Joanna Russ was a renowned female fiction writer who gained fame in the 1970s. She was born in February 22nd, 1937 in the Bronx. She studied and earned her bachelor’s degree with an English major at Cornell University in 1957. Joanna Russ continued her study at Yale, and she received her master’s degree in play writing and dramatic literature. She taught at State University of New York, Binghamton but was denied tenure from the school. She moved to the University of Colorado and later yet to the University of Washington, where she finally had an offer to the tenure position.
Joanna Russ was best known with her novel The Female Man, novella “Soul” that won the Hugo Award, short story “When it Changed” that won the Nebula Award, and many more critical works. Her role as a science fiction reviewer had won her a Pilgrim Award for science fiction critique. The New York Times also ranked Joanna Russ “among the small band of accomplished stylists in science fiction.”
In my humble opinion, I think Joanna Russ is an absolutely terrific writer who brings stories to life and tricks her readers’ minds. Let’s take “Soul” as an example. Readers are tricked into believing that Abbess Randegunde was a saint at the beginning of the story, but Joanna Russ skillfully transformed her character into someone else that made the readers confused and scratch their heads in frustration. Is Abbes Randegunde a saint or a demon? That is up to your own imagination, and that proves how good Joanna Russ was as a writer.
One of the reasons that has me drawn into investigating Joanna Russ was that she was so interesting when it comes to writing letters with her anger so strongly embedded in them. Her anger and frustration in her letters to James Tiptree Jr. as well as her non-fiction works such as papers about anti-pornography bring more attention from the readers and researchers. Why was she so angry and irritated in most of her work? Does it show that she was critical towards the issues/person she was writing to, or does it show that she was frustrated with her career and life? Why is pornography so important to Russ? She expressed a lot of irritation and anger that one can feel when he/she reads her paper “About Pornography”. It’s always her rage and resentment that make the letters and papers more interesting.
At this point, I’m not quite sure to what specific direction I’m heading, but Russ’ anger will definitely be my focus for this final project.
[Letters to James Tiptree Jr.] Joanna Russ papers, [Coll 261, Box 10, Folders 31-42], Special Collections & University Archive, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.
[Literary Works] Joanna Russ papers, [Coll 261, Box 13, Folders 2, 4-8, 15-16], Special Collections & University Archive, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.