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120 the minnesota review men's (particularly the soldier) enemy—the careless gossip, the traitorous vamp, the syphilitic whore. Much male war literature echoes this portrayal of women, Gilbert claims, and an "intense hatred of women surfaces" in them. Literary women, therefore, "bombarded by images that required a retort," responded with texts that documented their sense that "the war was a blitz on them ... women's literary works depict the ruin of the war as the site for the ruin of women's Uves or communities." "War is not for everyone the same," writes Yasmine Ergas, and perhaps the most striking aspect of this book lies in its revelations of the diversity and the complexity of women's wartime experiences: as soldiers, resistance fighters, factory workers, widows, and victims. Victims as such do not, however, always suffer in the same way. Annemarie Troger recounts the moving oral history of one German female factory worker, Frau Werner, a victim of the Allied bombardments of Berlin, who lost all sense of her "Germanness" during that period: "In all of Frau Werner's war memories, there is no 'our side,' no reference to national identity." The war itself has become Frau Werner's enemy, not the Americans who are virtually freed from all blame: "Perhaps they, the Americans, wanted to bomb Charlottenburg castle, but they hit us [instead]." Yasmine Ergas, analyzing the diaries of Anne Frank and Etty Hillesum, argues that under extreme oppression, such as the Nazi persecution of the Jews, women lost not their national identity but their gender identity. These women were reminded painfully every day that they were Jews, but in the absence of any semblance of a normal Ufe, they either lost (Etty Hillesum) or failed to acquire (Anne Frank) the experience of what it meant to be a woman. In graphic contrast, the First World War enabled Vera Brittain to acquire an identity. Brittain's experiences in a V.A.D (Voluntary Aid Detachment) during World War I, Lynne Layton claims, permitted her to eschew her identification with and commitment to the patriarchal militarist state, and to embrace the pacificism she was to uphold through World War II and the rest of her long life. Joan Scott, in her essay "Rewriting History," calls for the inclusion of women's war experiences, "Herstory," into mainstream history. Referring to Virginia Woolf, who had looked upon such a task as "beyond [her] daring," Scott continues: "Women's history as the rewriting of History is still an ambitious undertaking, but it is no longer beyond our daring. Indeed, as the essays in this book indicate, it is now very much within our grasp." It is unnecessary for me to say more. JENNIFER CLARKE Women and Warby Jean Bethke Elshtain. (New York: Basic Books, 1987). pp. 277 + $19.95 (cloth). At first the title Women and War seems a contradiction in terms. Given the polarities of gendered thinking, men go with war; women with peace. That is exactly the preconception which Jean Bethke Elshtain, a feminist political philosopher, exploits in order to interrogate and, eventually, to explode it. Her book, an extension of her previous work that questions the binary opposition ofpublic/private, thinks through political philosophy about war, undermining conventional distinctions between religious and secular divisions, as well as gender oppositions, seeking a way to defuse the fatal attraction of humanity to the ritualized destruction that has been a defining term of Western political structures. Elshtain's vantage for her ambitious project is a humble (and essentially feminist) one: the first person. Avoiding the pseudo-objectivity of conventional social science writing, she places her own girlhood memories, her studies of political theory, and her experiences as a mother in the context of the stories our culture has told about war. Elshtain insists that war stories have an instrumental part in structuring our experiences of and our thinking about war. As Nancy Huston has provocatively stated: "War imitates war narratives imitating war." Elshtain's study is particularly valuable in recognizing war as discourse because Reviews 121 in so considering it, she can criticize its terms, while she appreciates its emotive and even aesthetic power. War narratives—including anti-war narratives—excite the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 120-122
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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