INTRODUCTION
Women want to invent new types of criticism, alternate forms of cooperation ...
less compulsive, aggressive, lonely, competitive; more communal, caring, and
integrated with love and politics.-Carol Ascher, Louise DeSalvo, Sara Rud-
dick,
Between Women
The Intimate Critique: Autobiographical Literary Criticism was conceived in the
fall of 1988 when we submitted a proposal to the
MLA
for a session on
what we then called "interactive discourse." Although
MLA
rejected the
proposal, we convened the panel, renamed "Masculine and Feminine
Modes of Literary Criticism," at the Midwest/Modern Language Associa-
tion Convention in St. Louis. Even before the last member of our large
audience left the room, we determined to edit together an anthology of
personal criticism and propose another session to the
MLA
entitled "In
Our Own Voices: Feminist Forms of Literary Criticism."
Like our contemporaries and the scores of scholars and researchers
who had come before us, we had been trained in graduate school in the
methods of "objective criticism." Obviously and increasingly, however,
not everyone has embraced a discourse we have come to see as pseudo-
objective, impersonal, and adversarial, a discourse Jane Tompkins likens
to a "straitjacket" and that Cheryl Torsney has called "comfortless." We
ourselves had long experimented with alternative forms-Diane with
poetic amalgams and Olivia and Frances with personal stories in scholarly
writings. Elsewhere, composition theorist William Zeiger laments that
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