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The Gender of Modernity
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In an exploration of the complex relations between women and the modernity. She also calls into question those feminist perspectives that have either demonized the modern as inherently partiarchal, or else assumed a simple opposition between men's and women's experiences of the modern world. Combining cultural history with cultural theory, and focusing on the fin de siecle, Felski examines the gendered meanings of such notions as nostalgia, consumption, feminine writing, the popular sublime, evolution, revolution and perversion. Her approach is comparative and interdisciplinary, covering a wide variety of texts from the English, French and German traditions: sociological theory, realist and naturalist novels, decadent literature, political essays and speeches, sexological discourse, and sentimental popular fiction. Male and female writers from Simnel, Zola, Sacher-Masoch and Rachilde to Marie Corelli, Wilde and Olive Schreiner come under Felski's scrutiny as she exposes the varied and often contradictory connections between femininity and modernity. Seen through Felski's eye, the last fin de siecle provides parallels with our own. And Felski's analysis of the matrix of modernism offers insight into the sense of cultural crisis brought on by postmodernism.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction: Myths of the Modern 1. Modernity and Feminism 2. On Nostalgia: The Prehistoric Woman 3. Imagined Pleasures: The Erotics and Aesthetics of consumption 4. Masking Masculinity: The Feminization of Writing 5. Love, God, and the Orient: Reading the Popular Sublime 6. Visions of the New: feminist Discourses of Evolution and revolution 7. The Art of Perversion: Female Sadists and male Cyborgs Afterword: Rewriting the Mordern Notes Index

About the Author

Rita Felski is Professor of English, University of Virginia.

Reviews

Felski immerses herself in the messy ambiguities, symbioses, and contradictions of the modern to a degree that is rare and bravely ambitious. The book addresses an abundance of topics--fin de siecle sociological and psychoanalytic theory, consumer behavior, the aesthetics of decadence and sexual perversion, the rhetoric of first-wave feminism. While never ungenerous, Felski dismantles some recent favored assumptions. Reading her book, one feels that we are profligate with the words 'subversive,' 'transgressive,' and 'resisting' as terms of approbation. Felski recognizes that assessing the degree and kind of resistance requires deep knowledge of the context in which it occurs. -- Gail McDonald Lingua Franca [An] important book... Felski has a talent for seeing how feminist questions are implicated in other kinds of cultural questions--and can be changed by them...By deftly combining cultural history and critical theory, becoming more deeply historicist in her scrutiny of fin de siecle modern literature in its various Anglo-American and European contexts, she uncovers some of the earlier, conflicting stories of a feminist aesthetics from within the philosophical and cultural webs in which they have long been entangled. This second book, then, by delving more deeply into intellectual antecedents of our assumptions about modern aesthetic genres, gives even more grounding to her earlier study. We now know more about the number of ways in which questions of feminist aesthetics have been only one aspect of the 'culture of women's modernity' all along. -- Anita Plath Helle South Carolina Review To entitle a book, The Gender of Modernity is boldly to run the risk posed by handling overfamiliar concepts. Rita Felski has run that risk with expert skill, producing an important study which succeeds in its aim 'to unravel the complexities of modernity's relationship to femininity through an analysis of its varied and competing representations'. Her project combines cultural theory with cultural history, seeking 'to establish points of connection between the texts of the past and the feminist politics of the present'. The Year's Work in English Studies [An] important book...Felski has a talent for seeing how feminist questions are implicated in other kinds of cultural questions--and can be changed by them...By deftly combining cultural history and critical theory, becoming more deeply historicist in her scrutiny of fin de siecle modern literature in its various Anglo-American and European contexts, she uncovers some of the earlier, conflicting stories of a feminist aesthetics from within the philosophical and cultural webs in which they have long been entangled. This second book, then, by delving more deeply into intellectual antecedents of our assumptions about modern aesthetic genres, gives even more grounding to her earlier study. We now know more about the number of ways in which questions of feminist aesthetics have been only one aspect of the 'culture of women's modernity' all along. -- Anita Plath Helle South Carolina Review

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