In Simone de Beauvoir: The Making of an Intellectual Woman, Toril Moi shows how Simone de Beauvoir became the leading feminist thinker and emblematic intellectual woman of the twentieth century. Blending biography with literary criticism, feminist theory, and historical and social analysis, this book provides a completely original analysis of Beauvoir's education and formation as an intellectual.
In The Second Sex, Beauvoir shows that we constantly make something of what the world tries to make of us. By reconstructing the social and political world in which Beauvoir became the author of The Second Sex, and by showing how Beauvoir reacted to the pressures of that world, Moi applies Beauvoir's ideas to Beauvoir's own life.
Ranging from an investigation of French educational institutions to reflections on the relationship between freedom and flirtation, this book uncovers the conflicts and difficulties of an intellectual woman in the middle of the twentieth century. Through her analysis of Beauvoir's life and work Moi shows how difficult it was - and still is - for women to be taken seriously as intellectuals. Two major chapters on The Second Sex provide a theoretical and a political analysis of that epochal text. The last chapter turns to Beauvoir's love life, her depressions and her fear of ageing.
In a major new introduction, Moi discusses Beauvoir's letters to her lovers Jacques-Laurent Bost and Nelson Algren, as well as her recently published student diaries from 1926/27.
Despite her life with Jean-Paul Sartre as his mistress and disciple, de Beauvoir developed into an ``emblematic'' figure of intellectual feminism at the dawn of the 20th-century women's movement. She transcended existentialist influences, especially in her nonfiction work, to discuss feminine character and role, which is the main theme in her writings. Moi (Duke Univ.) therefore describes her as the founder of materialist feminism. This mostly biographical study relies firsthand on characters, places, and documents relevant to de Beauvoir and her feminist thought in particular. Most sections of the book were previously published separately; thus, little material is unknown to the specialist. The philosophical analysis is accessible to the average reader, however. Recommended for women's studies collections and large academic libraries.-- Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, N.Y.