Two WCSU history professors publish books
DANBURY, CONN. — The identities of Irish Americans and the role of stepmothers are explored separately in two books published recently by Western Connecticut State University history professors Dr. Jennifer Duffy and Dr. Leslie Lindenauer.
Duffy’s “Who’s Your Paddy? Racial Expectations and the Struggle for Irish American Identity” is a cross-disciplinary examination of transformations of Irish identity as different generations of immigrants understood their Irish heritage in cultural terms or as a racial identity. In addition, it also looks at the struggle to reconcile their heritage with their understanding of what it might mean to be American. The book was published by NYU Press and is available at www.nyupress.org.
The daughter of Irish immigrants, Duffy said she started writing the book as part of her doctoral dissertation. She said the topic speaks to what it means to belong in the United States.
“I consider the whole experience of being marginalized and how it shapes identity. What happens when the bullies become bullied,” Duffy said of her first published book. “I think my book not only speaks to an academic community but a broader community.”
Diane Negra of the University College Dublin called Duffy’s book “a significant contribution to the literature on Irishness in America.”
Lindenauer, author of “I Could Not Call Her Mother: The Stepmother in American Popular Culture,” argues in her book that cultural stereotypes about stepmothers emerge from shifting conceptions in America about the proper role of family and motherhood. She also looks at the how pervasive ideas critical of step-motherhood are actually manifestations of anxiety about the shifting obligations of women and mothers.
Lindenauer said the book suggests that in popular culture representations of the evil stepmother serve as a bellwether for changing ideas of what constitutes the ideal mother, the ideal family and ideal womanhood.
“My interest in stepmothers, so often portrayed as evil in popular culture, really started with an examination of the witch in popular culture, especially after witch accusations and trials had died out in America by the 18th century,” Lindenauer said. “I noticed that as the attention to the witch
as the epitome of an evil woman waned, she was replaced by the evil stepmother, not only in fairy tales, but in poetry, 19th century novels and advice literature, and, later on, in film.”
The book is available through Lexington Books at www.rowman.com.
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