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FEMINISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS by Mari Jo Buhle

FEMINISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis

By Mari Jo Buhle

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-674-29868-3
Publisher: Harvard Univ.

An idea-laden work about the ongoing 20th-century dialogue in America between psychoanalysis and feminism. Buhle (American Civilization/Brown Univ.) focuses more on feminism, covering a dazzling spectrum of thinkers and polemicists, ranging from Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Barbara Ehrenreich, with admirable clarity and succinctness. Her reach in terms of American (and, in the closing chapter, French) classical, neo-, and post-Freudian writing by women and men on women’s psychosexual development is equally impressive, extending from the eloquently outspoken “culturist” pioneer Karen Horney to the contemporary Lacanian Julia Kristeva. She is particularly strong on the “feminine mystique” era of the 1940s and ’50s, when mainstream American psychoanalysis took a decidedly conservative, antifeminist turn. Now and then, Buhle overinterprets or misinterprets a text, such as Betty Friedan’s statement in The Second Stage that —To deny the part of one’s being that, through the ages, has been expressed in motherhood . . . is to deny one’s personhood as a woman.— And toward the book’s end, Buhle neglects the influential contributions of Norman O. Brown. Yet few scholars would attempt a comprehensive intellectual history on such a charged topic. Buhle has done so in this informative scholarly feat.