MONUMENTS AND MAIDENS: The Allegory of the Female Form by Marina Warner

MONUMENTS AND MAIDENS: The Allegory of the Female Form

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Here's a super intelligent woman author who doesn't pander to the polemic of feminist politics about injustices inflicted by men since the dawn of homo. She's written a highly literate, superbly documented, readable analysis about the central paradox of the female form and what it has represented throughout history. Warner's previous works (Alone of All Her Sex, and her latest novel The Skating Party) have laid the groundwork for this noteworthy effort about the plural significances attached to womens' bodies and the fantasies, longings, and terror projected into and about them. This is no dull, archaic, boring work of old-time scholasticism--Monuments and Maidens is alive with visual analogies, careful substantiation, and fresh insight in a contemporary approach, although limited by brevity and Warner's own predilections (a Brit, bred in Egypt). The shield of Achilles given him by Athena is not just the aegis of Medusa or Freud's metaphor for male castration complex, but a force field … al hi Darth Vader emitting chilling darkness and thunderclouds. Wonder Woman, Princess Leia Organa of Star Wars and Leela of TV's ""Dr. Who"" are all metaphors for the biblical Judith slaying Holofernes--the embodiment of the chaste goddess-warrior. ""Maggie"" Thatcher, England's ""Iron Lady,"" becomes Boadicia--redhaired fierce leader of the Britons who takes poison rather than become a slave to Rome. Warner goads and pricks our intellects while raising controversial and not easily answered questions. Why does the faithfulness required of men like Ulysses not include the chastity of his body as it does in the case of Penelope, his wife? Why should the modern world snigger at the intact chastity of Lady Godiva--while the seminaked and naked female form sells soap, cars, drinks and whatever? Warner raises the issue and theory that perhaps women develop a persona (exaggerated ferocity, aggressiveness, assuming traditionally male dominated aspects) according to man's code of values just to protect themselves from that very code. From Delacroix's parody of ""Liberty""--breasts bared, brandishing the tricolor and flintlock to Mae West as the Statue of Liberty and universal mother, this is thought-provoking, informative, insightful.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 0520227336
Publisher: Atheneum