What is a woman? And what does it mean to be a feminist today? In her first full-scale engagement with feminist theory since her internationally renowned Sexual/Textual Politics (1985), Toril Moi challenges the dominant trends in contemporary feminist and cultural thought, arguing for a feminism of freedom inspired by Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. Written in a clear and engaging style What is a Woman? brings together two brand new book-length theoretical interventions, Moi's work on Freud and Bourdieu, and her studies of desire and knowledge in literature.
In the controversial title-essay, Toril Moi radically rethinks current debates about sex, gender, and the body - challenging the commonly held belief that the sex/gender distinction is fundamental to all feminist theory. Moi rejects every attempt to define masculinity and femininity, including efforts to define femininity as that which 'cannot be defined.
In the second new book-length essay, 'I am a Woman', Toril Moi reworks the relationship between the personal and the philosophical, pursuing ways to write theory that do not neglect the claims of the personal. Setting up an encounter between contemporary theory and Simone de Beauvoir, Moi radically rethinks the need, and difficulty, of finding one's own philosophical voice by placing it in new theoretical contexts.
A sustained refusal to lay down theoretical or political requirements for femininity, and a powerful argument for a feminism of freedom, What is a Woman? is a deeply original contribution to feminist theory.
`Review from previous edition a treat for weary readers of the outrageously obscure.'
Elizabeth Fallaize, TLS
`Moi's long-awaited re-entry into the lists of mainstream feminist debate will not be perceived as a reopening of hostilities. Moi shows herself extraordinarily attentive to the work of American feminists....The psychoanalysis of Freud, Lacan and Kristeva has been joined by the sociology of Bordieu, the existentialism of Sartre and Beauvoir and, increasingly, by the ordinary language philosophy of Wittgenstein, Austin and Cavell....A bold rehabilitation of
the theoretical importance of Beauvoir's feminism....[Issues] an explicit challenge to American feminist orthodoxy. But it is a challenge issued only at the end of a sustained and immensely careful labor of thought.
Modern Language Notes
`[Moi is] one of the most astute and lucid critics writing today. What she calls her `attempt to work [her] way out from under post-structuralism, and to see what happens when one goes elsewhere'--a move undertaken in good faith as a feminist and with uncommon critical common sense--points a way forward, both for literary critics and other feminists....[This book] could serve as a lucid introduction to recent theoretical debates, and also as a farewell to
them....[Moi proceeds] through careful close readings, sensitive to both historical context and textual nuance....She offers the views of even those she disagrees with with refreshing clarity.'
Women's Review of Books
A Note on the Text
Part I: A Feminism of Freedom: Simone de Beauvoir
1: What is a Woman? Sex, Gender, and the Body in Feminist Theory
2: I Am a Woman: The Personal and the Philosophical
Part II: Appropriating Theory: Bourdieu and Freud
Introduction to Part II
3: Appropriating Bourdieu: Feminist Theory and Pierre Bourdieu's Sociology of Culture
4: The Challenge of the Particular Case: Bourdieu's Sociology of Culture and Literary Criticism
5: The Missing Mother: René Girard's Oedipal Rivalries
6: Representation of Patriarchy: Sexuality and Epistemology in Freud's iDora/i
7: Patriarchal Thought and the Drive for Knowledge
8: Is Anatomy Destiny? Freud and Biological Determinism
Part III: Desire and Knowledge: Reading Texts of Love
Introduction to Part III
9: Desire in Language: Andreas Capellanus and the Controversy of Courtly Love
10: She Died Because She Came Too Late: Knowledge, Doubles and Death in Thomas's iTristan/i
11: Intentions and Effects: Rhetoric and Identification in Simone de Beauvoir's iThe Woman Destroyed/i
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 1st September 2001
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 23.6 x 15.7
Weight (kg): 0.92