As a rule, Harlequins are written in the third person. Modleski stresses the difference between “personal” and “apersonal” third person narration. In doing so, she utilizes Barthes analysis of narrative to make the point that these novels encourage the reader to see herself as the main character. (55, 1984 edition) This changes rather suddenly, however, when the appearance of that character is described. The female reader is then required to view the character, and consequently herself, through the male gaze. Modleski describes this as a sort of schizophrenic readership, one in which the reader is both herself and another simultaneously. Both Mulvey and Flitterman-Lewis address this same issue of gendered spectatorship. Must feminine forms of narration conform to this standard? Could this schizophrenia offer any benefits to the reader? How does Flitterman-Lewis’s analysis that the act of watching is an inherent part of identity formation play into the development of this schizophrenia?
Where Mulvey states that all narrative pleasure is male pleasure, Modleski disagrees. She heralds soap operas as a distinctly feminine narrative form. What I found most interesting about her analysis of soap operas was the concept of “decentering”. (100-101) She parallels the woman’s experience in the home with the non-linear, never conclusive soap opera, which essentially helps the woman come to an appreciation of her own life and its scattered duties. This is one of the ways in which Modleski claims that soap operas can be very beneficial to the viewer. Others include utilizing soap operas as an outlet for feminine anger (97), and also that soaps help women meet a real need for community in their lives, even if that community is an imagined one (108). How can one reconcile the gap between Modleski’s perceived benefits of soap opera consumption and hegemony? Finally, do Modleski’s claims effectively counter those of Mulvey?
The back cover of the 1984 version of Loving with a Vengeance makes it clear that this is the first study that takes feminine narrative forms seriously. Throughout this work, Modleski references feminist theorists who have argued against these forms, repeatedly pointing out how they have been too hasty in their analyses. In effect, she seems to be saying that these viewpoints are anti-feminist. Is this statement merited? Can feminist critique be used to effectively debase feminine forms of narration? Should it, and what are the ramifications of doing so?