Lacing cultural criticism, Victorian literature, and storytelling together, "TOO MUCH spills over: with intellect, with sparkling prose, and with the brainy arguments of Vorona Cote, who posits that women are all, in some way or another, still susceptible to being called too much." (Esmé Weijun Wang)
A weeping woman is a monster. So too is a fat woman, a horny woman, a woman shrieking with laughter. Women who are one or more of these things have heard, or perhaps simply intuited, that we are repugnantly excessive, that we have taken illicit liberties to feel or f**k or eat with abandon. After bellowing like a barn animal in orgasm, hoovering a plate of mashed potatoes, or spraying out spit in the heat of expostulation, we've flinched-ugh, that was so gross. I am so gross. On rare occasions, we might revel in our excess--belting out anthems with our friends over karaoke, perhaps--but in the company of less sympathetic souls, our uncertainty always returns. A woman who is Too Much is a woman who reacts to the world with ardent intensity is a woman familiar to lashes of shame and disapproval, from within as well as without.
Written in the tradition of Shrill, Dead Girls, Sex Object and other frank books about the female gaze, TOO MUCH encourages women to reconsider the beauty of their excesses-emotional, physical, and spiritual. Rachel Vorona Cote braids cultural criticism, theory, and storytelling together in her exploration of how culture grinds away our bodies, souls, and sexualities, forcing us into smaller lives than we desire. An erstwhile Victorian scholar, she sees many parallels between that era's fixation on women's "hysterical" behavior and our modern policing of the same; in the space of her writing, you're as likely to encounter Jane Eyre and Lizzie Bennet as you are Britney Spears and Lana Del Rey.
This book will tell the story of how women, from then and now, have learned to draw power from their reservoirs of feeling, all that makes us "Too Much."
Cote, a former PhD candidate in Victorian literature at the University of Maryland, traces the "unspoken rules" that govern the expression of women's emotional and physical desires to 19th-century medicine and culture in this vigorous, wide-ranging debut. Noting that "hysteria" was a widespread medical diagnosis given to Victorian women exhibiting all kinds of "inappropriate" behavior, from sighing and sudden laughter to self-mutilation, Cote analyzes how writers including Elizabeth Gaskell, Christina Rossetti, and the Bront sisters "contemplate the circumstances of women in an age when emotion was so viciously policed and pathologized." In chapters devoted to mental health, infidelity, body image, ageism, and sexual desire, Cote confesses to her own "alluvion of feeling" and relates personal experiences, including a suicide attempt and the end of her first marriage, to characters and plots in Victorian literature and figures from modern popular culture, including Britney Spears, Lana Del Rey, and "Stifler's Mom" in the movie American Pie. She conclusively shows that women have been "emotionally trussed for centuries," and empowers her readers to embrace their "too muchness" as an "agent of emotional integrity." Though Cote's blend of memoir, criticism, and history sometimes feels unfocused and idiosyncratic, her overarching arguments are apt. Readers whose tastes run from George Eliot to Lorde will embrace the book's feminist message.