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Bitch, Bitch, Bitch: Personal Criticism, Feminist Theory, and Dog-writing


  • Susan Mchugh


By the turn of the twenty-first century, women writing about electing to share their lives with female canines directly confront a strange sort of backlash. Even as their extensions of the feminist forms of personal criticism contribute to significant developments in theories of sex, gender, and species, they become targets of criticism as “indulgent” for focusing on their dogs. Comparing these elements in and around popular memoirs like Caroline Knapp's Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond between People and Dogs (1998) and Deirdre McCloskey's Crossing: A Memoir (1999), as well as academic studies like Alice Kuzniar's Melancholia's Dog: Reflections on Our Animal Kinship (2006) and Donna Haraway's When Species Meet (2007), this essay elaborates the ways in which living with and writing about female canine companions informs poststructuralist and feminist questions about the embodiment and performance of structures of authority, including those of academic writers, “dog-mom” stereotypes, and reproductively silenced bodies. Situating these texts amid discussions of form in and around feminist/dog-writing, I argue that together they move narrative beyond the abstract model of the lone “authoritative” human individual, reframing feminist politics as intra-active, even trans-species, from the ground up.