The Shape of Resistance Literature

Edited by Erin A. Hurt

Through a diverse collection of books, this special section traces the ways that critics negotiate and apply the concept of resistance literature. This section begins with a review of one of the field’s foundational texts, Barbara Harlow’s Resistance Literature (1987), which offers a snapshot of the critical work that took place during the term’s inception. Molly O’Hagan Hardy’s interview with Harlow adds an additional dimension by exploring Harlow’s thoughts on the development of the Ethnic and Third World Concentration (e3w) at the University of Texas as well as the current state of the field. The reviews that follow these two texts cover a lot of ground temporally, geographically, and conceptually. They cover time periods that range from medieval to 19th century to turn-of-the-century to present- day; they examine genres and topics that include prison writing, autobiography, nationalism, human rights, performance; and they locate resistance within geographies that include South Africa, El Salvador, Ireland, Morocco, other parts of North Africa, as well as the United States.

This section does not claim to be exhaustive or complete. Rather, as do many of the works contained herein, this section aims to demonstrate both the preservation of this field and its ever-expanding boundaries. One can glimpse the skeleton of Harlow’s framework beneath the skin of texts like Margaret Ward’s Unmanageable Revolutionaries: Women and Irish Nationalism (1983), Jason Haslam’s and Julia M. Wright’s Captivating Subjects: Writing Confinement, Citizenship, and Nationhood in the Nineteenth Century (2005), Stephanie Athey’s Sharpened Edge: Women of Color, Resistance, and Writing (2003), or Debra Kelly’s Autobiography and Independence: Selfhood and Creativity in North African Postcolonial Writing in French (2005). Fresh approaches take shape in works like Susan Slyomovics’s The Performance of Human Rights in Morocco (2005) and Joanna Summers’s Late-Medieval Prison Writing and the Politics of Autobiography (2004). Criticism of traditional resistance literature genres appears in Gillian Whitlock’s Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit (2007). Separately, each text shows the flexibility of the resistance literature framework. As a group, these books offer a glimpse of a field that continues to be both established and vital.