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Women, Love, and Power

Women, Love, and Power: Literary and Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Elaine Hoffman Baruch
Copyright Date: 1991
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Women, Love, and Power
    Book Description:

    Elaine Baruch is not only among the most quiet-voiced and fair-minded of feminist writers. She is also among the most far-ranging in her scholarship, equally at ease with the writers of the Renaissance and Freud, the medieval troubadours, and our contemporary polemicists. . . instructive, absorbing, and persuasive.--Diana Trilling A lively mind is at work here and a keen and witty writer too.--Irving HoweThis is a fine collection of essays. . . making many imaginative conjectures and amusing connections.--Times Literary SupplementIn these essays what emerges is a history of romantic love. . . Highly recommended.--Library Journal Arguing that romantic love need not be a tool of women's oppression, feminist critic Baruch. . . contends that unacknowledged male fantasies about love motivate much literature by men. . . rewarding, provocative.--Publishers Weekly Utilizing both Freudian and non-Freudian psychoanalysis as well as feminist criticism, Baruch examines literary works by women and men from medieval and Romantic periods as well as cultural observations on the twentieth century and how they have influenced attitudes toward love.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2337-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    This book is about women, love, and power in some past and present literary works, written mainly by men but also by women. It looks too at some recent cultural developments that have led to a resurgence of the romantic love that many social and literary critics had pronounced dead just a few years before (myself among them). The chapters here, written over a period of about a dozen years, explore different forms of love, particularly romantic love, in different periods, and the ways these have given women power or deprived them of it. For women, much more than for...

  5. 2 Whatever Happened to Romantic Love?
    (pp. 25-30)

    At the same time that many feminist critics were attacking romantic love as a tool to oppress women, I was lamenting its loss—not in individual cases, of course, but as an ideal. In the 1970s the new obstacle to romantic love was love itself. Yet it seemed to me that if such love was disappearing, it was less because of any new-found freedom than because we now loved our selves above all. Some wiser than I said, “Wait.” And it is true that as I write this comment in 1990, some of what I said with passion before seems...

  6. 3 He Speaks/She Speaks: Language in Some Medieval Love Literature
    (pp. 31-51)

    It is one of the ironies of literature—as of life—that the language of love, the terms in which it is supposedly revealed, often has little to do with love itself. In fact, that very language has recently been seen—by mutually opposed groups—as proof that love perhaps does not exist at all where it was formerly most recognized. It is not often that classical psychoanalysis and radical feminism join hands. Therefore, it is something of a surprise to find that their basic position on courtly love is the same. They don’t like it. In psychoanalytic terms, courtly...

  7. 4 The Politics of Courtship
    (pp. 52-68)

    Anyone who doubts that the courtly love tradition influenced the actual relations of men and women (I’m not speaking of its influence on laws, which is another story) has merely to think of the lover’s syndrome, so easily recognizable in young—and not so young—men and women who “fall in love.” Among the symptoms codified in the Middle Ages and still with us are loss of appetite and sleepless nights, timidity, anxiety, fear, trembling, disdain for ordinary pleasures, such as worldly goods, or ordinary pains, such as heat or cold. This is followed by a rush of excitement, the...

  8. 5 Marvell’s “Nymph”: A Study of Feminine Consciousness
    (pp. 69-81)

    Considering thequerelle des femmes(debates on the nature of women) that took place in the Renaissance (in a sense they haven’t died yet) and the probing quality of Andrew Marvell’s mind, it is not likely that the seventeenth-century poet would have passed up the opportunity to examine his age’s assumptions and conventions pertaining to women. It is from this perspective that I would like to look at one of his most enigmatic poems, “The Nymph complaining for the death of her Faun,” and its striking female narrator, who is obsessed with courtly and Petrarchan love and suffers as a...

  9. 6 Romantic Narcissism: Freud and the Love O/Abject
    (pp. 82-102)

    Perhaps the biggest surprise for the reader who comes to Romantic literature for the first time or after long absence is its almost total disregard of what is now called romantic love, that is, a physical but spiritually idealized relationship between a man and a woman, whether within or outside marriage. The Romantics are interested in nature, in self, in love as an integrative force that binds the universe together, but of consummated love between man and woman we find remarkably little in their writings. What has been said of the troubadours might well be said of them. Their art...

  10. 7 On Splitting the Sexual Object: Before and After Freud
    (pp. 103-121)

    About the best explanation that I have ever come across of the search for Mr., Miss, or Ms. Right occurs in Plato’sSymposium, where Aristophanes speaks of the origin of both love and the sexes as we know them. Originally double—either all male, all female, or androgynous (a combination of the two)—because of their hubris, our ancestors were split in two by the gods. And ever since, we have been forced to look for our other half. Those of us who were originally all male or all female search for homosexual lovers to complete us; those who were...

  11. 8 The Feminine Bildungsroman: Education through Marriage
    (pp. 122-144)

    It has long been a critical commonplace that there is no feminineBildungsroman. But if the central theme of theBildungsromanis the education of the hero who is brought to a high level of consciousness through a series of experiences that lead to his development, then many of the great novels that deal with women treat similar themes. FromEmmatoJane EyretoMadame BovarytoMiddlemarchtoAnna KareninatoPortrait of a LadytoLady Chatterley’s Loverand beyond, the novel presents a search for self, an education of the mind and feelings. But unlike the...

  12. 9 Ibsen’s Doll House: A Myth For Our Time
    (pp. 145-160)

    “I ask you directly: is there one mother among thousands of mothers, one wife among thousands of wives, who could behave as Nora behaves, who would desert husband, children, and home merely in order to become ‘a human being’? I answer with conviction: no and again no!”¹ Thus was the world premiere ofA Doll Houseon December 21, 1879, greeted by the critic and theatre-manager M. W. Brun. He was not an isolated male chauvinist. On the contrary, critical sympathy was almost entirely with Torvald Helmer rather than with his wife, Nora.

    It would be a rash man today...

  13. 10 Women and Love: Some Dying Myths
    (pp. 161-181)

    This chapter was originally published in 1980. While much remains true, it is extraordinary to see how much has also changed, particularly our attitude toward romantic love. I was going to revise the essay in the light of this new development but then decided to let it stand, both as a record of an earlier time and feeling, and as an illustration to us in retrospect of how quickly events in the culture can overturn attitudes toward love. Then too, since we may change our minds again, it is possible that the central theme here will reassert itself.

    “Love is...

  14. 11 “A Natural and Necessary Monster”: Women in Men’s Utopias
    (pp. 182-206)

    If romantic love has afforded women power at least at some times, in some places, there is one place where that is generally not the case—utopia. The great men’s utopias see such love and any power that it gave women as a threat to the state. Feminism, too, as a Utopian movement has rejected love—but in order to increase women’s power in the state—an interesting paradox.

    In the visionary lands of perfected possibilities, it seemed to me there might lie, if not solutions to social problems, at least more cogent definitions of them. It is, therefore, dismaying...

  15. 12 Love and the Sexual Object, in Zamyatin’s We and Orwell’s 1984, with a Postscript on the Feminist Utopia
    (pp. 207-229)

    The world of dystopia may be a nightmare world, but as far as women are concerned, plus ça change, plus ç’est la même chose. Women represent the link to the past in this genre that is nothing if not conservative. While utopias look forward, dystopias look backwards—with nostalgia. It is women and love that mediate between the unsupportable present of dystopia and the longed-for past which has been replaced, which is indeed seen as a form of utopia. This may not be to the liking of women readers today, but it certainly seems appealing to the male authors with...

  16. 13 The Female Body and the Male Mind: Reconsidering Simone de Beauvoir
    (pp. 230-246)

    InWomen in Search of UtopiaI wrote, “surely its emphasis on new modes of living with regard to the individual, the family, and the state, and its attempt to change ‘human nature’ as men traditionally have defined it, entitle feminism to a place among the grand visionary schemes.”¹ As with so many other Utopian movements the leader of this one was French. The difference is that this time the leader was a woman

    Forty years ago Simone de Beauvoir sat in front of a blank sheet of paper at the Café des Deux Magots, on the Boulevard St. Germain...

  17. 14 The Return of Romantic Love: Living the Literature
    (pp. 247-268)

    Romantic love has a history, both a glorious and a shady past. For a while, between the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the women’s movement of the 1970s, it looked as if it were on its deathbed. Some wanted to pull the plug. But in the 1980s, surprisingly, it came out of its coma.

    It was Freud who pointed out in his “Contributions to the Psychology of Love” that sex without obstacles was—well—sex, whereas with obstacles it became love. Romantic love thrives on impediments, inhibitions of the sexual drive, longings—not necessarily sexual—that aren’t satisfied. The...

  18. Index
    (pp. 269-280)