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116 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 adapting it to his own purposes. Learning to Divide the World offers designers and teachers ofschool and university curricula and of the'exhibitionary formations' of public culture a secure and suggestive basis on which to go about learning to reunite the world. This book should be read and discussed in classrooms and boardrooms across Canada, with the situations of Quebecois and Indigenous peoples particularly in mind. (L.M. FINDLAY) Christine Overall. A Feminist [: Reflections from Academia Broadview Press. 214. $19.95 The personal is political! When that useful feminist equation was first coined, it signalled that women's lives were both unique and shared, both deeply felt and socially mediated. Most significantly, it encouraged women to use their day-to-day emotions and experiences as the raw rnaterials from which to fashion an effective feminist analysis. No longer should women interiorize or psychologize their fears and furies; these had social roots and political remedies. Originally, then, this was a handy distillation of the principle of determination, that key tenet of a materialist criticism. In other words, the private and the 'personal' are completely permeated by (indeed, those categories are created by) the 'politica1.' Butover time, the carefulbalancing act of the two terms began to collapse: the personal could substitute for the political, the political was reducible to the personal, to speak 'personally' and from experience was a sufficiently political analysis. One of many appealing aspects of Christine Overall's work is that she restores the equation's initial integrity. The title ofA Feminist I: Reflectionsfrom Academiaimmediatelysignals the combination ofan autobiographical mode with an institutionalanalysis. As a community-based activist, as well as a professor of philosophy and an associate dean at Queen's University, Overall is particularly well positioned to understand the challenge feminism poses to the university, and the 'role muddles' (her term) experienced bywomenin higher education today. This book also continues her work as a feminist ethicist. (Famously, Overall has used maternal interaction with an infant to query the premises of the'other minds' conundrum - what proof do we have that minds other than our own exist?) In an equally pragmatic vein, here she uses quotidian experience , 'observation, and attentive listening to others, as the precursor to a careful yet vigorous theorization. This book is structured as an interwoven series of meditations. 'A Tale of Two Classes' considers the very different reactions of two groups of students to the same texts, and demonstrates the necessity for (what could be termed) a site-specific pedagogy. 'Passing for Normal' comes from Overall's year-long experience with incapaciting disability and the re- HUMANITIES 117 actions (and lack of reaction) this incurred. 'Nowhere at Home' is a rare reflection on the condition of being an academic from a working-class background. 'Women and Men in Academia' is an attempt to establish common ground and to define men's role in the transformation of higher education, still a resolutely masculinist enterprise. In the conclusion, Overall provides a sustained reflection on her own method, examining the positives and the pitfalls of a 'personalized' inquiry, in the classroom, in feminist scholarship, and in philosophical speculation. While Overall judiciously balances 'personal' and 'political' analysis in her text, her focus is on achieving curricular and pedagogic reform and on humanizing the university as a working and learning environment, rather than on matters of governance, policy, and funding. Overall makes a clear case for the readjustment of classroom dynamics, for training in listening as an academic skill, and for replacing a culture of competition by an ethos of growth. But other strategies are surely necessary to alter deeply engrained systems and to intervene in the current restructurings of North American universities. Overall might profitably have made stronger connections to these issues. WhileA Feminist Iwill hold many moments ofself-recognitionfor women staff and faculty (as well as some canny tactical suggestions), it accommodates a general reader. The familiar terrain of Overall's analysis, along with easy-to-follow argumentation and a welcoming tone, would suit the book to introductory courses in women's studies. I'd like to give this book to young women who are asking, what is a feminist? do I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 116-117
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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