THE FACE OF LOVE: Feminism and the Beauty Question by Ellen Zetzel Lambert

THE FACE OF LOVE: Feminism and the Beauty Question

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Despite the insipid title, an evocative exploration of the author's struggle to see her own physical beauty, skillfully blended with rigorous and sensitive analyses of literary heroines who have tried to do the same. Literature scholar and teacher Lambert argues that feminists have been too quick to reject beauty as a patriarchal trap; she sees it as potentially the outer expression of a woman's love for herself. Lambert reflects on her mother's death, her own infertility and mastectomy, and the way those experiences have shaped her relationship to her body and to beauty. She combines these autobiographical vignettes with looks at literature, first at works by men, such as Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, Shakespeare's As You Like It, and the biblical Song of Solomon, and then, in greater depth, at novels by 19th-century women like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bront‰, and George Eliot. She finds less to draw on in the 20th century, though she comes up with some intriguing readings of Margaret Drabble and of the 1990 Canadian film Strangers in Good Company. She finds that all these works, like her life, reflect a complex view of female beauty that goes far beyond traditional, patriarchal objectification and is often intricately related to a woman's sense of her own lovability and worth. Lambert's literary analyses are clear and accessible--rare for scholarly literary criticism. But her examination is flawed by an unfamiliarity with current feminism. Many young feminists openly enjoy experimenting with their personal appearance, as can be seen at any large women's rights march these days. Even Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, which epitomizes the too-dark feminist view of beauty that Lambert criticizes, has written approvingly about the pleasures women take in lipstick and fashion. A compelling blend of memoir and literary analysis; too bad her understanding of feminism is a little out of date.

Pub Date: July 10th, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Beacon