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

There is no mention in the text of Liberty's, whose founders seem to have known by instinct what Bowlby here proves systematically. And the proletarian leader in Demos is Richard not Hugh Mutimer. But these are minor reservations. Bowlby does indeed look justly at a fascinating confluence of two phenomenaand leaves us to draw our own conclusions. For a large number of people with varied interests, this is an indispensable book. Loraine Fletcher Arizona State University 13. MEN, FEMINISM, AND CRITICISM DecÃ-an Kiberd. Men and Feminism in Modern Literature. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985. $25.00 "At the root of androgyny," DecÃ-an Kiberd cogently argues in Men and Feminism in Modern Literature, "is the need to embrace the 'opposite' in the self." In the works of great male Modernists—including Strindberg, Ibsen, Hardy, Yeats, Lawrence, and Joyce—Kiberd finds both men and women characters exploring their potential androgyny. Therefore, Kiberd argues, these writers have predated contemporary feminist theory in its exploration of the New Woman and granted even more attention to the concomitant emergence of a New Man. "Most feminists," Kiberd repeatedly argues (seldom bothering to refer to particular sources), unfairly condemn these male visionaries while claiming credit for the very ideas which emerge first in their creative works. Kiberd admits in his Preface to borrowing Carolyn Heilbmn's definition of androgyny from Toward A Recognition of Androgyny as "a condition under which the characteristics of the sexes, and the human impulses expressed by men and women, are not rigidly assigned." However, more revealing is an earlier remark in the Preface that while he is indebted to Heilbmn's study he is also "in disagreement with" much of her literary criticism. His subsequent discussion reveals a disagreement with her definition as well, particularly in Lawrence where Kiberd discovers androgyny as the search for "the tremendous non-human quality in life." Even more telling is Kiberd's personal concept of androgyny, which permeates his analyses of the literature. This concept becomes increasingly clear as he maintains "rigidly assigned" characteristics for male and female characters which particularly condemn women when their search for self leads to even a temporary rejection of sex. Of Hardy's Sue Brideshead in Jude the Obscure, for instance, Kiberd argues that "what she wanted was a man who would feed her with his male vitality, with kisses and talk, without seeking a corresponding female return from her" (p. 93). The "female return" is of course sex; since Sue is not willing to "put out" she is seen by Kiberd as the prototype of "the seductress of modem advertisements" (p. 100) who attracts but refuses the male. The "long-term implication of such non-creative asexuality which Hardy had in mind," which Kiberd further argues is apparent in the death of the Fawley children, is no less than "the coming universal will not to live, part of an ever-growing tendency in modem life" (p. 97). 457 The argument that a female desire for friendship rather than sex with her male admirer will lead to race suicide stems from Kiberd's desperate defense of motherhood as the inescapable definition of femaleness. Androgyny is permissible only if it serves motherhood and the family, Kiberd concludes when he asserts that "the devaluation of motherhood and the assault on family life are telltale marks of a society that has lost its sense of community" (p. 226). His conclusion does not logically follow from the literature he has examined, as firmly as he has tried to superimpose it on that literature. Rather, even he has had to admit the "criticisms of the family voiced by Ibsen, Strindberg, Hardy, and Lawrence" only to dismiss those criticisms as "inevitable in a feneration which had come to see the artistic vocation as a holy calling" (p. 27). With preconceptions at least as narrow as the prejudices of the "most feminists" he attacks for misreading these male writers, Kiberd defeats his own attempts at rectifying any such misreadings. His primary argument seems to be that women should offer the "New Man" the same babymaking function they have provided for patriarchal males, while also helping him accept his "anima," his woman within...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 457-459
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
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.