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Skeptical Feminism

Activist Theory, Activist Practice

2003
Author:

Carolyn Dever

Skeptical Feminism

A clarion call for a new approach to feminist thought

In this major work, Carolyn Dever considers the ambivalence or hostility many feminists feel toward theory, arguing that a fundamental skepticism toward abstraction has been vital to the development of the movement. Powerful, illuminating, and galvanizing, Skeptical Feminism traces the strategies the women’s movement has used to make theory matter—and points toward a new, politically engaged approach to feminist thought.

Skeptical Feminism is the first book to intellectually explore an extraordinarily important topic: the seemingly inherent tension between feminist theory making and popular feminism. Dever does a masterful job relating the significance of the feminist theory struggles to the history of feminism.

Nan D. Hunter, coauthor of Sexuality, Gender, and the Law

In this major work, Carolyn Dever considers the ambivalence or outright hostility many feminists feel toward theory, arguing that a fundamental skepticism toward abstraction has been vital to the development of the movement.

Dever analyzes the politics of feminist theory by looking at its popular, activist, and academic modes, from the liberation movements of the 1970s to gender and queer studies now. Using key moments in the history of modern feminism-consciousness-raising, best-selling books like Sexual Politics by Kate Millett and The Women’s Room by Marilyn French, and media representations of women’s struggle for equality—Dever outlines heated debates over psychoanalysis, sexuality, and activism.

The abstract and the grounded converge in discussions about the relationship between the feminist mind and the feminist body and in the preoccupation, both uneasy and utopian, with lesbian sexuality. Powerful, illuminating, and galvanizing, Skeptical Feminism traces the strategies the women’s movement has used to make theory matter—and points toward a new, politically engaged approach to feminist thought.


Skeptical Feminism

Carolyn Dever is associate professor of English and acting director of women’s studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Death and the Mother from Dickens to Freud (1998) and coeditor (with Margaret Cohen) of The Literary Channel (2002).

Skeptical Feminism

Skeptical Feminism is the first book to intellectually explore an extraordinarily important topic: the seemingly inherent tension between feminist theory making and popular feminism. Dever does a masterful job relating the significance of the feminist theory struggles to the history of feminism.

Nan D. Hunter, coauthor of Sexuality, Gender, and the Law

It makes a substantial contribution to the recent effort to understand the history of second-wave feminism.

Ellen Peel, San Francisco State University

While this is a very controversial subject in the progressive community, it is one that must be addressed and worked through in order to create the alliances necessary for progressive social change to occur. Bravo, Ms. Dever, for a very powerful and necessary piece of work.

Altar Magazine

Skeptical Feminism is a brief, elegant study of mostly U.S., mostly literary feminist theory, from the Women’s Liberation movement of the late 1960s through the academic feminisms of the mid 1990s. Because it is capacious in its sympathies and nuanced in its readings, I predict that Skeptical Feminism will be taught in many, many U.S., Canadian, and British Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and literature departments.

Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature

She values theory as constitutive of feminism in even its most practical aspects.

Women’s Review of Books

Skeptical Feminism makes a substantial contribution to the recent effort to understand the history of second-wave feminism.

CLIO

Skeptical Feminism

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

Introduction Feminism, in Theory

1 The Future of an Ideal Consciousness and the Radical Vision of Women’s Liberation
2 The Activist Unconscious Feminism and Psychoanalysis
3 The Feminist Body Politic Sexuality’s Domestic Incarnation
4 The Feminist Abject Death, Fiction, and Theory
5 Obstructive Behavior Dykes in the Mainstream of Feminist Theory

Conclusion Left Justified

Notes
Bibliography

Index