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“Am I That Name?”

Feminism and the Category of “Women” in History

2003
Author:

Denise Riley

“Am I That Name?”

A new edition of a classic work on the history of feminism

Riley examines shifting historical constructions of the category “women” in relation to other categories used to define personhood.

Riley’s analyses greatly help us to understand the complexities of ‘women’ past and present and to clarify some of the confusion about contemporary feminism. . . . Essential reading for philosophers, historians, and feminist theorists, especially those interested in deconstruction.

History Review of Books

Writing about changes in the notion of womanhood, Denise Riley examines, in the manner of Foucault, shifting historical constructions of the category of “women” in relation to other categories central to concepts of personhood: the soul, the mind, the body, nature, the social.

Feminist movements, Riley argues, have had no choice but to play out this indeterminacy of women. This is made plain in their oscillations, since the 1790s, between concepts of equality and of difference. To fully recognize the ambiguity of the category of “women” is, she contends, a necessary condition for an effective feminist political philosophy.



“Am I That Name?”

Denise Riley teaches at the University of East Anglia, UK, and has also held teaching posts at Brown University and at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Her most recent books are The Words of Selves: Identification, Solidarity, Irony (2000) and Selected Poems (2000).

“Am I That Name?”

Riley’s analyses greatly help us to understand the complexities of ‘women’ past and present and to clarify some of the confusion about contemporary feminism. . . . Essential reading for philosophers, historians, and feminist theorists, especially those interested in deconstruction.

History Review of Books

Denise Riley develops an original—and often brilliant—approach to a major problem in contemporary feminist scholarship: how to combine a theoretically sophisticated deconstructive view of the category ‘women’ with political commitment and engagement.

Nancy Fraser, Northwestern University

A classic of feminist intellectual history. “Am I That Name?” is a sort of Anglo-American end of innocence for anyone who tries to speak of ‘women.’ Riley makes the word run, since she cannot make it stand still. She offers a history of how feminism has faced its paradoxical core.

Voice Literary Supplement