, and culture are rendered "invisible." Through these twenty singular voices and histories comes a remarkably unified and penetrating analysis. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Jesse Larsen --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Winifred Flint on December 5, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This work came out of a session at the 1987 annual conference of the Modern Languages Association - MLA. The session organizers (the editors of these essays) putting on the "Working-Class Women in Academia" hoped for "an engaged audience". The response was a bit more than engaged: a packed house, non-stop questions and an ending that was more a bouncer announcing "last call" than the usual polite clapping and then off to the next session.

It took 6 years to put these questions, responses, more questions and some solutions into print. There are 20 essays here taking various literary forms written by women from working class backgrounds who have also taught working class women.

Each essay is followed by a bibliography and there is a more general 5 page bibliography at the end. The index, though, is too slim - 3 pages- for such an important book. Since much of the essays are about different aspects of writing I expected to see many references to writing in its various forms in the index but did not. Nor did I find Mennonite, Marxist theory, names of academic institutions mentioned or specific ethnic groups. But given the unique contribution this set of essays makes to the literature, this is really a minimal complaint. At the very end, the authors, their affiliations and important works are listed.

Personally I felt like I have finally found the rule book for a game I`ve been playing for years. The essayists don't mention much about the need to keep grades up to maintain a scholarship in order to remain in the undergraduate academy but this is what fueled my entire choice of classes - taking only those I knew I would do well in. And quickly, within one week, at my private liberal arts college I knew my major better not include writing.
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