The Gender of Modernity by Rita Felski

By Rita Felski

In an leading edge and invigorating exploration of the advanced kin among ladies and the fashionable, Rita Felski demanding situations traditional male-centered theories of modernity. She additionally calls into query these feminist views that experience both demonized the fashionable as inherently patriarchal, in any other case assumed an easy competition among men's and women's stories of the trendy global. Combining cultural heritage with cultural concept, and concentrating on the fin de siècle, Felski examines the gendered meanings of such notions as nostalgia, intake, female writing, the preferred elegant, evolution, revolution, and perversion. Her method is comparative and interdisciplinary, masking a large choice of texts from the English, French, and German traditions: sociological conception, realist and naturalist novels, decadent literature, political essays and speeches, sexological discourse, and mawkish renowned fiction. female and male writers from Simmel, Zola, Sacher-Masoch, and Rachilde to Marie Corelli, Wilde, and Olive Schreiner come less than Felski's scrutiny as she exposes the numerous and infrequently contradictory connections among femininity and modernity. noticeable during the lens of Felski's discerning eye, the final fin de siècle offers illuminating parallels with our personal. And Felski's prepared research of the matrix of modernism bargains wanted perception into the experience of cultural predicament attributable to postmodernism.

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Here modernism’s emphasis on a rigorously experimental, self-conscious, and ironic aesthetic is interpreted as embodying a hostile and defensive response to the seductive lures of emotion, desire, and the body. Other feminists have pursued a different line of argument, noting that many of the key features of modernist experimentation suggestively coincide with the feminist critique of phallogocentrism. Suzette Henke, for example, draws on the work of Julia Kristeva to read the work of James Joyce as a subversive challenge to the structures of phallocentric discourse, unleashing a plurality of signifiers that articulate the ambiguities of a libidinal desire aligned with the maternal body.

It is man who constantly seeks to externalize himself in the act of performance, and who thereby exemplifies the principles of knowledge, becoming, and volition that typify the spirit of the modern. Man is defined as the transgressor of limits, impelled toward an expansive overreaching in restless pursuit of a significance that is never granted but always deferred. This Faustian striving is identified by Simmel as the ultimate motor of social development, even as it unleashes processes of change which in turn acquire their own independent momentum.

5 Insisting that social reality could no longer be grasped as an ordered totality, he sought to explore the fluctuating and often fragmentary patterns and forms of modern experience. This proclivity made him an object of criticism in his lifetime, but it has rendered him highly attractive to a postmodern trend within present-day cultural theory often skeptical of totalizing frameworks and strongly interested in the aesthetic dimensions of modern society. Recent years have witnessed a dramatic resurgence of interest in Simmel’s work; he is currently acclaimed as the sociologist of modernity, or alternatively as a postmodernist or deconstructive thinker avant la lettre.

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