Wasting time? The politics and poetics of feminist waiting

Melanie Waters*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this article I analyse the politics and poetics of waiting, as it is represented in feminist fictions of the 1970s, through reference to relevant philosophies of time. Focusing on examples drawn from American literary culture, I trace how writers including Lisa Alther and Marilyn French have envisioned the role of waiting in women’s oppression and liberation, and ask why feminist fictions so routinely explore the issue of gender inequality through the experiences of those who wait. Extrapolating Henri Bergson’s claim in Creative Evolution (1907) that waiting sharpens the individual’s consciousness of time, I investigate the emotional valences of waiting and its literary articulations, arguing that the agitated feelings associated with waiting – from excitement and anticipation to impatience and dread – work to establish an affective temporality of waiting that comes to characterise the feminist novel in the 1970s. More pressingly, perhaps, as depictions of waiting acquire currency as salient animations of women’s asynchronous temporality, I explore the extent to which attempts to represent women’s fears and desires in time might, for certain subjects, model new forms of ethical engagement and political action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1246-1264
Number of pages19
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number8
Early online date22 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2023


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