Meryl AltmanJul 23, 2021
Beauvoir in Time
Meryl Altman's new book Beauvoir in Time, published by Brill Rodopi Press (2020), situates Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949) in its historical context and responds to criticism that muddles what she actually said about sex, race and class. She takes up three aspects of Beauvoir's work today’s feminists find problematic: the characterizations of the frigid woman and lesbians, the analogy of race and class that obscures Black and working-class women and her examples drawn from white middle-class experience. Charged with ethnocentrism, her contribution is distorted by not considering her place and time. Through close reading of Beauvoir's writing in many genres, alongside expansive criticism, Altman shows that what appears as a problem for feminist theory is best understood by a full consideration of Beauvoir’s engagement with Freudian, Marxist and anticolonial thinkers. Extremely helpful in understanding the place of The Second Sex within international feminist theory, Altman offers insights into how Beauvoir is still relevant in the age of intersectionality and identity politics.
Meryl Altman is Professor of English and Women's Studies at DePauw University.
Lilian Calles Barger is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her most recent book is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology (Oxford University Press, 2018). Her current writing project is on the intellectual history of women and the origins of feminism seen through the emblematic life and work of Simone de Beauvoir.