Reviews of this book: "This is the most exciting collection of feminist critical essays to date."
--Jane Marcus, Women's Review of Books
"[This work] represents a fine American tradition of feminist polemic, robust, scrupulous, and libertarian...[It] encompasses a richly varied range of topics, from unhinged heroines in 1940s movies--Bette Davis and Joan Crawford round the bend (a perceptive and original paper from Mary Ann Doane) to Degas' studies of the nude (a sensitive affirmation by Carol M. Armstrong), from Gertrude Stein's fatness to Meret Oppenheim's pose, with oil-blackened hands, for Man Ray's 1934 photograph...No single prescription emerges, except, as Suleiman writes, a shared desire to free Woman from restrictive definition, a common `dream' that the lines of difference will be `mixed up in new, energizing ways.' "
--Marina Warner, Literary Review
"One of the impressive features of the collection is the range of disciplines it displays which can (now) be brought to bear on the central question: how have women's bodies been read (and why?), and what is the gap between those readings and the way women read, and write, themselves? Psychiatry, anthropology, art history, literary criticism, theology, semiotics, film studies, translation, law, and philosophy are involved in the answers to the questions."
Over the past two hundred years, thousands of ancient Greek vases have been unearthed. Yet these artifacts remain a challenge: what did the images depicted on these vases actually mean to ancient Greek viewers? In this long-awaited book, Gloria Ferrari uses Athenian vases, literary evidence, and other works of art from the Archaic and Classical periods (520-400 B.C.) to investigate what these items can tell us about the ancient Greeks—specifically, their notions of gender.
Ferrari begins by developing a theoretical perspective on visual representation, arguing that artistic images give us access to how their subjects were imagined rather than to the way they really were. For instance, Ferrari's examinations of the many representations of women working wool reveal that these images constitute powerful metaphors—metaphors, she argues, which both reflect and construct Greek conceptions of the ideal woman and her ideal behavior.
From this perspective, Ferrari studies a number of icons representing blameless femininity and ideal masculinity to reevaluate the rites of passage by which girls are made ready for marriage and boys become men. Representations of the nude male body in Archaic statues known as kouroi, for example, symbolize manhood itself and shed new light on the much-discussed institution of paiderastia. And, in Ferrari's hands, imagery equating maidens with arable land and buried treasure provides a fresh view of Greek ideas of matrimony.
Innovative, thought-provoking, and insightful throughout, Figures of Speech is a powerful demonstration of how the study of visual images as well as texts can reshape our understanding of ancient Greek culture.
Political and cultural history and the arts combine in this engaging account of 1790s France.
In 1799, when the French artist Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825) exhibited his Intervention of the Sabines, a history painting featuring the ancient heroine Hersilia, he added portraits of two contemporary women on either side of her—Henriette de Verninac, daughter of Charles-François Delacroix, minister of foreign affairs, and Juliette Récamier, a well-known and admired socialite. Drawing on many disciplines, Norman Bryson explains how such a combination of paintings could reveal the underlying nature of the Directoire, the period between the vicious and near-dictatorial Reign of Terror (1793–94) and the coup in 1799 that brought Napoleon to power.
Hersilia’s Sisters illuminates ways that cultural life and civil society were rebuilt during these years through an extraordinary efflorescence of women pioneers in every cultural domain—literature, the stage, opera, moral philosophy, political theory, painting, popular journalism, and fashion. Through a close examination of David’s work between The Intervention of the Sabines (begun in 1796) and Bonaparte Crossing the Alps (begun in 1800), Bryson explores how the flowering of women’s culture under the Directoire became a decisive influence on David’s art. With more than 150 illustrations, this book provides new and brilliant insight into this period that will captivate readers.
Reviews of this book: "This is a wonderful book...lucid, cultivated, amiable...[His Other Half] is a model of the kind of flexible, interdisciplinary culture criticism that is desperately needed to bridge the gap between the general reader and the academic ghetto. Lesser, moving with graceful ease from literature and art to photography and cinema, is concerned with the image of woman as refracted through male imagination...Wendy Lesser has made an important contribution."
--Camille Paglia, Washington Post Book World
"Wendy Lesser bases her group of essays on the idea that certain male artists are in search of their own lost or hidden female selves, and that the success of their search can be measured by the way such rescued selves are freed by the artist and given independent life in his works of art...Ms. Lesser is excellent on the force of Dickens's sentimentality...Her discussion of Degas's nudes is very moving...[and] her discussion of Alfred Hitchcock is really magnificent."
--Anne Hollander, New York Times Book Review
"[A] stimulating collection of essays...His Other Half is an arresting work of criticism. Lesser writes with volatile wit, an eager, almost breezy confidence and a palpable pleasure in reading and looking and analyzing--and in the suppleness of her own cleverness. She ranges from Henry James to Alfred Hitchcock, with chapters on Cecil Beaton's photographs, Degas's pastels, Barbara Stanwyck as The Lady Eve and Stella Dallas, and shows the kind of zapping glee throughout that recalls the wisecracking heroines of screwball comedies."
--Marina Warner, Times Literary Supplement
"In this wise and generous book, Lesser enables her readers to go further than they might have expected, both in looking at the artists she has written about and in searching internally for their points of resonance."
I, Claudia: Women in Ancient Rome—an exhibition and catalog produced by the Yale University Art Gallery—provided the first comprehensive study of the lives of Roman women as revealed in Roman art. Responding to the popular success of the exhibit and catalog, Diana E. E. Kleiner and Susan B. Matheson here gather ten additional essays by specialists in art history, history, and papyrology to offer further reflections on women in Roman society based on the material evidence provided by art, archaeology, and ancient literary sources.
In addition to the editors, the contributors are Cornelius C. Vermeule, Rolf Winkes, Mary T. Boatwright, Susan Wood, Eve D'Ambra, Andrew Oliver, Diana Delia, and Ann Ellis Hanson. Their essays, illustrated with black-and-white photos of the art under discussion, treat such themes as mothers and sons, marriage and widowhood, aging, adornment, imperial portraiture, and patronage.
In the global south, women have and continue to resist multiple forms of structural violence. The atrocities committed against Yazidi women by ISIS have been recognized internationally, and the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Nadia Murad in 2018 was a tribute to honor women whose bodies have been battered in the name of race, nationality, war, and religion. In the Crossfire of History:Women's War Resistance Discourse in the Global South is an edited collection that incorporates literary works, testimonies, autobiographies, women’s resistance movements, and films that add to the conversation on the resilience of women in the global south. The collection focuses on Palestine, Kashmir, Syria, Kurdistan, Congo, Argentina, Central America, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The essays question historical accuracy and politics of representation that usually undermine women’s role during conflict, and they reevaluate how women participated, challenged, sacrificed, and vehemently opposed war discourses that erase women’s role in shaping resistance movements.
The transformative mode of these examples expands the definition of heroism and defiance. To prevent these types of heroism from slipping into the abyss of history, this collection brings forth and celebrates women’s fortitude in conflict zones. In the Crossfire of History shines a light onwomen across the globe who are resisting the sociopolitical and economic injustices in their nation-states.
In this third volume of the series Junctures: Case Studies in Women’s Leadership, Judith K. Brodsky and Ferris Olin profile female leaders in music, theater, dance, and visual art. The diverse women included in Junctures in Women's Leadership: The Arts have made their mark by serving as executives or founders of art organizations, by working as activists to support the arts, or by challenging stereotypes about women in the arts. The contributors explore several important themes, such as the role of feminist leadership in changing cultural values regarding inclusivity and gender parity, as well as the feminization of the arts and the power of the arts as cultural institutions.
Amongst the women discussed are Bertha Honoré Palmer, Louise Noun, Samella Lewis, Julia Miles, Miriam Colón, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Bernice Steinbaum, Anne d’Harnoncourt, Martha Wilson, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Kim Berman, Gilane Tawadros, Joanna Smith, and Veomanee Douangdala.
Runner-up for the 2015 Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Book Prize
The fantasy of a male creator constructing his perfect woman dates back to the Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. Yet as technology has advanced over the past century, the figure of the lifelike manmade woman has become nearly ubiquitous, popping up in everything from Bride of Frankenstein to Weird Science to The Stepford Wives. Now Julie Wosk takes us on a fascinating tour through this bevy of artificial women, revealing the array of cultural fantasies and fears they embody.
My Fair Ladies considers how female automatons have been represented as objects of desire in fiction and how “living dolls” have been manufactured as real-world fetish objects. But it also examines the many works in which the “perfect” woman turns out to be artificial—a robot or doll—and thus becomes a source of uncanny horror. Finally, Wosk introduces us to a variety of female artists, writers, and filmmakers—from Cindy Sherman to Shelley Jackson to Zoe Kazan—who have cleverly crafted their own images of simulated women.
Anything but dry, My Fair Ladies draws upon Wosk’s own experiences as a young female Playboy copywriter and as a child of the “feminine mystique” era to show how images of the artificial woman have loomed large over real women’s lives. Lavishly illustrated with film stills, artwork, and vintage advertisements, this book offers a fresh look at familiar myths about gender, technology, and artistic creation.
Our Lady of Victorian Feminism is about three nineteenth-century women, Protestants by background and feminists by conviction, who are curiously and crucially linked by their extensive use of the Madonna in arguments designed to empower women.
In the field of Victorian studies, few scholars have looked beyond the customary identification of the Christian Madonna with the Victorian feminine ideal—the domestic Madonna or the Angel in the House. Kimberly VanEsveld Adams shows, however, that these three Victorian writers made extensive use of the Madonna in feminist arguments. They were able to see this figure in new ways, freely appropriating the images of independent, powerful, and wise Virgin Mothers.
In addition to contributions in the fields of literary criticism, art history, and religious studies, Our Lady of Victorian Feminism places a needed emphasis on the connections between the intellectuals and the activists of the nineteenth-century women's movement. It also draws attention to an often neglected strain of feminist thought, essentialist feminism, which proclaimed sexual equality as well as difference, enabling the three writers to make one of their most radical arguments, that women and men are made in the image of the Virgin Mother and the Son, the two faces of the divine.
In Picasso's Demoiselles, eminent art historian Suzanne Preston Blier uncovers the previously unknown history of Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, one of the twentieth century's most important, celebrated, and studied paintings. Drawing on her expertise in African art and newly discovered sources, Blier reads the painting not as a simple bordello scene but as Picasso's interpretation of the diversity of representations of women from around the world that he encountered in photographs and sculptures. These representations are central to understanding the painting's creation and help identify the demoiselles as global figures, mothers, grandmothers, lovers, and sisters, as well as part of the colonial world Picasso inhabited. Simply put, Blier fundamentally transforms what we know about this revolutionary and iconic work.
Lange's examination of the fights that led to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 reveals the power of images to change history.
For as long as women have battled for equitable political representation in America, those battles have been defined by images—whether illustrations, engravings, photographs, or colorful chromolithograph posters. Some of these pictures have been flattering, many have been condescending, and others downright incendiary. They have drawn upon prevailing cultural ideas of women’s perceived roles and abilities and often have been circulated with pointedly political objectives.
Picturing Political Power offers perhaps the most comprehensive analysis yet of the connection between images, gender, and power. In this examination of the fights that led to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Allison K. Lange explores how suffragists pioneered one of the first extensive visual campaigns in modern American history. She shows how pictures, from early engravings and photographs to colorful posters, proved central to suffragists’ efforts to change expectations for women, fighting back against the accepted norms of their times. In seeking to transform notions of womanhood and win the right to vote, white suffragists emphasized the compatibility of voting and motherhood, while Sojourner Truth and other leading suffragists of color employed pictures to secure respect and authority. Picturing Political Power demonstrates the centrality of visual politics to American women’s campaigns throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, revealing the power of images to change history.
Subverting stereotypical images of women, a new generation of feminist artists is remaking the pin-up, much as Annie Sprinkle, Cindy Sherman, and others did in the 1970s and 1980s. As shocking as contemporary feminist pin-ups are intended to be, perhaps more surprising is that the pin-up has been appropriated by women for their own empowerment since its inception more than a century ago. Pin-Up Grrrls tells the history of the pin-up from its birth, revealing how its development is intimately connected to the history of feminism. Maria Elena Buszek documents the genre’s 150-year history with more than 100 illustrations, many never before published.
Beginning with the pin-up’s origins in mid-nineteenth-century carte-de-visite photographs of burlesque performers, Buszek explores how female sex symbols, including Adah Isaacs Menken and Lydia Thompson, fought to exert control over their own images. Buszek analyzes the evolution of the pin-up through the advent of the New Woman, the suffrage movement, fanzine photographs of early film stars, the Varga Girl illustrations that appeared in Esquire during World War II, the early years of Playboy magazine, and the recent revival of the genre in appropriations by third-wave feminist artists. A fascinating combination of art history and cultural history, Pin-Up Grrrls is the story of how women have publicly defined and represented their sexuality since the 1860s.
Rembrandt’s extraordinary paintings of female nudes—Andromeda,Susanna, Diana and her Nymphs, Danaë, Bathsheba—as well as his etchings of nude women, have fascinated many generations of art lovers and art historians. But they also elicited vehement criticism when first shown, described as against-the-grain, anticlassical—even ugly and unpleasant. However, Rembrandt chose conventional subjects, kept close to time-honored pictorial schemes, and was well aware of the high prestige accorded to the depiction of the naked female body. Why, then, do these works deviate so radically from the depictions of nude women by other artists? To answer this question Eric Jan Sluijter, in Rembrandt and the Female Nude, examines Rembrandt’s paintings and etchings against the background of established pictorial traditions in the Netherlands and Italy. Exploring Rembrandt’s intense dialogue with the works of predecessors and peers, Sluijter demonstrates that, more than any other artist, Rembrandt set out to incite the greatest possible empathy in the viewer, an approach that had far-reaching consequences for the moral and erotic implications of the subjects Rembrandt chose to depict.
In this richly illustrated study, Sluijter presents an innovative approach to Rembrandt’s views on the art of painting, his attitude towards antiquity and Italian art of the Renaissance, his sustained rivalry with the works of other artists, his handling of the moral and erotic issues inherent in subjects with female nudes, and the nature of his artistic choices.
In Venus in Exile renowned cultural critic Wendy Steiner explores the twentieth century's troubled relationship with beauty. Disdained by avant-garde artists, feminists, and activists, beauty and its major symbols of art—the female subject and ornament—became modernist taboos. To this day it is hard to champion beauty in art without sounding aesthetically or politically retrograde. Steiner argues instead that the experience of beauty is a form of communication, a subject-object interchange in which finding someone or something beautiful is at the same time recognizing beauty in oneself. This idea has led artists and writers such as Marlene Dumas, Christopher Bram, and Cindy Sherman to focus on the long-ignored figure of the model, who function in art as both a subject and an object. Steiner concludes Venus in Exile on a decidedly optimistic note, demonstrating that beauty has created a new and intensely pleasurable direction for contemporary artistic practice.
In the early 1950s, Willem de Kooning’s Woman I and subsequent paintings established him as a leading member of the abstract expressionist movement. His wildly impacted brushstrokes and heavily encrusted surfaces baffled most critics, who saw de Kooning’s monstrous female image as violent, aggressive, and ultimately the product of a misogynistic mind. In the image-rich Willem de Kooning Nonstop, Rosalind E. Krauss counters this view with a radical rethinking of de Kooning’s bold canvases and reveals his true artistic practices.
Krauss demonstrates that contrary to popular conceptions of de Kooning as an artist who painted chaotically only to finish abruptly, he was in fact constantly reworking the same subject based on a compositional template. This template informed all of his art and included a three-part vertical structure; the projection of his male point of view into the painting or sculpture; and the near-universal inclusion of the female form, which was paired with her redoubled projection onto his work. Krauss identifies these elements throughout de Kooning’s oeuvre, even in his paintings of highways, boats, and landscapes: Woman is always there. A thought-provoking study by one of America’s greatest art critics, Willem de Kooning Nonstop revolutionizes our understanding of de Kooning and shows us what has always been hiding in plain sight in his work.