Too Much

How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today


By Rachel Vorona Cote

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Lacing cultural criticism, Victorian literature, and storytelling together, “TOO MUCH spills over: with intellect, with sparkling prose, and with the brainy arguments of Vorona Cote, who posits that women are all, in some way or another, still susceptible to being called too much.” (Esmé Weijun Wang)

A weeping woman is a monster. So too is a fat woman, a horny woman, a woman shrieking with laughter. Women who are one or more of these things have heard, or perhaps simply intuited, that we are repugnantly excessive, that we have taken illicit liberties to feel or fuck or eat with abandon. After bellowing like a barn animal in orgasm, hoovering a plate of mashed potatoes, or spraying out spit in the heat of expostulation, we’ve flinched-ugh, that was so gross. I am so gross. On rare occasions, we might revel in our excess–belting out anthems with our friends over karaoke, perhaps–but in the company of less sympathetic souls, our uncertainty always returns. A woman who is Too Much is a woman who reacts to the world with ardent intensity is a woman familiar to lashes of shame and disapproval, from within as well as without.

Written in the tradition of Shrill, Dead Girls, Sex Object and other frank books about the female gaze, TOO MUCH encourages women to reconsider the beauty of their excesses-emotional, physical, and spiritual. Rachel Vorona Cote braids cultural criticism, theory, and storytelling together in her exploration of how culture grinds away our bodies, souls, and sexualities, forcing us into smaller lives than we desire. An erstwhile Victorian scholar, she sees many parallels between that era’s fixation on women’s “hysterical” behavior and our modern policing of the same; in the space of her writing, you’re as likely to encounter Jane Eyre and Lizzie Bennet as you are Britney Spears and Lana Del Rey.

This book will tell the story of how women, from then and now, have learned to draw power from their reservoirs of feeling, all that makes us “Too Much.”


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Author's Note

Before venturing any further, it's important that I address a few matters related to diversity in source material. Victorian literature is a useful tool for exploring the phenomenon of too muchness, but like so many mechanisms for critical thought, it is limited, racially and otherwise. Throughout the book, I will reference and draw principally from Victorian narratives and conduct manuals. However, I will also place them alongside others in order to, I hope, provide a broader purview beyond that of the cisgender white woman. That said, I will, for the sake of (relative) brevity, primarily focus on woman-identifying persons over the course of the book, although there remains much work to be done in considering the emotional circumscription of transgender persons, gender nonconforming persons, and men, queer and straight. This is a long and intricate conversation: I submit the following book as one rivulet leading to vaster waters.

Finally, I want to turn this narrative of too muchness on its head without letting empathy out of sight—this isn't an excuse to do and say whatever we want, context and consideration be damned. It is, however, a call for others to witness a broad, more complex range of emotional presentation and utterance, and a demand for the space we cohabit to be treated as capacious ground for any expression that is neither malicious nor harmful to folk, flora, and fauna. I believe that this is possible. In writing this book, I am declaring my belief that it will exist, that we are, gradually, making it so.

Chapter One

An Introduction

A weeping woman is a monster. So too is a fat woman, a horny woman, a woman shrieking with laughter. Women who are one or more of these things have heard, or perhaps simply intuited, that we are repugnantly excessive, that we have taken illicit liberties to feel or fuck or eat with abandon. After bellowing like a barn animal in orgasm, hoovering a plate of mashed potatoes, or spraying out spit in the heat of expostulation, we've flinched in self-scorn—ugh, that was so gross. I am so gross. On rare occasions, we might revel in our excess—belting out anthems with our friends over karaoke, perhaps—but in the company of less sympathetic souls, our uncertainty always returns. A woman who meets the world with intensity is a woman who endures lashes of shame and disapproval, from within as well as without.

In Victorian England, the medical establishment would have labeled us hysterical, pathologically immoderate in emotional and physiological expression. Here's how a German-born doctor practicing in London, one Julius Althaus, defined the condition in 1866: "All the symptoms of hysteria have their prototype in those vital actions by which grief, terror, disappointment, and other painful emotions and affections, are manifested under ordinary circumstances, and which become signs of hysteria as soon as they attain a certain degree of intensity."1 Of course, "a certain degree of intensity" invites a vast range of interpretation, and when it came to emotional eruptions, the Victorians were none too generous. Hysteria was a convenient means of pathologizing—and thus regulating—feminine feeling and its expression. Today, as many among us grieve our political optimism and hammer out our anger on social media, we find our husbands, our boyfriends, our parents, our politicians diagnosing us with similar maladies: we're wallowing in it, why are we so freaked out, we must be bleeding out of our wherever. Take a Xanax, girl, and calm down.

We are the women who can hardly contain our screams, and, oftentimes, we don't. Our muchness oozes from our pores like acidic sweat: ranker, more caustic, less concealable than ever. But however brutally the stigma may sizzle in this political moment, this sense that we are somehow Too Much is hardly new to us—nor will it dissipate whenever Donald Trump's vise finally unclenches from our skulls. I conceived the idea for this book—a critical cry of bullshit against this concept, Too Much—some years ago, during a comparatively happier presidency. This term, Too Much, pernicious in its ambiguity, attacks with the force of history. It's the overdetermined exponent of ideologies, centuries old, structured by misogyny, racism, and homophobia. American society fetishizes white heteronormative propriety: it wants its girls pliable and demure—girls who safeguard both tears and sex for the privacy of the bedroom, who keep their voices measured during meetings, and who brush their hair and blot their lipstick. It worships the woman who, if she should experience distress, will wear her sadness like Lana Del Rey or Middlemarch's Dorothea Brooke: with genteel sensuality and relative quiet. Anything more—well, that would be excessive.

Accordingly, "You're just too much!" is the threat of patriarchy disguised as playful admonition. It is a warning, even a diagnosis. It is saying, "This space is not yours to colonize. This power is not yours to claim." Systemic oppression relies on the careful partitioning of social space. Specifically, it requires that marginalized peoples—of which women are one broad example, and women of color and queer persons are more pointedly targeted ones—dwell within corners, that we shrink inside walls that loom and compress.

The public devises unspoken rules of deportment born from anxieties over what we can bear to see expressed—and accordingly, whom we are willing to allow the privilege of expression. Reluctant to countenance emotional and physical extremes in any case, women, long regarded as the lodestars of excess, are eyed like shape-shifters with the power to transform into Medusa. But I've since realized that there is power in what others call monstrosity. Our refusal to abide, to prioritize the comfort of the West's hegemonic governance, lays bare the rickety scaffolding of culture's so-called behavioral norms. The roots of rules are never so deep that they cannot be wrenched from the soil; man-made boundaries remain at the mercy of the creatures who erected them. For when we are Too Much—and when we refuse to apologize for that—we burst against those walls and marvel as they give way like sand.

"Lost My Muchness, Have I?"

I remember little about the circumstances of seeing Tim Burton's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. It must have been 2010, because that was the year it was released, and I saw it in a movie theater. My impressions were, and still are, few. Mia Wasikowska is a sweet-faced, impertinent Alice. It disappoints me that she and Anne Hathaway's White Queen do not embark on a love affair, though I'm certain they develop a queer affection (they're absolutely making eyes at each other, and you will not convince me otherwise). Tossing the Jabberwocky into the mix seemed a lazy narrative decision. But above all in my recollection, there is the question of "muchness," and whether nineteen-year-old Alice has retained it after her protracted absence from Wonderland and all the ravages and impositions of early adulthood.

Muchness: what a word! It was new to my lexicon, and yet it seemed as if I had always known it, my kinship with it sensed, if not fully comprehended, as if its letters were threaded into my veins. But as I left the theater, I contemplated how, for Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the rest of her bizarro entourage, "muchness" although vague in definition, evokes an unambiguously positive quality—something that surprised me, even if I hadn't yet parsed the reason. Alice's muchness is her passion, her verve, and her courage. "Lost my muchness, have I?" Alice mutters to herself as she gingerly traverses the Red Queen's moat, littered with the petrified heads of her victims. When it returns—or had it ever really gone?—she transforms into a mighty warrior, fit to slay a monster fifty times her size. When she returns to her conventional English milieu, this muchness also supplies her with the confidence to reject a marriage proposal in front of an expectant crowd and dash off in pursuit of a more auspicious future. From there the film veers into regrettably imperialist territory, but in any case, Alice's muchness spares her a life tethered to a sniveling boob and instead sends her on adventures, like a mercantile Mary Kingsley (fittingly enough, Kingsley is her last name in this adaptation).2

Had I, without context, been asked to describe muchness, I would have offered a definition shot through with censure and cruel self-assessment. Muchness, I might have told you then, was a characteristic—an affliction—possessed by those who were in every way too much: too emotional, first of all, but also too exuberant, too loud, too talkative, too volatile, too brimful of desire. It also connoted mental illness: a genetic cocktail of anxiety and depression primed to seize the brain at any moment. The way I saw it, a woman plagued by muchness is likely to call her friend in a panic at three a.m., gripped by terror over seemingly trivial circumstances. She has more than once cowered in humiliation after someone has told her to lower her voice. Perhaps she is inclined to obsess or to engage in acts of compulsion—maybe she's even depressed, masochistic. Probably she spends each day stuffing herself into an invisible carton more palatable to general company, like a jack-in-the-box where the head lolls outside the top, a smile slapdashed over a scramble of ugly, brambly feelings. And, if my experience was any indication, she lives in perpetual fear of the time when those she loves will tire of her—when her muchness becomes cause for expulsion, and renders her irrevocably alone.

A few years later I was working on a doctorate in Victorian literature, and, inevitably, my eye always wandered to passages where female characters erupted with feeling, whether of love or defiance or fury. They were the women I preferred, and with whom I felt an affinity—the ones who wept and feverishly declared their love and rarely apologized. After a tormented resistance, Tess Durbeyfield nakedly expresses her desire for Angel Clare (who, alas, is the unworthiest of feckless assholes). Catherine Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights is cruel to the bone, but I am endlessly in awe of her uncompromising and voracious demand for adoration. Most tellingly, Maggie Tulliver of George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss—impulsive, sometimes baffled by her own excesses—became my Victorian avatar, textual evidence that the vigorous pulsing of my veins was, perhaps, not wholly incompatible with life (though, if you know Maggie's tragic story, I realize this might seem an ironic comment to make).

I detected "too muchness" in each of these characters, and in so many more—Victorian literature breeds Too Much women—though I never wrote about it directly, or even mentioned it, for that matter. Graduate school seemed inhospitable to too muchness, privileging those who endured austere conditions of intellectual labor as if training for a bookish Spartan army. What a bizarre badge of pride: the first time a professor skewered my work, I thought, "At least I didn't cry in his office." It would be unseemly—presumptuous—and a mark of excessive sensitivity in a context where one was expected to take her lumps with stoic submission. There was no space for Maggie Tulliver or Catherine Earnshaw in graduate school, and by that logic I often wondered whether there was room for me: someone who attempted to be who she wasn't—measured, demure, cool—and who failed gloriously most of the time.

But gradually, I spooned meager portions of hope into a theory: that my maximalist personality, my muchness, was no reason for shame but, dare I say it, pride. I had never forgotten about muchness, the word and the notion of it, and as I began to regard its assignations with timid dignity, I considered the possibility of a reinterpretation, one that summoned greater self-regard. Perhaps what others had condemned in me, what I had condemned in myself—this muchness, or because I thought of it in terms of fundamental excess, too muchness—held promise I was only beginning to discern.

A Theory of Too Muchness

Although "muchness" is the term that galvanized my idea for this book, "too much" and "too muchness"—the latter a clunky noun form of my own devising—are the phrases I will return to throughout these pages. My reasoning, beyond being loath to steal another's verbiage, is this: The insidiously destructive accusation of being "too much" has traveled American discourse for decades. Thoroughly vague, it can refer to nearly anything, and often does. We call individual people "too much" the same way we might describe an aggravating workday or an overwhelming to-do list or a night of babysitting three squalling toddlers and an incontinent puppy. In so doing, Too Much persons are maligned as inconvenient bothers, people to avoid because their dispositions, embodiments, sexualities, disabilities, and so forth are disconcerting or uncomfortable to behold.

This wide-ranging scorn for too muchness is no coincidence or matter of social caprice. Our culture, for all its staggering toward progress, possesses a meager threshold for discomfort when faced with examples of nonnormative difference. We should not be surprised that those most often stigmatized as disagreeably or even dangerously excessive are those who contest white masculine heteronormative and capitalist ideologies. For centuries, white cisgender straight men have defined excess according to the terms that most benefit them, cementing, brick by brick, a culture that caters to their proclivities, comforts, and benefits.

After all, not all forms of excess are condemned as too muchness. A soldier's valor in battle, achieved through intense feats of physical duress, violence, and the willingness to sacrifice oneself, has always been hailed as morally upstanding and the most preeminent index of patriotism. Machismo, for all its hazards, commands unflagging cultural respect and racks up sexual currency. Indeed, metrics of excess are rarely, if ever, calibrated according to their masculine appeal, but—still—books and films are every day dismissed for being "too girly." Although we've garnered powerful heroines like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Jessica Jones and films like Captain Marvel and Mad Max: Fury Road, the action film has, to a severe extent, been interpreted as a showcase for outsize feats of masculine strength and stamina. The Rambo franchise, initiated with the 1982 film First Blood, showcases the swarthy and sweat-sheened warrior, John Rambo, who grimaces and cocks his machine gun like an accessorized appendage. Portrayed by Sylvester Stallone, Rambo is a Vietnam War veteran who, over the course of five films, transforms into a herculean, renegade killing machine. His character is not empty of nuance—like so many soldiers, he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder—but Rambo's intensity, his too muchness, has cultivated near-idolatry not because he thwarts expectations of masculine normativity, but because of the ways he becomes a cartoonish embodiment of them. He is heroic, yes, but his heroism is a feral sort: ferocious and filthy and violent.

We've long understood that masculine experience is posited as universal, or at least as more compelling (women are not necessarily invited to relate to John Rambo, but then, the Rambo franchise, like so many cultural entities, was not created with us in mind). It is also the case that, from childhood, we are all of us instructed to revere stories of boys becoming men—in the most conventional sense—while the feats of others, particularly women, are understood as so exceptional as to nearly be taken as fiction. Moreover, bravery that wears a feminine face is rarely applauded without the lurking question of whether it should exist in the first place—Disney's Mulan (1998) is one such example. Though we cheer for her, it is always our understanding that her adventures, should she survive them, will end. Eventually, she will return home, to her parents, and reassume the mantle of dutiful daughter. And what luck: dressing in drag, joining the Chinese army, and nearly being slaughtered—both for breaking the law and by the Hun army—results in her snagging sexy soldier Shang (whose over-the-top masculinity and verve is presented as both inspirational and, for a children's film, weirdly titillating).

Then of course there are the scattered shards of popular culture that reify privileged male excess in more granular and mundane ways. After all, one need not—and probably should not—go full Rambo to enact hypermasculinity. When I was an undergraduate in Virginia, and AIM profiles operated as intertextual self-endorsements, the chorus of the Dave Matthews Band's 1996 hit "Too Much" made the rounds as a cyber-epigraph. Its inclusion seemed a choreographed shrug in the face of debauchery, a barely coy means of expressing, through performed pseudo self-deprecation, that one was living the good life of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Wawa hoagies, and boozy, wet kisses.

Ultimately—and this is the logic upon which the song turns—we expect men to be hungry and horny and to wet their whistles with a beer or five; we overlook and even giggle at their vices. Gleefully, ravenously, Matthews sings, "I eat too much / I drink too much / I want too much / Too much." What strikes me most about this debauched anthem is how it deploys the rhetoric of self-critique in order to revel in a prism of desires: food, booze, sex, merrymaking. Matthews acknowledges—celebrates—his gluttonous passion; his insatiability is championed by a melody both vigorous and urgent. He is the fraternity brother's composite of the Heat and Snow Misers from The Year Without a Santa Claus, announcing with cheery gusto, "I'm TOO MUCH!"

And while it's reductive to designate experiences as either "masculine" or "feminine," Dave Matthews's iconic status among twenty-something men is by no means coincidence. Nor am I surprised that the lyrics to "Too Much" tended to populate the profiles of the male college students with whom I was acquainted, rather than those of their female counterparts—though, admittedly, I think I may have posted them at some point. (I had a brief, strange love affair with the Dave Matthews Band that I entirely blame on my Virginian upbringing; the band assembled in 1991 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.) For the Dave Matthewses of the world, "too much" is associated with power and virility. But for women—for whom excess is constantly tethered to some perceived lack of emotional or physical control—the concept of "too much" carries the unwieldy baggage of cultural stigma. As Jess Zimmerman writes in her 2016 essay "Hunger Makes Me," "A man's appetite can be hearty, but a woman with an appetite is always voracious: her hunger always overreaches, because it is not supposed to exist. If she wants food, she is a glutton. If she wants sex, she is a slut. If she wants emotional care-taking, she is a high-maintenance bitch or, worse, an 'attention whore': an amalgam of sex-hunger and care-hunger, greedy to not only be fucked and paid but, most unforgivably of all, to be noticed."3

Accordingly, when we tell a woman she is "too much," it is not with the grin and playful tap that the Dave Matthewses of the world smugly expect, but with a wagging finger and the intonations of a warning. Remember that you, and your desires, must be small—diminishing—preferably nonexistent. Ask only for that which you are invited to receive, which is to say, basically nothing.

And yet, Americans are bathed in economic excess, our lives marshalled by it. Capitalism is defined by overabundance, set to a score of "more and more and more," a yen gurgling in its belly to create and destroy with the sloppiest strokes of greed. The fashion industry, despite some recent fragmental efforts by brands to embrace "sustainability," has long urged avid, bottomless consumption through the proliferation of fast fashion, garments meant to be both bought and tossed on a whim, within months. But for these companies, the prevailing ethos has been one that turns on extravagant production and wallets coaxed open by savvy marketing—that we owe it to ourselves to gorge on knitwear and stilettos, that greed is self-care. We owe it to ourselves, although the fashion industry, if it continues apace, is likely to gobble a quarter of the planet's carbon supply by the year 2050.4 Female hunger, when driven by consumerist fantasies that fill the coffers of the wealthy, is—sometimes—more palatable.

Our excesses are stridently policed in this way: when in the service of a capitalist hegemony, they may be overlooked or excused—even when, in certain cases, they ought not be—and sometimes they may even be encouraged. But to be "too much," as I define it, connotes a state of excess that either directly or indirectly derives from an emotional and mental intemperance: exuberance, chattiness, a tendency to burst into tears or toward what is typically labeled mental instability. In the last several years, the colloquialism "extra" seems to have become something of a near neighbor, although without quite the same bite and with more of an emphasis on absurd or flamboyant behavior than on one's vulnerabilities or deviations from normative behavior. Often too muchness carries a significant emotional component, because excess, whatever form it takes, is conceived of as a basic function of unbridled feeling. Women who are taken to task for inhabiting unruly bodies, particularly those marked as fat, face stereotypes of immoderacy: on the one hand, they are castigated for not simply choosing and committing to weight loss; on the other, they are lampooned as people constitutionally unable to regulate their appetites. In the eyes of patriarchal medicine, women are endlessly diagnosable, and yet the verdict is always the same: we are fat or horny or skinny or depressed precisely because we are women, and women—that broad, rangy, insufficient category—are predisposed to all manner of prodigality.

Demolishing capitalism and patriarchy are, alas, beyond the reach of this book. We can, however, take stock of the social corset that encircles those of us seeking to live in ways that are deemed inconvenient or messy—or, in the most extreme cases, altogether unacceptable. We have acquiesced to a climate that is hospitable to a statistical minimum, while the margins heave with the rest of us, the Too Much people: humans straining for breath in a milieu that has constricted our air supply, who may be uncomfortable to countenance or even contemplate—that is, if we are to live in the world the way that is truest for us. Now, we inhale and exhale with big, ravenous gulps, urgent and socially verboten. We must take them anyway, these caches of oxygen and sweeps of space: breathing in, shrieking our exhales.

Why the Victorians?

This book draws significantly from nineteenth-century literature and culture, grounding its discussion in a historical period when women's too muchness underwent vigorous medical scrunity, routinely receiving a specific, vexed verdict—one that had already dogged women for centuries and that would continue to haunt those of us who live with mental illness or who so much as manifest acute emotional intensity: hysteria. The Too Much diagnosis par excellence, hysteria became an especially ubiquitous catchall for women in the nineteenth century when doctors like French neuropsychiatrist Pierre Janet and American physician Frederick Hollick took grandiose measures to explore the so-called disease's symptoms and treatments. (Others, like British doctors Robert Brudenell Carter and F. C. Skey, doubted the existence of hysteria, not because they were sympathetic to women, but precisely the opposite: they believed those who complained of symptoms to be both duplicitous and solipsistic.)5 Janet's work in particular—he posited hypnosis as a preeminently effective means of both study and therapy—manifests itself as an antecedent to Sigmund Freud's mode of psychoanalysis, which catalyzed the psychological theory of hysteria.6 Hysteria, however, has endured in the medical and larger cultural imagination long after Freud's hypotheses surrounding penis envy and psychosexual complexes: it was listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until the third edition was printed in 1980. And even now, its influence is everywhere present, not only distorting prevailing conceptions of femininity but maintaining its antiquated status as a pre-existing medical condition—at once a symptom and a diagnosis.

To be sure, hysteria was not born with the Victorians, although, as historian Carroll Smith-Rosenberg has written, it is construed as "one of the classic diseases of the nineteenth century."7 Evidence from Ancient Egypt suggests that it was the first mental illness conceived of as uniquely and fundamentally female. The Greek physician Hippocrates was first to use the term "hysteria," the etymological origins of which point to a very telling definition: uterus. For centuries, wild theories about female anatomy have simmered. In the seventeenth century a theory took root that the uterus—long believed to be the root of every female malady—bounced around the body like a rubber ball, wreaking havoc wherever it settled. Victorian women carried smelling salts to revive them when they swooned: apparently the uterus disliked the pungent odor and would be enticed to meander back to its appropriate place within the loins. Men were diagnosed with hysteria too, albeit comparatively rarely; moreover, physicians, entrenched in essentialist medical ideology, debated whether one could be a hysteric if one's biology did not include a uterus, the affliction's perceived locus.8

In 1847, Hollick published The Diseases of Woman, Their Causes and Cure Familiarly Explained; with Practical Hints for their Prevention and for the Preservation of Female Health, a book meant to become a household staple, a compendium for reference when domestic angels were, for obscure reasons, freaking out. Unsurprisingly, he devotes a lengthy entry to hysteria, with the underlying thesis that women are essentially fragile and prone to malady, particularly—but not always!—when their dispositions are emotionally sensitive, and practically everything can be read as a symptom. Predictably, he pins the site of the malady within the tricky and changeable womb:

In regard to the starting point or original seat of Hysteria, there seems to be no doubt of its being the Uterus, which becomes subject to a peculiar excitement, or disturbance, that exerts a wonderful sympathetic influence on the whole system. The Uterus, it must be remembered, is the controlling


  • "Too Much defies easy categorization. It is as much a memoir as a work of impressive scholarship; it is as comfortable parsing the cultural meaning surrounding Britney Spears' public disintegration as it is analyzing the feminine mores conveyed in obscure 18th-century texts aimed at improving girls and women."—Washington Independent Review of Books
  • "In a writing style that's part academic, part personal essay, Cote exposes her own struggles with 'too muchness,' from her bisexuality to self-harm to body image, while synthesizing a woman's place within the cultural context of femininity. Consider it required reading for feminists of all genders."—Baltimore Magazine
  • "Calling all women and people who love them: This comprehensive book perfectly interweaves academic scholarship, engaging storytelling, and extremely convincing arguments that will convert even those who think suffrage solved all of our problems. Anyone who has ever been told to sit down, shush, and that little girls should be seen and not heard, this one's for you."—Good Housekeeping
  • "[Too Much is] written with passion for the subject and sustained attention, full of compelling prose and observations that will surely resonate with any woman familiar with straining against the edges of the shape she's expected to fit in."—Washington City Paper
  • "Cote, a former Victorian scholar, laces together cultural criticism, history, memoir, and theory in her debut work of nonfiction."—The Millions
  • "Vorona Cote weaves historical representation, theories and storytelling into a well-researched and timely novel."—
  • "Too Much is for all women who've been haunted, taunted and shamed for their emotions, joy, anger, laughter, sexuality or any other sort of excessive be-ing."—Ms. Magazine
  • "Readers whose tastes run from George Eliot to Lorde will embrace the book's feminist message."—Publishers Weekly
  • "[Vorona Cote] knows better than most how Victorian-era standards have been weaponized against fictional and real-life women, including Jane Eyre and Britney Spears, who have chosen freedom over conformity."—Bitch Magazine
  • "TOO MUCH spills over: with intellect, with sparkling prose, and with the brainy arguments of Vorona Cote, who posits that women are all, in some way or another, still susceptible to being called too much. Whether referring to Alice in Wonderland or Jessica Jones, self-harm or infidelity, this smart book dares women to find themselves within its pages, and to breathe a sigh of relief and recognition as they close the final page."—Esmé Weijun Wang, New York Times bestselling author of The Collected Schizophrenias
  • "Too Much is as lusty as a crush, as smart as a library, as exhilarating as an ocean breeze, as cathartic as shower-crying, as satisfying as eating a whole pint of ice cream, and as euphoria-inducing as taking off your bra at the end of a long day. Rachel Vorona Cote combines her expert knowledge of Victorian literature with wit, generosity, and feminist fire to write a hard-won and rousing defense of larger-than-life womanhood. If you ever feel like you have excessive feelings, desires, appetites, volume (loudness), volume (size), tears, or years, then this book is the book for you!"—Briallen Hopper, author of Hard to Love
  • "A fascinating exploration of how literature and pop culture have constructed (and exploded) our expectations of modern womanhood, this book is as gloriously defiant as the women it profiles. It's a necessary read for anyone who's ever wondered whether her 'muchness' is too much."—Robin Wasserman, author of Mother Daughter Widow Wife
  • "Too Much is such a fascinating, infuriating, and delightful addition to our understanding of unruliness, past and present, public and private. Cote combines the precision and wonder of the historian with the deft, accessible touch of the ex-academic. This book is a work of protest, but it is also one of deep, undeniable beauty."—Anne Helen Petersen, author of Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud
  • "Rachel Vorona Cote's debut is a whip-smart fusion of cultural criticism and deeply compelling personal narrative, packed with insights on everything from wedding bands to mental illness. Exploring all the many ways women have been bound and limited throughout history and into our current moment, Too Much is ultimately a joyful, satisfying, and educational celebration of women and their beautiful excesses."—Julie Buntin, author of Marlena
  • "Rachel Vorona Cote has written across centuries to highlight a historical problem that is still very prevalent, yet the writing is as entertaining as is it enlightening. Too Much pulls together some of our most important cultural touchstones, from Jane Eyre to Lana Del Rey, and seats them together for a lively discussion that has me reconsidering so much of what I've watched, listened to, and read."—Jason Diamond, author of Searching for John Hughes

On Sale
Feb 25, 2020
Page Count
352 pages

Rachel Vorona Cote

About the Author

Rachel Vorona Cote publishes frequently in such outlets as the New Republic, Longreads, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Literary Hub, Catapult, the Poetry Foundation, Hazlitt, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, where her essay on Taylor Swift and Victorian female friendship was one of the site’s most read essays in 2015. She was also previously a contributing writer at Jezebel. Rachel holds a BA from the College of William and Mary and was ABD in a doctoral program in English at the University of Maryland, studying and teaching the literature of the Victorian period. She and her husband live in Takoma Park, MD, just outside of Washington, D.C..

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