Another View Of Brittney

My two favorite literary genres are early American literature and modern celebrity memoirs. As luck would have it, Britney Spears happened to release her memoir when I was in the middle of teaching The Scarlet Letter

I know, I know. This is not the first time I’ve written about Britney Spears in conversation with a classic American feminist text by a problematic author. In fact, the last time I wrote about Spears, I had COVID, and here I am with COVID again. But this time, Britney is telling her own story, I have had a steroid shot, and I’m ready to fight Jamie Spears, the ghost of his daddy, Kevin Federline, and Justin Timberlake in a Walmart parking lot.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for both The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Woman in Me by Britney Spears. If you haven’t read The Scarlet Letter, it’s in the public domain as an eBook and has multiple free audio versions on YouTube, including my favorite, which you can find here. If you haven’t read The Woman in Me, you can find it where all fine books are sold. Personally, I enjoyed the Michelle Williams audiobook version, and I hope she wins a Grammy for it.

As I said the last time I talked about Britney, I fell in love with early American literature because it helps me to understand patterns in our society. The more things change, the more things stay the same. In The Scarlet Letter, we see a woman named Hester Prynne being vilified for being unchaste according to the standards of her society. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, written in 1849 and published in 1850, was historical fiction set in Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1640s. Many scholars believe that Hester’s character was inspired by the brilliant transcendentalist Margaret Fuller, who, like Hester, also had a child out of wedlock in a foreign land. Fuller bucked gender norms and wrote far ahead of her time about topics such as women’s equality and gender fluidity. As one of my students said last year after reading some of her work, “She ate,” and Hawthorne seemed to agree with this sentiment. Although Hester is certainly plagued by her fair share of Puritan guilt, we see her rebelliousness in her haughtiness and how she decorates her badge of shame and the living embodiment of her sin, her daughter Pearl.