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Conclusion: Green Girls, Trainwrecks, and Willful Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 August 2019

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Summary

THE TEXTS I HAVE EXAMINED in this study reveal a spectrum of feminine becomings. Failure, refusal, disgust, and bile feature strikingly in these willful literary responses to postfeminism and neoliberalism. In the course of writing this book, I came across Kate Zambreno's 2011 novel Green Girl. This text holds an emblematic status as far as my project is concerned, and demands a special emphasis. Green Girl engages with the concerns of this book in important and instructive ways, offering an important case study in terms of contemporary literary constructions of and engagements with femininity. The novel's aesthetic illustrates strikingly the ways in which literature itself can provoke becoming, as my introduction suggests. This conclusion therefore discusses Zambreno's novel under the headings agency and voluntarism, body and beauty, sisterhood and identification, and sex and desire, also reiterating and crystallizing the concerns of previous chapters. It argues that the green girl, and the related figure of the trainwreck, are provocative and useful figurations. Finally, it turns to the questions of feminist art, criticism, and activism today, in light of Ahmed's theorization of willfulness as “a style of politics.”

Green Girl: Agency and Voluntarism

Green Girl concerns Ruth, a young American in London who is adrift and as-yet unfixed. The novel self-consciously thematizes the creation of its protagonist. The narrator is a mother-author: “I am trying to push her [Ruth] out in the world” (GG, 3). This self-reflexiveness involves a postmodern emphasis on the constructedness of text. It also highlights the struggle for self-definition in which the protagonist—an archetypal neoliberal girl—is engaged. Ruth's job in a department store, where she sells a celebrity-endorsed perfume wittily called Desire, points up the commercialism and consumerism of the age, and the power of celebrity and branding (see GG, 184–86). Affect, here, is to be packaged and sold: “Would you like to sample Desire?” (GG, 7). The text archly quotes and subverts sales patter. It also exposes and mocks the neoliberalist makeover paradigm (GG, 45–48, 89). Ruth, who is in “her last gasp of girlhood” (GG, 3), is undergoing “becoming” in this context. The process is anxious and faltering. The novel explicitly foregrounds becoming, then, and like texts such as Baum's and Hegemann's, it suggests how arduous and precarious a process that is (GG, 81, 229). Ruth's status and identity are uncertain.

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Willful Girls
Gender and Agency in Contemporary Anglo-American and German Fiction
, pp. 140 - 150
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2018

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