Adoption has long been a pervasive theme in literature, from folk legends to the novels of Barbara Kingsolver. Many nonliterary writers have been increasingly drawn to the subject. Imagining Adoption brings together for the first time analyses of literary portrayals of adoption and other examples of adoption discourse.
The essays analyze adoption in a range of works, including the novels of George Eliot and Anthony Trollope; children's literature (Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte's Web); contemporary fiction (Louise Erdrich, Jeanette Winterson, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Laurence); and poetry (Sandra McPherson, Jackie Kay) and film (Secrets and Lies, Losing Isaiah). They examine personal narratives by "home children;" magazine articles by adoptive mothers; adoptee rights newsletters; and scholarly arguments about transracial and transnational adoption. The contributors contextualize their literary and rhetorical analyses with reference to historical research; feminist, Foucauldian, psychoanalytic, and postcolonial theory; and personal experience.
Adoption plots dramatize cultural tensions about definitions of family and the importance of heredity, along with changing constructions of illegitimacy, infertility, maternal instinct, and homosexuality. Since adoption often brings together people from groups separated by economics, ethnicity, and increasingly by nation of birth, its use in fiction can contrast their worlds, and can protest against their split and/or against the victimization of one group by the other. Some contributors argue that adoption affects the imagination of several adoptee authors (Albee, Winterson, McPherson, Kay) even when dealing with other topics. But most importantly this anthology shows how complex and varied are the ways in which people have written about adoption itself.
Marianne Novy is Professor of English and Women's Studies, University of Pittsburgh. She has published Love's Argument: Gender Relations in Shakespeare and Engaging with Shakespeare: Responses of George Eliot and Other Women Novelists, and has edited three anthologies on women's responses to Shakespeare: Women's Re-Visions of Shakespeare, Cross-Cultural Performances , and Transforming Shakespeare.