Our universities are the locus of ongoing debates over the politics of gender, of class, of disadvantage and disability—and over the issue of “political correctness.” In A Feminist I Christine Overall offers wide-ranging reflections from a first-person point of view on these issues, and on the politics of the modern university itself. In doing so she continually returns to underlying epistemological concerns. What are our assumptions about the ways in which knowledge is constructed? To what degree are our perceptions shaped by our social roles and identities? In the past generation feminists have led the way in recognising the importance of such questions, and recognising too the ways in which personal experience may be an invaluable reference point in academic theory and practice. But reliance on personal experience is fraught with problems; how is one to deal with tensions between the autobiographical and the analytic? This book points the way to resolving some of those tensions, and to fruitfully sustaining others. It is a book of considerable insight, warm humanity, and genuine importance.
“I am a feminist.’ So begins Christine Overall’s ‘theoretical autobiography.’ In the pages following this declaration, Professor Overall shares much of her personal history as a feminist academic, ‘come up’ from the working class and having gone through a seriously disabling illness. The result is stunning. Her story is relentlessly candid, absolutely engaging, and enormously rich. Her purpose here is ‘to exemplify the use[fulness] of personal histories within feminist philosophy.’ Through an always accessible and often deeply moving narrative, she succeeds completely, making important contributions to the theoretical discussions of philosophical methodology; societal and institutional cultures; pedagogy; and sexism, classism, ableism, ageism and their intersections. Although Professor Overall presumes to speak for no one but herself, her account of and reflections on her experiences (internal as well as external) will resonate with feminists inside and outside the academy, revealing, as they so ably do, the insights a deeply committed and well-practiced feminist consciousness brings to a life story. At the same time, her story and her reflections on that story generously illuminate a feminist soul for those who do not yet understand such souls. This is, then, a book no one should miss.” — Joan C. Callahan, University of Kentucky
“ … intriguing and important … I imagine I shall be changing some of my own practices as a result of reading Overall’s descriptions of her experiences. … This is a very helpful book for anyone who seeks to understand better the situation of feminists in the academic world.” — Susan Sherwin, Dalhousie University
“Overall speaks in the first person, using her own experience as the foundation of her political philosophical analysis … The narrative is candid and direct … Overall successfully uses her life to illuminate more general feminist political conflicts without over-generalizing or including awkward caveats or painful circumlocutions. … [T]his is a very well-crafted book, and a valuable and original addition to feminist literature.” — Philosophy in Review
“Engaging and accessible … A Feminist I is philosophy set in vital motion in the real world; Overall is to be lauded for her courage.” — Quill and Quire
“The role muddles of A Feminist I will be familiar to most academic women. Overall usefully reports … and is prepared to ‘reak the taboo’ of her philosophical training by writing personally and frankly.” — Elaine Showalter, in The Times Literary Supplement