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Only paradoxes to offer [electronic resource] : French feminists and the rights of man /
Joan Wallach Scott.
imprint
Cambridge, MA ; London : Harvard University Press, 1996.
description
xiii, 229 p.
ISBN
0674639316, 9780674639317
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
added author
imprint
Cambridge, MA ; London : Harvard University Press, 1996.
isbn
0674639316
9780674639317
restrictions
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
11952480
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [177]-224) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1996-09-01:
Scott, author of numerous gender studies, continues to break new ground by rereading feminist history using the paradox of how, in their quest for full citizenship, women have claimed both their "equality" and their "difference." Through the experiences of four French feminists--Olympe de Gouges, Jeanne Deroin, Hubertine Auclert, and Madeleine Pelletier--and their specific campaigns for political rights, Scott poses the paradox for each historical period, noting that as they acted on behalf of women as a group, these feminists necessarily reinforced the differences they wanted to deny. Scott emphasizes that arguments made by these feminists are rooted in historical time: de Gouges claims citizenship for women, citing the language of the French Revolution; Deroin argues rights for women as workers and mothers in 1848; Auclert employs the scientific secularism of the late 19th century to campaign for the vote; and Pelletier in the early 20th century contends that women are free individuals. Most important is Scott's thesis that the unsolvable tension between the affirmation of group identity and political equality does not hinder feminism, but adds to its political force. Undergraduates and above. J. Wishnia SUNY at Stony Brook
Reviews
Review Quotes
In her subtle and provocative new book, Joan Scott convincingly argues that the exclusion of women was central to the logic of French republicanism in the 19th century, and she traces the workings of this logic through the eyes of its most persistent feminist critics.
Only Paradoxes to Offer is a valuable and stimulating book which synthesises a number of theoretical issues and applies them in original ways to specific historical contexts. It will be of great value to scholars engaged in feminist critical theory, women's studies and French history.
Readers of this book will enjoy discovering (or rediscovering) four compelling women, while marveling at how the terms of earlier feminism are at once familiar and strange. Rather than taking the category of women for granted as the subject of feminist discourse and politics, Scott argues that feminist agency is itself profoundly paradoxical...[T]his book contributes a probing intellectual history of the central questions in modern feminist thought which will also add much to contemporary feminist inquiry.
The four feminists examined in this book all had differing ideas about [the]problem of women's 'equality' or 'difference', ideas that Scott clearly shows tobe a product of the dominant political discourses of their time...[Only Paradoxes to Offer] is successful and important in its exposure of the internal contradictions, dilemmas and 'obsessive repetitions' of the feminist experience.
The four feminists examined in this book all had differing ideas about [the]problem of women's 'equality' or 'difference', ideas that Scott clearly shows tobe a product of the dominant political discourses of their time...[ Only Paradoxes to Offer] is successful and important in its exposure of the internal contradictions, dilemmas and 'obsessive repetitions' of the feminist experience.
Those interested in feminism, postmodernism, historiography, and/or the fundamental assumptions that sustain contemporary political debates will find this book richly rewarding. Philosophers of science concerned with the methodological production of facticity will find this work exemplary of the contributions of postmodernism to the construction of the past.
A feminist's history of feminist history, one that is likely to shape the debate not simply over the history of gender but over the larger questions of political and cultural history.
It is the sense of feminism as dynamic, searching, inventive, historically specific, and often divided against itself, rather than abstract, timeless, or doctrinaire, that gives this story its spin.
Joan Scott's tour de force is written with clarity, grace, humor, trenchant knowledge, imagination, and a sense of the politically extravagant...After Scott's brilliant book, none of us will be able to read French feminism in the same way again.
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Joan Wallach Scott's interpretation of the dilemma of feminism underlines the paradox that arises as theorists introduced the very idea of difference they had sought to eliminate by arguing from the standpoint that difference was irrelevant.
Main Description
When feminists argued for political rights in the context of liberal democracy they faced an impossible choice. On the one hand, they insisted that the differences between men and women were irrelevant for citizenship. On the other hand, by the fact that they acted on behalf of women, they introduced the very idea of difference they sought to eliminate. This paradox--the need both to accept and to refuse sexual difference in politics--was the constitutive condition of the long struggle by women to gain the right of citizenship. In this new book, remarkable in both its findings and its methodology, award-winning historian Joan Wallach Scott reads feminist history in terms of this paradox of sexual difference. Focusing on four French feminist activists--Olympe de Gouges, who wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen during the French Revolution; Jeanne Deroin, a utopian socialist and candidate for legislative office in 1848; Hubertine Auclert, the suffragist of the Third Republic; and Madeleine Pelletier, a psychiatrist in the early twentieth century who argued that women must "virilize" themselves in order to gain equality--Scott charts the repetitions and variations in feminist history. Again and again, feminists tried to prove they were individuals, according to the standards of individuality of their day. Again and again, they confronted the assumption that individuals were men. But when sexual difference was taken to be a fundamental difference, when only men were regarded as individuals and thus as citizens, how could women also be citizens? The imaginative and courageous answers feminists offered to these questions are the subject of this engaging book.
Table of Contents
Preface
Rereading the History of Feminism
The Uses of Imagination: Olympe de Gouges in the French Revolution
The Duties of the Citizen: Jeanne Deroin in the Revolution of 1848
The Rights of "the Social": Hubertine Auclert and the Politics of the Third Republic
The Radical Individualism of Madeleine Pelletier
Citizens but Not Individuals: The Vote and After
Notes
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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