Saving the children? With Jelinek and Walker plus a new call for papers …

“Female Genital Mutilation in Nobel Laureate Elfriede Jelinek and Pulitzer Prize Winner Alice Walker,” a version of which appeared in The New York Public Intellectuals and Beyond. Exploring Liberal Humanism, Jewish Identity, and the American Protest Tradition. Eds. E. Goffman and D. Morris. W. Lafayette, IN: Purdue U.P., 2009. 243-274. Title: “Feminist (and ‘Womanist’) as Public Intellectuals: Elfriede Jelinek and Alice Walker.”


Just alerted by that, among all my contributions, the piece comparing Elfriede Jelinek and Alice Walker had been the most viewed this past week, — both authors strongly oppose FGM–, I wondered whether there exists a link between saving girls from blades and children in schools from bullets.

Yes, there is. It’s called TOXIC MASCULINITY, and both Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners define it in their novels.

Below you’ll find Jelinek’s Preface, kindly contributed to my book on Walker.

Celebrating Alice Walker’s impact on FGM campaigns worldwide …

GUEST PREFACE  to Waging Empathy

by Elfriede Jelinek, Nobel Laureate in Literature 2004

Translated from the German by Tobe Levin

In Possessing the Secret of Joy Alice Walker made “female circumcision” – the destruction of female sexuality – a literary theme, and fierce attack followed. As I see it, woman herself is the wound, ripped open and patched up, sewn shut, over and over, only to be lacerated yet again. So that something can go in. So that something can come out. And if a woman, a prominent author, uncovers this wound, she, too, will be drawn and quartered — by other women. Women’s forced silence concerning what they endure is another wound, one inflicted when they open their mouths too wide. Because lust is not for them in the same way speech is not, and above all, if they are talking about whatever is “never talked about.” As long as woman the wound, the disabled, the one who is “missing something,” is perceived by masters of the discourse and regrettably also by accomplices as the (already) mutilated one, nothing will change. (And despite her being identified with lack, and even if awareness of loss has already been deleted from her mind, something still must be taken away). Reclaiming the right to speak can retrieve women from their muted mutilation and restore their integrity. Only once they reassert this right (and if we all acknowledge their possession of it, this right they can also demand for themselves) will mutilation of gendered comrades be open to discuss. Failing to reveal their injuries facilitates the harm that they alone can heal — to spare the rest.

And the CALL FOR PAPERS? Now that we’ve reached another milestone, 2022, that is, 30 years since publication in 1992 of Possessing the Secret of Joy, it’s time to gather new scholarly writing from even more venues to complement the call that went out in 2012 and produced Waging Empathy. Here’s the Table of Contents from that book. Please consider how you can help to grow it further.

Email: Dr. Tobe Levin von Gleichen



Table of Contents

Guest Preface by Nobel Laureate in Literature 2004 Elfriede Jelinek


Introduction by Tobe Levin 

PART 1. Torture and Taboo

Chapter 1. Tobe Levin. “Alice Walker: Matron of FORWARD.”

Chapter 2. Verena Stefan. “Mutilation of the Vulva and Circumcision of other Female Freedoms — or the Perfect Vulva’s Aura and Revolt.” Trans. from the German by Tobe Levin.

Chapter 3. M. Giulia Fabi. “Sexual Violence and the Black Atlantic. On Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy.” 

Chapter 4. Claudia Landi. “Animals in Possessing the Secret of Joy.”  Trans. from the Italian by Tobe Levin.

PART 2. Trauma and Treatment

Chapter 5. Elisabeth Bekers. “Walker’s Traumatized Woman Warrior in Possessing the Secret of Joy.” 

Chapter 6. John Gruesser. “Breaking the Silence about Female Genital Mutilation in Possessing the Secret of Joy.” 

Chapter 7. Monica Jacobe. “Contextualizing the African Legacy: Teaching Alice Walker’s Africa as Southern Women’s Writing.” 

Chapter 8. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez. “Resistance as the Secret of Joyful Global Feminist Alliance: Inner Work and Public Acts in Possessing the Secret of Joy.” 

PART 3. Treasure and Text

Chapter 9. Sachiko Mitsumori. “Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy. Towards the Universal Self.” 

Chapter 10. Hilda Twongyeirwe.  “Resistance and Choice: Possessing the Secret of Joy and Women Writers against FGM in Uganda.”

Chapter 11. Gulab Singh. “What Alice Walker Teaches Us: Critical Thinking in and about Possessing the Secret of Joy.

Chapter 12. Fangfang Zhu.  “Religion, Ecofeminism and Female Genital Mutilation: Cracking the Code of Patriarchy in Possessing the Secret of Joy.”

Chapter 13. Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko. “Reading the novel as a playwright. WAAFRIKA’s author responds to Possessing the Secret of Joy in ‘Becoming A Man: XXYX Africa’.” 

Notes on Contributors