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

128 the minnesota review of representation in Speculum. However, in This Sex she doesn't talk so much about the "nature" of language—perhaps because woman is the object of her study as well as its (im)possible subject. As a subject, woman is a figure; but as an object, woman is women. And women, according to Irigaray, do infact needa politics of women. A feminist practice that does not expücitly align itself with the developing poUtics ofwomen runs a great risk—no matter how troublesome and impure such an alignment may be. It runs the risk of losing not only its "force" but also its potential to change the discursive practices that structure our knowledge. Indeed, it may just be that what has remained unconscious in both the humanities and the sciences is something less famUiar than the desire of the letter, something we might call power rather than mastery. JANICE HANEY-PERITZ Women ofthe Left Bank: Paris. 1900-1940 by Shari Benstock. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986. pp. 518 + xi $26.95 (cloth). "Paris has always seemed to me the only city where you can live and express yourself as you please." Natalie Barney's succinct assessment of the uniqueness of the French capital might serve to explain why so many women chose to live and work in that city during the first decades of the twentieth century. Barney's words also begin to answer a question Shari Benstock poses early in this impressive study: what was it Uke to be a woman in literary Paris? Examining the lives as well as the Uterary efforts and contributions of twenty-two women, from Edith Wharton to Anais Nin, Benstock carefully revaluates Modernism from the double perspective of literary history and a literature itself. In an article written while she was engaged in research leading to the current volume, Benstock raised questions about women's relationship to Uterary Modernism: how to assess the works (re)discovered, how to define the aesthetic(s) of Modernism, how to apply or discard theoretical models for the nineteenth century, how to assess the contributions of non-writers.' Now, in sections titled "Discoveries," "Settlements," and "Crossroads," Benstock points to intersections and differences as she charts the terrain, mapping the Parisian context and "replacing" both women and Modernism in a temporal and spatial setting. A map of "Expatriate Paris" initially locates the major figures in a city of women (plus five husbands, one male pubüsher), a place Benstock describes as both matria and sororitas. Though such terms suggest the idea of community, or a sense of common purpose, in fact, Benstock emphasizes the diversity ofexperiences, both personal and artistic, among the women she discusses. Yet her artful weaving together of interconnected or parallel Uves, if at times involving repetition and backtracking, convincingly demonstrates the value ofa comprehensive history. Her study presents a challenge to received notions not only of the Paris experience but also of Modernism itself. For Benstock is writing against the version of Modernism exempUfied by Pound, through his own enormous ego and desire to control others, and also by the writings of (mostly male) critics such as Hugh Kenner. According to such patriarchal assessments, women served as the "attendants" to the "true" creative geniuses (20); in reality, as Benstock shows, these views reflect a male consciousness, its roots in a classicism from which women were excluded and a post-war despair they did not experience. As she seeks to explore the crack in this supposed "monolith" (a recurrent word in her criticism of the standard interpretations of Modernism), and to offer an alternative analysis, Benstock reads the "countersignature" of women. Expanding on deconstructive theory, she has elevated the discussion of difference, in a manner that may evoke uneasiness in those desiring a single theory or unified description of the era, but which actually proves tantalizing , encouraging if not forcing feminists and scholars of Modernism alike to appreciate complexity and contradiction. WhUe deconstructive practice usually maintains polarities, with women and writing both perceived as the devalued items in binary oppositions, Benstock moves beyond the doubled, sometimes reductive readings thus produced (informed by the Reviews 129 concept of absence). Instead, in a...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 128-131
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.