This second of four volumes, moves quickly from feudalism to the French revolution. Firmly rooted in more modern history, novelist and scholar French (The Women's Room) writes less theoretically and more concretely than in volume 1. Beautifully sourced and referenced, the book shows, for instance, that in the 1400s Protestant and Catholic theologians transformed marriage from a private arrangement "into a complex public ceremony" that granted men more power. Women came to have less and less say in when and whom they would wed. Discussing the colonization of Africa, French illustrates how traditional, more egalitarian African gender roles were altered under European property-based, Christian social structures. French also begins to focus on how female sexuality was interpreted by a male-dominated culture. Marie Antoinette, for example, was convicted and executed not only for supporting her husband but for sexually corrupting the dauphin and thus "the body politic." Filled with fascinating detail and powerful arguments, this second volume of French's massive and valuable work is an example of scholarship and clear vision. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Eve to Dawn, A History of Women in the World, Volume II: The Masculine Mystique: From Feudalism to the French Revolutionby Marilyn French
Drawing upon fifteen years of collaboration with a team of researchers and prominent historians, the volume opens with
The Masculine Mystique, the second volume of Marilyn French's monumental, readable, and unprecedented history of women, analyzes and evaluates the lives of women in societies around the world between feudal times and the French Revolution.
Drawing upon fifteen years of collaboration with a team of researchers and prominent historians, the volume opens with fascinating chapters comparing medieval Europe and Japan, disparate cultures which nevertheless shared traditions of male dominated aggression and competitiveness. French then shows how, in Europe, this tradition led to colonialism and imperialism, and the horrific subjugation of indigenous societies, just as women were subjugated in the conquerors' home countries. As French makes clear in this impassioned women's history, only with the French Revolution did the political force women exerted powerfully change the course of history.
French's history of women, originally published in Canada in 2003, takes the reader on a tour of the global subordination of women from prehistory to the present. In the foreword, Margaret Atwood declares that reading this critical compendium will incite women to feel "horror and growing anger" as they begin to grasp the true nature and scope of their oppression by men. French (The Women's Room) endeavors to demonstrate how the origins of civilization, the state, and patriarchy are all one and the same. Though some may accuse her of offering an oversimplified account of what amounts to 10,000 years of human social evolution, this fundamental claim is one that no social scientist would deny, and it is further bolstered by French's use of primary sources whenever possible. She also draws on extensive academic research in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and history to argue that a matriarchal civilization has never really existed. She notes that wherever hierarchy and social stratification exist, with a few sourced exceptions, those with all the power and property have almost always been male.
As in feminist historian Gerda Lerner's groundbreaking The Creation of Patriarchy, French sets out to account for what happened. While Lerner focused only on the ancient antecedents of Western civilization, French also looks at state formation in China, India, Mexico, and Peru as well as addressing the worldviews of the Greeks, Romans, and the entire Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. The second volume follows with an analysis of the patriarchal social practices of Europe from the Dark Ages into the Enlightenment, including chapters on how the domination of womenessentially set the stage for European imperialism and subsequent domination of native peoples in Africa and the Americas. French gives us grand theory at its best, wading through copious amounts of scholarly data on the histories of civilizations and offering up, in readable prose, an important synthesis of what an earlier generation of feminists called "herstory." Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.
"Filled with fascinating detail and powerful arguments, this second volume of French's massive and valuable work is an example of scholarship and clear vision."
"French gives us grand theory at its best, wading through copious amounts of scholarly data on the histories of civilizations and offering up, in readable prose, an important synthesis. . . . Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries."
Meet the Author
Marilyn French (1929-2009) was born in New York. She received her PhD from Harvard and taught English at Hofstra, Harvard, and Holy Cross College. She is best known for her novels, The Women's Room and In the Name of Friendship, and her non-fiction works, including Beyond Power, The War against Women and her memoir, A Season in Hell.
Margaret Atwood's most popular works include The Handmaid's Tale (1983) and The Blind Assassin (2000). She was born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1939, and received her undergraduate degree from Victoria University, along with a master's degree from Radcliffe College.
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