In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews433 from under feminism. A skeptical awareness of die historicity of "women" can prevent feminism from repeating, inadvertently, repressive definitions of that term. RUey gives us a timely reminder diat categories are notiiing more than diat: no-one is ever a name. Any experience ofbeing a gender as distinct from having a gender can only be intermittent. In her view such intermittence is merciful: if an aU-pervasive awareness of gender were possible, it would be unendurably daustrophobic. (Here RUey parts company with certain feminist celebrations of "being" a woman.) Yet RUey is nothing if not pragmatic, and she does not propose giving up strategic uses of die term "women": "I'd argue diat it is compatible to suggest that 'women' don't exist—whUe maintaining a politics of 'as if they existed'—since die world behaves as if they unambiguously did" (p. 1 12). RUey caUs for "speed, foxiness, versatUity" (p. 1 14) as feminist tactics. The wUy anti-essentialism RUey proposes can enliven not only feminism, but also critiques of masculinity and gay and lesbian studies—the entire field of gender dieories. Indeed, RUey's view ofgenderas necessarily fluctuatingand incoherent is the most valuable insight in her book. WhUe the first and final chapters, in which RUey oudines and consolidates her position, are effective, the three chapters that provide an historical survey do little more tiian iUustrate what the opening and closing chapters say. To have been more than mere exemplification, diose central chapters would have had to draw on a much wider range of discourses on "women." Nevertheless, "Am I That Name?" makes it impossible to take the term "women" for granted again. And diat alone is a remarkable feat of defamUiarization. University of Southern CaliforniaMichael du Plessis Chernyshevsky and tL· Age ofRealism: A Study in tL· Semiotics ofBehavior, by Irina Paperno; vi & 305 pp. Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1988, $35.00. As she teUs us in her introduction, Irina Paperno's point of departure for her treatment of What Is to Be Done? was from studies such as those by Lidia Ginzburg and Iurii Lotman in the semiotics of behavior: that is, attempts to elucidate aspects of human conduct, especiaUy in the area of culture, which are, so to speak, encoded in literary texts. However, as weU as considering the impact of Chernyshevsky's novel on human behavior—and it almost certainly qualifies as the most influential fictional work published in Russia in the whole 434Philosophy and Literature of the nineteendi century—she also examines the ways in which its audior's individual psychological experiences and reactions contributed to the composition and structure of his novel. Thus, in the first part of the book, she attempts to probe Chernyshevsky's psyche, mainly by using his diaries. In particular she analyzes his liaisons with women and his experiences (or, more precisely, "experiments") in marital relations , as he tried to apply the principle that men and women should interact on the basis of equality. Then, in the second part, she focuses her attention on the actual text of the novel, convincingly demonstrating that Chernyshevsky's scientific positivist message is actuaUy conveyed through a subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle use of Christian formulae. My initial impression of the book was less than favorable, especiaUy when confronted with the revelation (p. 3) that "Culture is the result of human activity"! But my doubts were quickly dispersed as I read on and, by the time I reached the thorough and penetrating analysis of the novel itself, I was acknowledging diat Professor Paperno had produced an outstanding piece of work. Soviet literary historians, impressed by Chernyshevsky's record as radical thinker and political martyr to die tsarist regime, have often been inclined to lavish unduly fulsome praise on WhatIs to BeDone?—its sociopolitical importance making them consciously or unconsciously close their eyes to its obvious weaknesses as a piece of fictional writing. Correspondingly, critics outside the Soviet Union, their attention generaUy focused on matters more aesthetic, have nearly always rated it very low on their scale ofliterary values. I recaU Ronald Hingley facetiously referring to it as the worst novel in the universe, while claiming to be the only human being who...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 433-434
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.