- Series: Re-Reading the Canon
- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press; 1st edition (February 4, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0271018305
- ISBN-13: 978-0271018300
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,626,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (Re-Reading the Canon) Hardcover – February 4, 1999
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“Too often, Rand is either revered as a prophet or dismissed as a crank. Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand approaches her as a writer and thinker of profound insights and equally profound contradictions, who offered an important and inspiring but flawed and limited vision of life. . . . Such a serious approach can ultimately end Rand’s intellectual marginalization. This volume takes a major step in that direction. In the process, it addresses issues of sexual equality and difference that are more relevant than ever today.”
—Cathy Young, Reason Magazine
About the Author
Mimi Reisel Gladstein is Associate Dean of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas, El Paso. She is the author of The Ayn Rand Companion (1984; forthcoming revised edition, 1999) and The Indestructible Woman in Faulkner, Hemingway, and Steinbeck (1986).
Chris Matthew Sciabarra is Visiting Scholar in the Department of Politics at NYU and is the author of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (1995) and Marx, Hayek, and Utopia (1995).
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Dear Everyone, Now that it's in the bookstores (or available through amazon.com), I urge you to buy and read FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS OF AYN RAND. The collection is fantastically interesting--and important. (Forget the fact that I am one of the contributors; this is not self-serving.) Naturally, one likes some essays more than others, and some of the pieces are anything but friendly to Rand, and that's all right too, because what matters is that the average intellectual level of the pieces is very high--and the editors are to be saluted for assembling this marvelous collection and for taking another step in closing the gap between AR and the academy. I have no words to convey the rush I experienced while reading this book. Those poor souls at ARI do not understand that this book, criticisms of Rand and all, will do more to advance the cause of Rand's work than all their true-believer praise and idiotic adulation. Have fun. I did. And (if anyone cares) you can quote me. Nathaniel
As with any multi-author collection, this volume has good and bad elements. Barbara Branden's contribution humanizes Ayn Rand with a really powerful grace. It's good that the book begins with this.
Another favorite was Karen Michalson's Who is Dagny Taggart?, which makes a persuasive case for Dagny as a feminist hero. Michalson draws attention to Rand's use of clever inversion in three superficially sexist or misogynistic scenes (Francisco slapping Dagny, Dagny acquiring and donning the Rearden Metal bracelet, and Dagny performing domestic work for John Galt) that, in context and with the particular construals of the characters, reveal enlightened feminist ideas. In each case, the sexist trope (abuse by a man, wearing jewelry from a man, and domestic work for a man) involve Dagny acting with self-respect according to her own rationally chosen values.
I also appreciated Sharon Presley's essay on Rand and individualist feminism. One concern I often have with libertarian feminists is that they often only discuss feminists from a century or more ago, leaving one puzzled as to whether they find anything of value in modern feminist thought. But Presley engages thoughtfully with Carol Gilligan and her ethics of care, finding (correctly, in my view) that there is a synthesis possible with care ethics and individualist values, and that a healthy individualism is pro-social.
This is a fun book to read for anyone interested in feminism who has read a little bit of Rand, whether you love or hate her or, like me, are decidedly ambivalent.
They wrote in their Introduction to this 1999 book, "Feminism is not a monolith. It is composed of a variety of approaches in both method and content. This volume reflects that proposition... several individuals who remain within the Randian circle ... were not willing to contribute to any volume whose premise is feminism... As co-editors of this volume, we hope to have contributed to a critical rereading of Rand's works as 'works of philosophy in their own right.' That this discussion of an influential woman thinker of the Western canon takes place in the context of feminism is both appropriate and long overdue." The book contains essays by writers such as Barbara Branden, Susan Brownmiller, Camille Paglia, Wendy McElroy, Nathaniel Branden, Joan Kennedy Taylor, etc.
Barbara Branden's essay begins by noting that, as feminists began making increasing demands for laws, etc., "Ayn Rand turned ever more violently against feminism. She seemed unaware of the growing pro-individualist concept of feminism---of which her own books were a significant source." (Pg. 25-26) Susan Brownmiller calls Rand "a traitor to her own sex" (largely because of the infamous rape scene in The Fountainhead; pg. 65). Nevertheless, Wendy McElroy asks, "what heterosexual woman hasn't fantasized about being swept into the strong impetuous arms of Rhett Butler and conveyed up a curving staircase to the satin sheets of ravishment?" (Pg. 169)
An essayist asks, "So why are there so few women in Galt's Gulch, and why didn't Rand create more strong women in 'Atlas Shrugged'?" (Pg. 215) Another notes that Rand was known "proudly to proclaim" that she was not a feminist, but suggests that her gender assumptions, "arising from emotional needs that she did not acknowledge, are in conflict with her rational view of women as individuals and the equals of men." (Pg. 293) Still another suggests that Rand's project "has been prohibited from reaching its full potential because of flaws and inconsistencies in her notions of gender." (Pg. 351)
These essays will be of great value to students of Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism.