THE SOUND OF A SILVER HORN: Reclaiming the Heroism in Contemporary Women's Lives by Kathleen Noble

THE SOUND OF A SILVER HORN: Reclaiming the Heroism in Contemporary Women's Lives

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After the eloquent title, the high rhetoric, and the elaborate heroic schema appropriated from Joseph Campbell, Noble (Psychology, Women's Studies/Univ. of Washington) offers the very antithesis of the heroic: ordinary women leaving home and family to become nuns, teachers, lesbians. Lamenting that literature offers no model of female heroism (certainly true in the wan examples she cites), Noble offers herself: after a repressed childhood, she ran away from college, hitchhiked to California, attended school, had a clinical death in England, and returned to become herself and write this book. She describes the stages of the quest to be herself as the Awakening (the call to fulfill herself); the obstacles, or the sat Dragons (self-deception, depression, dependence, prejudice, acquiescence to excessive obligations, and unexpected hardship or loss); the Allies (teachers, therapists, partner, friends); and the Transformation and return, reaching what she variously calls ""selfhood,"" becoming the hero, the ""center"" of her own life, ""belonging"" to herself alone, ""insisting"" upon herself. Such an egocentric goal is the very opposite of heroic action, which, in Campbell's paradigm, is undertaken on behalf of others and is measured and rewarded by the significance, grandeur, and dignity of the obstacles the hero has overcome. Citing Carolyn Heilbrun out of context, and referring also to fairy tales (in which women are rescued, enclosed, and then disappear from their own stories), Noble argues that there are no female heroes, literary or historical, comparable to male, and offers in their stead 35 pitiful women for whom heroism consists of leaving marriages, changing occupations, or coming out as lesbians. Shallow, pretentious, and uninformed: not only failing to make its case persuasively but debasing the very concepts of heroism it claims to make available to women.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Ballantine