Speaking Through the Mask: Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Social Identity

Overview

Hannah Arendt was famously resistant to both psychoanalysis and feminism. Nonetheless, psychoanalytic feminist theory can offer a new interpretive strategy for deconstructing her equally famous opposition between the social and the political.Supplementing critical readings of Arendt's most significant texts (including The Human Condition, On Revolution, Rahel Varnhagen, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Eichmann in Jerusalem, and The Life of the Mind) with the insights of contemporary psychoanalytic, feminist, and ...
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Overview

Hannah Arendt was famously resistant to both psychoanalysis and feminism. Nonetheless, psychoanalytic feminist theory can offer a new interpretive strategy for deconstructing her equally famous opposition between the social and the political.Supplementing critical readings of Arendt's most significant texts (including The Human Condition, On Revolution, Rahel Varnhagen, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Eichmann in Jerusalem, and The Life of the Mind) with the insights of contemporary psychoanalytic, feminist, and social theorists, Norma Claire Moruzzi reconstitutes the relationship in Arendt's texts between constructed social identity and political agency. Moruzzi uses Julia Kristeva's writings on abjection to clarify the textual dynamic in Arendt's work that constructs the social as a natural threat; Joan Riviere's and Mary Ann Doane's work on feminine masquerade amplify the theoretical possibilities implicit in Arendt's own discussion of the public, political mask. In a bold interdisciplinary synthesis, Moruzzi develops the social applications of a concept (the mask) Arendt had described as limited to the strictly political realm: a new conception of (political) agency as (social) masquerade, traced through the marginal but emblematic textual figures who themselves enact the politics of social identity.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Speaking through the Mask is a thoughtful, closely reasoned work. . . It succeeds as a thoroughgoing feminist reading of Arendt, written as much to show how feminist theory challenges Arendt's blind spots as to illustrate what Arendt has to teach feminism. . . This is an original and important book, one that manages at once to talk back to Hannah Arendt and to make it plain why so many feminists are talking about her."—Lisa J. Disch, University of Minnesota. The Journal of Politics, Vol. 64, No. 2, May 2002

". . . complex and interesting. . . "—Choice, November 2001, Vol. 39, No. 3

"Moruzzi provides a compelling case for using feminist psychoanalytic insights to enrich Arendt's concept of political agency."—Patricia Moynagh, Women and Politics, 25:1,2—2003.

"Norma Claire Moruzzi's recent book contributes significantly to the emergent and increasingly sophisticated literature on Hannah Arendt. . . . Speaking Through the Mask is to be commended for its originality, for the author's theoretical lens offers a viable counter to Arendt's dismissal of the social realm."—Mary Caputi, California State University, American Political Science Association, March 2003

"Every page of Speaking through the Mask is instructive and thought-provoking. This is not just a highly original reading of Hannah Arendt, but also a profoundly moving and useful meditation on the recurrent dangers and temptations of essentialized notions of race, ethnicity, nation, and gender."—John McGowan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Focusing on the notion of the 'masquerade,' as developed by Joan Riviere, and working within the framework of Julia Kristeva's psychoanalytic theory, Norma Claire Moruzzi offers a highly original and very provocative reading of Arendt's major works. Anybody interested in political theory, feminist criticism, and Jewish studies will have to take note of this book."—Liliane Weissberg, Joseph B. Glossberg Term Professor in the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania

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Product Details

Table of Contents

A Story
Arendt Works Cited and Abbreviations Used
1 The Human Condition as Embodied 1
2 The Social Question 14
3 The Mask and Masquerade 26
4 Speaking as Rahel : A Feminine Masquerade 48
5 Finding a Voice : The Author and the Other in The Origins of Totalitarianism 61
6 The Charlatan : Benjamin Disraeli 67
7 Race and Economics 86
8 The Banality of Evil 114
9 Politics as Masquerade 136
Notes 155
Index 203
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