What Is a Woman?: And Other Essays

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ISBN-13: 978-0198186755
ISBN-10: 0198186754
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Paperback, August 30, 2001
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What Is a Woman?: And Other Essays + Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge Classics) + The Second Sex
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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of The Second Sexs publication, Moi (Literature and Romance Studies/Duke Univ.; Sexual/Textual Politics, not reviewed, etc.) calls on Simone de Beauvoirs help in breaking out of a stalemate she sees as peculiar to recent feminist theory: How to define what it means to be a woman without recourse to either essentialist metaphysics (Woman is . . .) or biological determinism (women must necessarily . . .). The two long new essays in which she examines Beauvoirs notion of female bodies working out their identities through social historythe pair of them amounting to a short book themselvesare followed by nine briefer essays, largely charting a course between Freud and Pierre Bourdieu, in which Moi attempt[s] to work my way out from under poststructuralism. Readers who can stay with Mois densely argumentative styleshe spends over a hundred pages analyzing the first three paragraphs of The Second Sexwill be rewarded with a cutting- edge view of contemporary feminist critique in its continuing struggle to establish just what its subject is. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"[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

"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

"Important....The sheer scope and range of this 500-page book demonstrate the maturity of Moi's thoughts about gender, subjectivity, politics, love, and freedom....Taken together, Moi's essays [are] provocative, insightful, and refreshingly original....In particular, Moi's insights into the importance of Beauvoir's understanding of the body as a situation are invaluable for feminist theoretical work on the relationship between culture and biology, and the renewed focus on lived experience is both welcome and necessary for a feminist theory that take seriously its political goals."--SubStance

"What [Moi] wants is a radical spring-clean of feminist thinking. Let's go back and start again, we have nothing to lose but our mind-forged manacles....[Her] energy is positive and provocative."--The London Review of Books

"Thinking and writing carefully and critically about what women are demand the kind of imaginative intelligence that Beauvoir and Moi bring to the task. Moi's book is an example of feminist writing at its finest; and, like Beauvoir's, it invites and deserves a wide readership of women and men."--Item


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198186754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198186755
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.2 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,228,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toril Moi is James B. Duke Professor of Literature and Romance Studies, and Professor of English, and Theater Studies at Duke University. She is Director of the Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature at Duke. To learn more about her please go to her home page: www.torilmoi.com

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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Lindsay Pennington on June 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Toril Moi's "What is a Woman? And Other Essays" is essential reading for further development of a feminist consciousness, compelling and clearly delivered. Complex feminist theory is presented in logical, comprehensible full detail; the philosophical esoterica of feminist thought is coupled with its practical relevance. A definitive thinker at her very best.
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5 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Eisakka on August 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
Toril Moi presents a scathing diatribe against "poststructural feminists" who supposedly erase the category of "women" through endless deconstruction. I am very familiar with such "poststructural feminists" (who include the usual suspects: Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, and Elizabeth Grosz) and found Moi's depiction of their views not only misleading but outright inaccurate. For all her talk about the problematics of the "sex/gender system," Moi fails to consider how other theorists -- such as U.S. women of color -- and other dimensions of difference -- such as race, class, age, nationality, able-bodiedness -- factor into the materiality of "women." After all, long before poststructuralism came into vogue among U.S. feminist academics, radical women of color had been arguing against the naturalized category of "women" and against conceptualizations of subjectivity based upon assumptions of a unified self. Despite what Moi may think, the goal of radical U.S. feminism is NOT merely to seek "justice and equality for women." As bell hooks so aptly puts it, feminism is for everybody (men, women, and people in-between).
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