The "riddle of femininity," like Freud's reference to women's sexuality as a "dark continent," has been treated as a romantic aside or a sexist evasion rather than as a problem to be solved.
"The Interpretation of the Flesh, " the first comprehensive study of Freud's theory of femininity, concludes that this riddle can indeed be answered. Teresa Brennan argues that the solution to Freud's "riddle of femininity" entails a different approach to mind and flesh, ideas and matter, from that traditionally mooted by Freudian studies. She states that the riddle can only be solved once outdated assumptions of the dualism of mind versus body are discarded--and such assumptions can only be discarded by a theory that goes beyond biological reductionism. Freud himself laid the basis for overcoming this dualism (although rejected up until now), and it is by overcoming it that the "riddle of femininity" becomes a soluble one.
"The Interpretation of the Flesh" offers a new way of thinking about the relation between the psychical, the social, and the physical, pointing out that the real riddle of femininity is primarily a problem for women suffering from what Freud described as "femininity's" negative effects on curiosity, intelligence and activity.
"The Interpretation of the Flesh" is relevant to all the debates on psychoanalysis and feminism. It is an important work for serious study in feminism, psychoanalysis, and the philosophy of science, and is invaluable for anyone interested in the ongoing feminist struggle.
"Teresa Brennan has written a challenging book, erudite and spirited."
"The scholarship of this book is outstanding; but more importantly, it is a necessary guide to survival in any world where masculinity reigns."
"This book has the clarity and wit that only great learning can achieve. Brennan confronts the toughest questions raised by Freud's theory of femininity, takes a stand in the history of the feminist debate, sweeps from the familiar to the erudite, and delivers a text that is essential reading."
-Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
"This is a landmark in the encounter between psychoanalysis and feminism. Brennan not only brings an exacting critical intelligence to bear on all crucial Freud texts, but provides a fearless, original answer to Freud's riddle of femininity.' Her book will change the terms in which a major theoretical debate is conducted."
-Malcolm Bowie, University of London