HEROINES by Norma Lorre Goodrich


Demigodess, Prima Donna, Movie Star
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 A prolific and erudite collector and interpreter of ancient and medieval myths (The Holy Grail, 1992; Guinevere, 1991, etc.) Goodrich (Emeritus/Claremont Colleges) here speaks in the voice of an aging Miss Brodie rather than in that of her customary Athena, offering a series of digressive and opinionated essays on women in legend, literature, and film; on the men who created these works; and on how these various female images are treated in contemporary America. Goodrich begins by discussing ``The Good Woman,'' from Homer through Chaucer and The Great Gatsby's Daisy to Tolstoy, whom Goodrich considers ``the greatest novelist the world has yet given birth to.'' A chapter on ``Demon Lovers'' starts with star-crossed couples, runs through a brief history of Satan, and looks at female Gothic novelists. ``Educating Heroines'' focuses on Rousseau and Flaubert--but only after a brief and confusing section on earth mothers--and a chapter on prostitutes (Moll Flanders, Sister Carrie, Camille) and ``fallen women'' (Electra, Antigone, Carmen, and Laclos of Les Liaisons Dangereuses) includes a statistical table of VD in the military of various nations. The chapter on ``Death Queens'' connects Hecate with Miss Marple, and one called ``Heroines Return to Paganism'' starts with Hardy's Tess, pauses on D.H. Lawrence (a champion of American women whose ashes at Taos are ``well worth the pilgrimage''), and comes to rest on Thelma and Louise. After considering warrior women (apotheosized in St. Joan); goddesses of Justice in Scott, Pushkin, Brontâ, and George Eliot; and various female representations of Liberty, Goodrich philosophizes about the abuse of women--especially pregnant American women, who, she says, are treated like ``slabs of beef''- -and suggests that statues of heroines and movie stars can inspire contemporary women in their quest for liberation--because, historically, ``slaves had never liberated themselves.'' Occasional flowers among the weeds; overall, a misuse of a great intelligence.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-016995-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993


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