English 456: C20 Criticism and Theory

Questions on Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949)

Al Drake | Cyber Cafe | Thurs. 6-7 | 714-434-1612

Note for Spring 2003 Participants: I will fix page numbers to accord with the Norton Anthology, but meantime here are some questions.

*It is important to maintain clear distinctions between de Beauvoir's own positions and the views she attributes to others--often in this selection she characterizes other authors' views about women.

1. From ___, excluding Stendhal, what does de Beauvoir say is wrong with the way certain male writers deal with women? What does their handling of women reveal about the male writers themselves?

2. What makes Stendhal a better writer on women than the others? Does de Beauvoir nonetheless criticize even Stendhal to some extent? If so, why?

3. What is "the myth of woman," as de Beauvoir articulates it from ___?

4. To what use have male-oriented societies and individual males put this myth, especially as regards the alleged mysteriousness of women? See ___.

5. Why, according to de Beauvoir from ___, is it futile to define "what one is"? In other words, what is misguided about making statements about one's supposed inner essence? What is in fact responsible for one person's seeming mysterious to another person?

6. According to de Beauvoir from ___, what should relations between the sexes be like? You may want to trace this position of hers from earlier parts of our selection as well as look at 999-1000.

7. Does de Beauvoir seem hopeful about our achieving the kind of relations she believes would be best? The last page or so of the selection may provide some material here. Also, given that de Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex over half a century ago, would you say that there has been a significant improvement in the way men and women relate to one another?

*The reading selections were from Adams, Hazard. Critical Theory Since Plato. Rev. ed. New York: Harcourt, 1992. 993-1000. (Ch. X Summary and selection from Ch. XI. of The Second Sex.)