Readers can find contributions from some of the most reputed Beauvoir scholars, but the collection also introduces a number of younger academics. With this combination of voices, the Companion covers old ground as well as demonstrating the changing interests of scholars. On the other hand, there seems to be far greater interest in topics like biology and race than in earlier collections, while conversely less attention for phenomenology, socialisation, and sexuality.
Now, often these kinds of reviews step through essays section by section. Unfortunately, the articles in the Companion are rather indifferently distributed to sections and parts in a way that often obscures rather than draws out main themes and connections and debates between papers. Moreover, while Laura Hengehold introduces the volume with a brief overview of each chapter in turn, she neglects to provide an overarching picture or satisfactory discussion of the central themes and connections.
For this review I will therefore discuss the contributions by their themes and the debates generated between articles in the collection, rather than according to their place in the Companion. William Wilkerson, on the other hand, compares the ideas of freedom and authenticity in Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty, arguing that Beauvoir is ultimately more sensitive to the difficulties subjects face in everyday life in acting freely and authentically. Much ink has been spilled on the relationship between Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.
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Yet the topic must be dealt with, and several articles in the Companion do so. The article by Margaret Simons which I also mention below accords with this view, claiming that Beauvoir originated many of the ideas Sartre later took up in his philosophical works.
Sandra Reineke provides a helpful overview of the state of French feminism prior to The Second Sex , written twenty years before the popular French feminist movements began. Beauvoir has had a varied reception over time in France. Turning to more recent times, Karen Vintges challenges the way Elisabeth Badinter and other French liberal feminists cite Beauvoir in support of their stance against Islamic veiling.
Though she concludes that the new translation is more philosophically adequate, Grosholz calls for a complete scholarly edition of The Second Sex, complete with full citations and elaborations. Grosholz provides a detailed plan for such a work and I encourage anyone who is interested to contact her to offer their assistance. The topic of biology and its relation to bodily existence is treated in many of the essays. As well as these explicit articles, the theme of biology also returns in contributions on motherhood, childhood, and race. It is thus far more prominent here than in previous collections, indicating that there is a growing interest in this topic.
This is perhaps related to the growth of new materialist and feminist science studies discussions of biology in the past twenty years. The contributions in the Companion provide a starting point for an important dialogue about the relevance of Beauvoir for these new fields of research. Instead, these three authors highlight the ambiguity of motherhood in The Second Sex as well as in some of her fictional and autobiographical writings.
Beauvoir is often criticised for drawing an analogy between racial and gender-based oppression in a way that excludes multiple oppression and the insights of intersectionality. Interestingly, Sullivan echoes Groenhout in referring to Anne Fausto-Sterling, this time to her work on how race comes to exist physiologically. In an enlightening discussion of literary techniques and the history of the novel, Meryl Altman argues that Beauvoir must be recognised as an important novelist with a specific literary approach designed to convey lived experience, one which she employed even in parts of The Second Sex.
See a Problem?
The essays in the Companion cover a vast swathe of topics in contemporary feminist theory and Beauvoir scholarship. As mentioned earlier, the main drawback of the collection is that the arrangement of chapters sometimes seems arbitrary and often obscures connections and debates occurring between the various contributions. Hopefully this review amends some of this lack.
It is also worth noting that there is an extensive index that enables researchers or students looking for particular topics to find their way around the text. One of the more unique features of the Companion is its inclusion of contributions with diverging views on the same topic. As another example, while Gines, Boni, Collins and Sullivan see Beauvoir as lacking sensitivity to intersectionality especially concerning the race-gender intersection , Penelope Deutscher qualifies this assessment by arguing that Beauvoir did employ a kind of intersectional analysis with respect to gender, class and age.
Such disagreements can be important and productive, and their inclusion in the collection certainly serves to give readers a sense of the lay of the contested fields. Despite its decidedly wide scope, there are some topics missing from the Companion. And though the discussion of the reception of Beauvoir in the French context was enlightening, it would have been interesting to have had similar pieces on her reception in other places and times.
Some chapters do summarise the past literature: Grosholz surveys the debates about the English translation of The Second Sex , Sullivan gives an excellent review on literature about Beauvoir and race, and the articles on motherhood nicely summarise the field. That being said, the collection for the most part builds on and extends previous Beauvoir scholarship. A Companion to Simone de Beauvoir is thus a worthy, indeed essential, addition to any library wishing to stay up to date with Beauvoir scholarship and provides some useful texts for students and researchers alike.
Bauer, Nancy. In: Margaret Simons ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier.
Card, Claudia ed. The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir.
Why a Collection of Simone de Beauvoir’s Love Letters Was Just Sold to Yale
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fallaize, Elizabeth ed. Simone de Beauvoir: A critical reader. London: Routledge. Gothlin, Eva. Reading Simone de Beauvoir with Martin Heidegger. In: Claudia Card ed. Grosholz, Emily ed. The Legacy of Simone de Beauvoir. Dordrecht: Springer. Simons, Margaret ed. Feminist interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir. Vintges, Karen. The second sex and philosophy. Publisher Page. Nietzsche wrote that a philosophy is always the biography of the philosopher. In this sense, the explosion of such genre as feminist dystopias should be seen as the creative response to misogynous and antifeminist attitudes.
The tentative list of topics may include, but is not limited by the following themes:. Proposals should be sent to Dr. Proposals must include a title, an abstract words and a short bio max. The responses to the proposals will be sent by September 15 at the latest.
Simone de Beauvoir and her legacy
There are no conference fees, however, the participants are expected to cover their own expenses for travel and accommodation in Vilnius. The scandal sparked by the work propelled it to the top of sales in France: 22, copies were sold in the first weeks, and over a million in less than forty years. In Europe, the book was of particular interest to Francophile circles close to existentialism, with whom Sartre and de Beauvoir met during their travels in connection with their increasing number of interviews and conferences.
The political dividing-lines present in France went beyond its borders: Christian intellectuals refused the atheist logic of existentialism and the shattering of traditional sexual morality, while communists criticized it—as they did any form of feminism—for its idealistic, individualistic, and bourgeois vision. The book was republished three times and sold 14, copies in five years. The critiques, of which there were few, were dominated by faith-based arguments rejecting the challenge to the essence of femininity and maternity, or to marital commitment. However, in both French- and German-speaking Switzerland, the reception of the work was positive and even enthusiastic.
It was by way of a translation from the United States—on the initiative of the New York editor Blanche Knopf , who promoted the work of many French intellectuals—that English speakers in Europe gained access to the book. Its translation was entrusted to Howard Parshley , a retired professor of zoology, specialist in reproduction, and eminent critic of books about sex. At the initiative of the publishers, who were mindful of helping the average reader, and with little help from de Beauvoir, who disregarded his correspondence, he stripped the text of its philosophical content.
The Second Sex was published in with a naked woman seen from behind on the cover.
The Briton Jonathan Cape purchased this American translation the same year, and published it immediately. In Italy, it was not until that Il Saggiatore published the work under the title Il secondo sesso , while the Vatican put it on the Index in Banned by the dictatorships of the Iberian peninsula, it began to circulate secretly in via Argentina thanks to the philosophy publisher Psique. After an initial refusal, the Spanish Ministry of Information and Tourism authorized the translation of the essay into Catalan in , by the publishing house Edicions In Eastern Europe, where gender equality was supposed to have been achieved, censorship was severe.
In Yugoslavia, the Serbo-Croatian translation Drugipol from the late s was not published until , but met with success.