DOI: 10.1093/cww/vpad021 ISSN: 1754-1484

Miriam Toews’ Women Talking and the Embodied Life of Feminist Nonviolence

Victoria Glista
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Gender Studies


In Miriam Toews’ novel Women Talking (2018), the women of a remote Mennonite colony discover that they have been serially raped in their sleep, and so they meet to plot a nonhierarchical community of their own. I argue that this transformation relies on gestures, postures, and reorientations that spur liberatory new ways of perceiving and participating in the world; consequently, their bodily comportment is essential to revolutionary worldmaking, as well as to how we might approach the novel beyond its titular emphasis on speech. The women’s rechoreography of the colony’s norms also revivifies nonviolence as agonistic and egalitarian—a tentpole of the Mennonite faith. My reading works across the entanglement of movement and transformation in Women Talking before thinking through its rehearsal of bodily relations or set of gestural and postural ethics that ultimately dispose these women and survivors toward radical forms of care and interdependence, or what Judith Butler might call “aggressive nonviolence.”