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??? COHPAnATIST ERIN G. CARLSTON. Thinking Fascism: SapphicModernism and Fascist Modernity. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. 217 pp. This book takes another step in the direction ofRichard Golsan's 1992 collection of essays, Fascism, Aesthetics, and Culture. Many previous scholars ofthe topic would have agreed with Robert Soucy that fascism and culture are antithetical (Golsan ix). Golsan—and others—have revealed the inaccuracy ofthis view by demonstrating the close ties among modernism, aestheticism, and fascism. Carlston's first two chapters ably summarize these connections, using work by Victoria DeGrazia, Andrew Hewitt, Alice Kaplan, Zeev Sternhell, George Mosse, Martin Jay, and Walter Laqueur, among others. To modernism and aestheticism she adds the factors of "sapphism," defined as "a hypersensitivity to sexuality in, and as, the aesthetic and the political" (6), and feminism ofthe kind that gave birth to Virginia Woolfs yoking ofpatriarchy and fascism. Although it is always tempting to avoid thorny definitions, especially ofmuchdefined terms such as modernism and fascism, Carlston boldly embraces the task. She describes modernism as a "set oftextual tropes" that raises "questions not only about sexuality but also about the definition ofthe nation, the significance ofracial difference, and the meaning of individuality and subjectivity in an age of mass culture" (7-8). Fascism, because ofwidely varied tenets and practices that depend on the country in question, poses additional problems. But Carlston, after reviewing the broad list oftraits compiled by Dieter Saalmann (the irrational, moral relativism , racism, anti-capitalism, elitist aestheticism, etc., 13n), relies on a "broad and flexible" definition "which insists that fascist modernity was not a parenthesis—in history, in culture, in 'civilization'" (11). She thus rejects the so-called Sonderweg theory (National Socialism as aberration) in favor ofa continuity thesis : "fascism had deep intellectual, aesthetic, and ideological roots in European culture" (1 1). This interest in the close ties, recognized by fascists themselves, between culture and politics leads to the heart ofthis book: a study ofDjuna Barnes, Marguerite Yourcenar, and Virginia Woolf as "sapphic" modernists, a label that some might contest. All three women came to realize that a patriarchal value system was tightly linked to fascist attitudes toward sexuality, violence, authoritarianism, women, and the "other." Although emphasis falls on Barnes' Nightwood (1936), Yourcenar's Denier du rêve (1934, coin ofdreams), and Woolfs Three Guineas (1938), which appeared within four years of one another, the authors did not initially share the same analysis. Barnes drew "an explicit parallel between patriarchy and fascism" (136) only in TheAntiphon (1958), and Yourcenar rewrote Denierdu rêve in 1959, "to underscore her hostility toward fascism and to emphasize the idea that fascism was a manifestation ofmasculinist values" (136). Only Virginia Woolfalready saw in the thirties the link among "fascism, patriarchal and capitalist ideologies, and the oppression ofthe marginalized, particularly women" (137). Carlston exposes the curious fact that although all three women opposed fascism, they also "employed typically fascist themes and tropes" (1 89), and manifested certain fascist (modernist ?) traits: Barnes relies on racial differences and links homosexuals and Jews; Yourcenar rejects urbanization, industrialization, and mass culture (including the masses, 87); and like fascism, Woolfuses the power ofvisual imagery and its appeal to the irrational to further her arguments (158-59). The three texts converge, however, in their recognition that "male control of female sexuality is one of the foundations of fascist patriarchy," (166) and the authors—all ofwhom were childless—opposed fascist ideologybyreappropriating Vol< 23 (1999): 197 BOOK NOTES images ofchildbirth, maternity, and the maternal. All three were also either lesbian or had homosexual affinities, so they were interested in the move—especially salient in decadent art and literature—from l'artpour Tart to le sexepour le sexe: "aestheticism came to mean the irrational in both productive (art) and reproductive (sexuality) realms [. . Jfemale homosexuality became the perfect figure for l'art pour l'art. Voluptuous (that is, aesthetic) yet sterile (that is, nonutilitarian)" (47). Carlston emphasizes that fascism was not just a political ideology but a cultural movement: it both used culture (including sexual politics, art, the media, and social power relations) and created it (as a mechanism ofmass control). This study also takes a larger view offascism, linking its past and present appeal to elements suppressed by Western rationalism: the mystical, the aesthetic, and the sexual (185). The dominance ofreason has "produced enormous classes ofobjectified and dominated beings—workers, colonized peoples, women, animals —and alienated humans from the products of their labor, their own bodies, each other, and the natural world" (185). As we trace the legacy offascism in our time—techniques of media manipulation, control ofmass culture, the politics of spectacle—and note the resurgence of neo-fascism(s) around the globe, we can appreciate Carlston's concluding warning about "the fascist influence manifested in the institutions, movements, and ideologies that legitimate and eroticize violence; that inscribe any form of domination by certain classes of human beings over others; or that are allied with authoritarian, dictatorial, and patriarchal politics. Whether or not we label such ideologies and institutions 'fascist,' it is these fundamental questions about the uses and abuses ofpower, violence, and authority that should concern us as we continue, as we must, thinking fascism" (186). Elaine Martin77ie University ofAlabama-Tuscaloosa BOOKS RECEIVED Adamson, Joseph and Hilary Clark, eds. Scenes ofShame: Psychoanalysis, Shame, and Writing. Albany: SUNY Press, 1999. Armstrong, Raymond. Kafka andPinter: Shadow-Boxing. New York: St. Martin's, 1999. Aronoff, Myron J. TAe SpyNovels ofJohn le Carré: BalancingEthics andPolitics. New York: St. Martin's, 1999. Bernstein, Susan. Virtuosity ofthe Nineteenth Century: Performing Music and Language in Heine, Liszt, and Baudelaire. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1 999. Bowie, Malcolm. Proust Among the Stars. New York: Columbia UP, 1998. Brown, Catherine. Contrary Things: Exegesis, Dialectic, and the Poetics of Didacticism. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. Bukharin, Nikolai. How itAllBegan: The Prison Novel, [autobiographical novel]. New York: Columbia UP, 1998. Cheyette, Bryan, ed. ContemporaryJewish Writing in Britain and Ireland: An Anthology . Lincoln: U ofNebraska P, 1998. Cohn, Robert Greer, ed. Mallarmé in the Twentieth Century. Cranbury NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1998. Cook, Eleanor. Against Coercion: Games Poets Play. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. Vol 23 (1999): 198 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 197-198
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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