Faculty Bookshelf: Regina Barreca

Books by Regina Barreca

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If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse? (St. Martin’s, 2016)

Gina Barreca is fed up with women who lean in, but don’t open their mouths. In her latest collection of essays, she turns her attention to subjects like bondage which she notes now seems to come in fifty shades of grey and has been renamed Spanx. She muses on those lessons learned in Kindergarten that every woman must unlearn like not having to hold the hand of the person you’re waking next to (especially if he’s a bad boyfriend) or needing to have milk, cookies and a nap every day at 3:00 PM (which tends to sap one’s energy not to mention what it does to one’s waistline). She sounds off about all those things a woman hates to hear from a man like “Calm down” or “Next time, try buying shoes that fit”. “‘If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?'” is about getting loud, getting love, getting ahead and getting the first draw (or the last shot). Here are tips, lessons and bold confessions about bad boyfriends at any age, about friends we love and ones we can’t stand anymore, about waist size and wasted time, about panic, placebos, placentas and certain kinds of not-so adorable paternalism attached to certain kinds of politicians. The world is kept lively by loud women talking and “‘If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?'” cheers and challenges those voices to come together and speak up. You think she’s kidding? Oh, boy, do you have another thing coming.

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They Used to Call Me Snow White . . . but I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor (University Press of New England [UPNE], 2013)

Published by Viking in 1991 and issued as a paperback through Penguin Books in 1992, Snow White became an instant classic for both academic and general audiences interested in how women use humor and what others (men) think about funny women. Barreca, who draws on the work of scholars, writers, and comedians to illuminate a sharp critique of the gender-specific aspects of humor, provides laughs and provokes arguments as she shows how humor helps women break rules and occupy center stage. Barreca’s new introduction provides a funny and fierce, up-to-the-minute account of the fate of women’s humor over the past twenty years, mapping what has changed in our culture—and questioning what hasn’t.

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Vital Ideas: Sex (Great Books Foundation, 2011) Editor.

The idea of sex can capture our intellectual imagination as much as desire captures our physical selves. Ranging from biblical stories to Freud and contemporary fiction, the selections in this volume invite you to think about sex rather than just chortle or blush. This compact, topical anthology will generate exciting and rewarding discussions for college courses in reading and composition, as well as book groups of all kinds. The anthology contains thirteen selections, with questions for discussion and writing prompts accompanying each selection.

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Make Mine a Double: Why Women Like Us Like to Drink . . . Or Not (UPNE, 2011) Editor.

Make Mine a Double pours together witty, intelligent, and provocative pieces about women and their beverages of choice. The twenty-eight original essays come from a diverse community of voices from ages twenty-one to seventy-nine, including such luminaries as Fay Weldon, Wendy Liebman, Amy Bloom, Liza Donnelly, Nicole Hollander, Beth Jones, Dawn Lundy Martin, and many others. These tales of women’s complex relationships with alcohol are the story of every woman’s effort to find her independence and sense of belonging, be it at a college party, a high-powered cocktail party, or on a stool at the neighborhood watering hole. Barreca contributed a poem and the introduction.

Barreca and the writers have agreed that all their profits from the book will be donated to Windham Hospital’s “Gina’s Friends” fund, which aids women in need.

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Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Co-education in the Ivy League (UPNE, 2011)

Barreca gives a humorous and provocative account of being a female undergraduate at Dartmouth College in its turbulent first years of co-education.

Offering a frank and observant look at gender, education, and identity at a critical juncture in the author’s—and America’s—development, Babes in Boyland brings to life a pivotal moment in the history of co-education. It was a time in which hostility to women was still rife (fraternity house banners at Dartmouth read “Better Dead than Co-Ed”), but one that promised equal education to promising young women.

Gina Barreca's It's Not That I'm Bitter . . .: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World

It’s Not That I’m Bitter: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010)

In a world where eye cream is made from placenta, Barreca is the lone voice calling out “But wait, whose placenta is it?” In this collection of deliciously quotable essays, Gina asks the big questions: Why is there no King Charming? Why does no bra ever fit? Why do people say “cougar” like it’s a bad thing? Why do we call it a glass ceiling when it’s just a thick layer of men? Barreca packs a hilarious punch while gleefully rejecting emotional torture, embracing limitless laughter, and showing women how they can conquer the world with good friends (“It’s not that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but a girl’s best friends are diamonds”), sharp wit, great shoes, and not a single worry about VPLs.

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I’m With Stupid: One Man. One Woman. 10,000 Years of Misunderstanding Between the Sexes Cleared Right Up (Simon & Schuster, 2006) Co-written with Gene Weingarten.

Is God male or female? Why do women, but not men, flush public toilets with their feet? Why are men, but not women, obsessed with parallel parking? Why do women, but not men, leave eleven-minute messages on answering machines? Why do men feel guilty about nothing, and women feel guilty about everything? Was Marilyn Monroe . . . fat? These philosophical quandaries are finally debated.

The first significant book about men and women actually written by a man and a woman, I’m with Stupid is privy to the dark secrets of both sexes. The subject matter spans art and expression, science and technology, politics and history, spirituality and religion, sex and sexuality, as well as the complex etiology, sociology, and etymology of dirty jokes. Men: Learn at last how to know for sure when you are having a fight. Women: Learn what he really means when he says “I’m sorry.”

I’m with Stupid is the book that finally establishes, conclusively, that women are funnier than men. And vice versa.

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The Signet Book of American Humor. Rev. ed. (NAL Trade, 2004) Editor and Introduction.

America’s humor tradition is as complex and cacophonous as the culture that produces it. This volume blends Yiddish inflections with African-American cadences, dry WASP-ish wit with girlish giggles, proving that comedy may be the truest democracy of all, suffering no pretense and kowtowing to no authority.

A comprehensive collection of America’s funniest voices, from classic writers to contemporary comics. Includes contributions from Scott Adams, Dave Barry, Ellen DeGeneres, Langston Hughes, Cathy Guisewite, Molly Ivins, Garrison Keillor, NtozakeShange, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and many more.

The ABC of Vice: An Insatiable Women’s Guide, Alphabetized (Bibliopola Press/UPNE, 2003) Co-written with Sylvia comic strip creator Nicole Hollander.

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Don’t Tell Mama!: The Penguin Book of Italian American Writing (Penguin, 2002) Editor and introduction.

This collection reveals the quality, extent, and variety of the Italian American contribution to American literature. Bringing together fiction and poetry as well as academic essays and newspaper articles from the 1800s to the present, this volume celebrates and explores the complex relationship between ethnicity and culture. Including many previously unpublished pieces as well as classic works, this definitive collection does not attempt to homogenize the diversity of Italian American culture, but to honor it. With wit and aplomb, editor Barreca offers a taste of a rich literary heritage—and provides fresh insight into the construction of every American’s sense of identity.

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A Sitdown with the Sopranos: Watching Italian American Culture on T.V.’s Most Talked About Series (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002) Editor and introduction.

The Sopranos profoundly altered Americans’ views of New Jersey, HBO, Sunday nights, and especially Italian American culture and life. The show has not been without critics, who have lambasted The Sopranos for presenting negative stereotypes of Italian Americans. This book is an insightful and balanced reply to the criticism from some of the country’s most important Italian American writers, examining eight key components of Italian American life and considering how accurately the show portrays these topics.

Too Much of a Good Thing is Wonderful (Bibliopola/UPNE, 2000)
120 collected columns first appearing in the Chicago Tribune, The Hartford Courant, the Orlando Sentinel, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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Sweet Revenge: The Wicked Delights of Getting Even (Berkley, 1997)

Barreca explains why revenge is one of our most universal experiences—and why, no matter how slight or petty or naughty, it always tastes so sweet. You’ll meet the woman who drove her ex and his new wife into odor-madness by sewing scores of tiny shrimp into their curtains. You’ll cheer the airline employee who made sure an abusive passenger made his flight to Kansas City—and then directed his luggage to Tokyo. From killing them with kindness to going for the gut, Sweet Revenge is sure to teach some new tricks to even the truest revenge connoisseur.

The Erotics of Instruction (UPNE, 1997) Editor, with Debra Denenholz Morse, and introduction.

Sixteen previously uncollected essays. A lively exploration on the manifestations of passion and desire in the teacher-student relationship.

penguin book of womens humor

The Penguin Book of Women’s Humor (Viking/Penguin, 1996) Editor and introduction.

A landmark anthology that proves there is a distinctly female way of being funny. Wide-ranging selections—by turns shocking, invigorating, infuriating and inspiring—span three centuries and include not only the likes of Jane Austen, Dorothy Parker, Muriel Spark, “Moms” Mabley, Mae West, Erma Bombeck, and Roseanne, but also some unexpected voices: Sylvia Plath, Toni Morrison, Margaret Drabble, Emily Dickinson, and others. In stories, letters, verse, excerpts, essays, cartoons, and one-liners that address relationships, politics, fate, and the fierce struggle to survive and triumph, these women speak powerfully about the world and its absurdities.

Desire and Imagination: Twenty Classic Essays on Sexuality(Meridian, 1995) Editor and introduction.

Collection of twenty classic essays on sexuality from 1812 to 1920.

Fay Weldon’s Wicked Fictions (UPNE, 1994). Editor and introduction.

A collection of 18 previously uncollected essays.

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Untamed and Unabashed: Essays on Women and Comedy in Literature (Wayne State University Press, 1994)

Barreca examines the use of humor in the works of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Spark, and Fay Weldon. She analyzes the ways that each writer uses comedic devices, especially those involving language itself, and discusses the gendered basis of their humor, providing a provocative feminist perspective on gender and comedy.

Each of the essays argues that conservative critics have misread and misunderstood the importance of humor in the works of these women authors, and that women’s humor serves to explode conventions oppressive to women and to offer women readers a critique of, and an alternative perspective on, the dominant cultural ideologies that contain and oppress them. The book concludes that these authors strategically deployed humor, coded in forms that women readers—but not men readers—would recognize and understand, as a means of educating and empowering those women readers.

Barreca asserts that much of women’s comic play has to do with power and its systematic misappropriation, allowing women to gain perspective by ridiculing the implicit insanities of a patriarchal culture. Using detailed persuasive new readings of various works of each of her chosen authors, she shows how the straight jacket of conventional femininity is challenged, confronted, and finally, thrown off.

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Perfect Husbands (& Other Fairy Tales): Demystifying Marriage, Men and Romance (Harmony Books, 1994)

Barreca explores the evolving roles of husbands and wives in contemporary American culture. Through interviews and examination of marital relationships in popular culture, Barreca reveals the differences between men’s and women’s beliefs concerning marriage—and the myths and expectations that underlie them. Barreca reveals how the static myths that many women cling to can lead to unhappiness in today’s changing world.

New Perspectives on Women and Comedy (Gordon and Breach, 1992) Editor.

The twenty-one original essays in this volume explore how women have used humor to break down cultural stereotypes between the genders. Examples from literature and the performing arts deal with humor and violence, humor and disability, humor and the supposition of women’s shame, lesbian and ethnic humor and particularly women’s responses to men’s humor. The essayists present traditional issues from new perspectives and take us from Italy in the Renaissance to today’s New York comedy clubs.

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Sex and Death in Victorian Literature (Indiana University Press, 1990) Editor.

This collection of essays examines the links between the images of death and sexuality in Victorian fiction and poetry. The contributors examine how fear of death was placed beside sexual desire and how Victorian writers managed to write about sex without overtly referring to it. The essays include an examination of Count Dracula’s eternal seductions, an exploration of the pairing of Eros and Thanatos in George Eliot’s fiction and an exploration of the work of Ruskin. Some of the essays attempt to “undo” much of the preceding critical wisdom on the subject. The dialectics of sex and death, these critics claim, must be viewed as one of the most influential patterns in Victorian poetry and prose.

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Last Laughs: Perspectives on Women and Comedy (Gordon and Breach, 1988) Editor and introduction.

The 19 original essays and three “Sylvia” cartoons included in this volume deal with the gender-specific nature of comedy. The collection observes the creation of women’s comedy from a wide range of standpoints: political, sociological, psychoanalytical, linguistic, and historical. The writers explore the role of women’s comedy in familiar and unfamilair territory, from Austen to Weldon, from Behn to Wasserstein. The questions they raise lead to a redefinition of the genre itself.