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Enlightened absence : neoclassical configurations of the feminine /
Ruth Salvaggio.
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1988.
xiv, 169 p.
025201541X (alk. paper)
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Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1988.
025201541X (alk. paper)
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. 157-165.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1989-10:
In the 1970s, women writers in France and US feminist academics interested in French theory began to study figurations of Woman and femininity as those which Enlightenment discourse constructs itself in opposition to and excludes. Efforts to approach the feminine at the margins of systematic reason and "systematicity" itself follow from this project. Some ten years later, this brave book attempts to break such ground for 18th-century English studies, a belatedness testifying to the recalcitrance of the field to poststructuralist and feminist interventions. Newton, Pope, Swift, and Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, are explored in terms of their figurations of Woman, femininity, nature, system, and the dark and oceanic as opposed to the light of Enlightenment reason and science. If Salvaggio's method marks a departure from traditional thematic or intellectual-historical readings in the feminist insights that it generates, it does so without taking us very far from traditional observations about such metaphorical structures in the works of these writers: little said about Newton, Pope, or Swift is entirely new, beyond how the representation of Woman is intimately linked with their construction of rationalist discourse. The short chapter on Finch is a refreshing exception, giving that neglected writer at least a modicum of the critical attention she deserves. The book as a whole, though provocative and useful, rather neglects the historical embeddedness of the discourses it examines. Graduate and undergraduate libraries with large women's studies collections will probably need this. -D. Landry, University of Southern California
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, October 1989
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