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UW professor’s book exploring ‘guilty pleasures’ lands on international magazine’s annual top-20 list

University of Wyoming English associate professor Arielle Zibrak’s "Guilty Pleasures" (University of Wyoming)

CASPER, Wyo — A University of Wyoming English associate professor’s latest book of cultural criticism has landed on the international online magazine PopMatters’ 20 Best Books of 2021, the university announced Monday.

Arielle Zibrak’s book “Guilty Pleasures,” written for both academic and public audiences, explores how the shame associated with lowbrow media and literature is “a particularly femme phenomenon.” 

From eighteenth-century epistolary novels to modern romantic comedies and glossy magazines, Zibrak finds that experiences of being humiliated, dominated, and abused that have pervaded the stories that make up women’s culture.

She finds that there is twinge of shame even in the enjoyment of “ribald romance novels, luxurious interior design, and frothy wedding dresses…”

Zibrak was trained as a scholar of 19th century American literature, and her research is primarily on the popular women writers of that period.

She points out that the bestselling single book of that century was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which went on to sell more than 2 million. But that and other bestsellers written by women like Augusta Jane Wilson and E.D.E.N. Southworth were dismissed by their male contemporaries as “trash,” Zibrak said.

 She also adds that other bestselling books were written by Augusta Jane Wilson and E.D.E.N. Southworth, whoA wrote 50-70 novels that sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

“What’s amazing is that, after all of these years, the terms ‘guilty pleasure’ and ‘trash’ or ‘trashy’ media still signify as female,” Zibrak added. 

Zibrak has been at UW since 2014. Read more at the University of Wyoming website.