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

180Philosophy and Literature but objective, scrupulously researched yet a pleasure to read, Bair's biography is rich and learned, a superb account of a fascinating life both for the general reader and the scholar who has an additional sixty pages of informative footnotes to enjoy. Whitman CollegePatrick Henry Feminist Theory and Simone de Beauvoir, by Toril Moi; vii & 120 pp. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1990, $16.95. The title of this book is misleading. Forty-three of its one-hundred-twenty pages deal with Toril Moi. The rest of the book does, in fact, treat Simone de Beauvoir and contains the two Bucknell Lectures delivered by Toril Moi, one on clichés in the reception of de Beauvoir's work, the other on intentions and effects in "The Woman Destroyed" (La Femme rompue). The introduction (pp. 1-20), by Michael Payne, outlines Toril Moi's work in feminist theory, a work that brings the insights of postmodernism, psychoanalysis , and Marxism to her clearly political project. Payne summarizes Moi's controversial and brilliant Sexual/Textual Politics, elucidating her quarrel with Elaine Showalter's reading ofWoolf, her defense ofWoolfas a deconstructionist of the binary oppositions of masculinity and femininity, her critiques of AngloAmerican feminists (Millett, Cornillon, Showalter, Moers, Gilbert, Gubar, Kolodny ) who, in her view, fail to deconstruct the opposition between the political and the aesthetic and unwittingly persist in perpetuating patriarchal practices. Payne's analysis of the second part of this work depicts not only the importance of the works of Cixous, Irigaray, and Kristeva but Moi's often overlooked critique of them—Cixous's creation of alternative binary oppositions and an alternative metaphysics, Irigaray's failure to consider adequately the historical and economic specificity ofpatriarchal power, and Kristeva's convenient choice to overlook the differences between the dissident groups she enumerates. Payne concludes the introduction by stressing the importance ofMoi's two anthologies, The Kristeva Reader (1986) and French Feminist Thought (1987), and her appropriation of psychoanalysis and Derridean deconstruction for feminism. An interview with Toril Moi and Laura Payne (pp. 94—109) highlights the genesis and political nature of Sexual/Textual Politics and the position of feminism in 1 990 after the reactionary backlash of the 1 980s. The book concludes with an eight-page bibliography of Toril Moi's publications. Reviews181 The two Bucknell Lectures occupy the center of the text. "Politics and the Intellectual Woman: Clichés in the Reception of Simone de Beauvoir's Work" (pp. 21-60), as the title indicates, is a history of the reception of de Beauvoir's work rather than an inside analysis of feminist theory within the body of her work. Moi divides de Beauvoir studies from 1958 to 1988 into four rough categories: Catholic, Scholarly, Popular, and Feminist. Her aim, however, is to explore one aspect of this criticism found in both right-wing (Winegarten) and liberal (Keefe, de Boisdeffre, Marks) critics, namely, its hostility. Noting correctly that comparable French women writers—Weil, Duras, Yourcenar, Sarraute— are not treated similarly, she analyzes the various forms that this hostility takes: the personalization of the issues (character, private life, morality of the author), the reduction of the fictional text to personal memoirs (egocentric, narcissistic, lack of imagination, not art), the reduction of the fictional characters to the author (their psychology and situation are hers even when they are housewives and mothers with no independent career). Thus the speaker is discredited— she is either an overemotional hysterical woman or a cold, unfeminine one— the text is depoliticized, and no debate of the issues ensues. "Intentions and Effects: Rhetoric and Identification in 'The Woman Destroyed' " (pp. 61—93) explains the gap between authorial intention and reader reaction in de Beauvoir's most "misunderstood" work. Whereas de Beauvoir intended to portray the heroine, Monique, as a woman victimized by her own delusions, refusing freedom and responsibility in the face of reason—an entirely plausible reading consistent with the author's existentialist position and her analysis of the female condition in The Second Sex—the great majority of female readers identify with the heroine. Moi argues that Monique is guilty for de Beauvoir because she considered "that by 1968 women had already gained their freedom" (p...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 180-181
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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.