Season of the Witch: Border Lines, Marginal Notes

Pasadena: Trilogy Books, 1995

In this riveting collection of essays, Gail Griffin artfully blends autobiography and literary criticism to examine conflicts currently raging around feminism, multiculturalism and political correctness, both on our embattled college campuses and on the larger American scene.


Griffin, author of Calling: Essays on Teaching in the Mother Tongue, excels at describing both the difficulties and the exhilaration of teaching college. She's at her best in an essay titled ``The Bluest Eyes'' about teaching African American literature to a mostly white class, but she's also very fine in pieces on the culture of academe. Brilliant in its brevity, ``Dirty Pictures'' is an essay about some hate mail she received after her photograph was published in a newspaper and also about a female student who showed up to warn her that she might be receiving some old, pornographic photographs of said student in the mail. ``Dear Katie: The Scarlet Letter'', a lengthy response to a niece who asked about being a woman in academia, stuns with its straight talk about discomfiting situations. Her cultural examinations are apt too: both the differences between the written and film versions of The Wizard of Oz and her youthful obsession with the Beatles are dissected with good humor and insight. Sometimes, however, she slips too deeply into academic jargon, or worse, reveals that she is still enamored with Paul McCartney et al. after all these years. (The sappiest essay here compares the death of John Lennon with the end of a long and intense relationship and ends ``You were right, we all shine on. Here in the dark, when I look up, I still see you, brightest of all.'') One device is more than tired: the use of dictionary definitions of words to set off examination of their deeper meaning.

--Publishers Weekly, copyright 1995 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

In Griffin's second essay collection (after Calling: Essays on Teaching in the Mother Tongue, Trilogy, 1992), she explains that "each of the three sections uses the metaphor of margins in different ways." The first use is autobiographical ("from my sense of the personal and historical margins in my life"); the second group is about teaching ("the classroom as a borderland"); and the third concerns "cultural, racial, and national memory." Several essays, including "The Bluest Eyes: Teaching African American Literature in White Classrooms," are derived from earlier presentations in academe and deserve rereading. "Season of the Witch," a 1992 chapel lecture at Kalamazoo College (Mich.), where Griffin chairs the English department and directs women's studies, is timely in this day of sexist ageism. For education and women's studies collections.?Helen Rippier Wheeler, formerly with UC-Berkeley, SLIS

--Library Journal, copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

  © 2014 Gail Griffin.   All rights reserved.   Contact Gail by e-mailing gail@gailgriffin.org.