Germaine Greer Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A leading feminist, Germaine Greer has made a career of speaking, writing, and teaching English literature. She is the daughter of an English Royal Air Force officer who suffered “battle shock” in World War II, and her Australian mother seemed unable to deal with the demands of motherhood. Greer earned a B.A. and an M.A. in Australia and a Ph.D. at Cambridge University, England (on a scholarship). She was married once (in 1968, for about three weeks) to Paul du Feu (the first male nude centerfold for the British Cosmopolitan), and in the early 1990’s she lived in Europe and had a number of godchildren. She had no children of her own.

Greer has written for numerous publications, including The Sunday Times, Harper’s, The Guardian, The New Republic, and Esquire. In the 1970’s and 1980’s she appeared on television talk shows frequently, where she was touted as a beautiful, vivacious symbol of the “sexual revolution” and a “feminist even men could like.” In 1971, at the height of the feminist argument that alarmed so many men, Greer joined in a debate with Norman Mailer (a contemporary writer and antifeminist who has been known to recommend violence against women to “keep them in line”). Greer founded the Tulsa Center for the Study of Women’s Literature, one of the first women’s study programs in the United States.

Greer is known for writing The Female Eunuch and the later Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility, the first considered a classic in the early feminist movement, flamboyantly advocating sexual freedom while dismissing traditional attitudes toward women’s sexuality, and the latter a renunciation of the same sexual permissiveness in favor of chastity and arranged marriages. Greer uses the concept of the “female eunuch” as a metaphor for the lives of women all over the world; the term is suggestive of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s view of women as castrated males (sexless men called eunuchs). Greer employs this image to clarify her point that for too long and too often women have allowed themselves to be mere impotent imitations or shadows of men—with no rights, no legal status, and no voice but an echo of what men...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Britain, Ian. Once an Australian: Journeys with Barry Humphries, Clive James, Germaine Greer, and Robert Hughes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. These four Australians are writers and performers who left their country in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. Britain examines the reasons for their expatriatism and which aspects of their Australian identity they retained.

Castro, Ginette. American Feminism: A Contemporary History. Translated by Elizabeth Loverde-Bagwell. New York: New York University Press, 1990. Provides an eminently accessible introduction to the range and varieties of American feminism. Chapter 5, in which Greer is treated as an advocate of feminist androgyny, is especially relevant.

Cohen, Marcia. The Sisterhood: The True Story of the Women Who Changed the World. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988. A biographical and historical record of the major forces in the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s that reveals the humanity as well as the philosophical differences of these women.

Greer, Germaine. Daddy, We Hardly Knew You. New York: Viking Penguin, 1989. An investigation into the life of her father after he dies in 1983. Sheds light on Greer’s skeptical attitude toward the idealized nuclear family.

Greer, Germaine. “My Mailer Problem.” In The Madwoman’s Underclothes: Essays and Occasional Writings. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986. Greer describes her appearance in a televised debate with Norman Mailer.

Mailer, Norman. The Prisoner of Sex. Boston: Little, Brown, 1971. An antifeminist book in which Greer and other feminists appear.

Plante, David. Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three. New York: Atheneum, 1983. Plante reveals personal and professional details of his friendship with Greer, focusing on her home in Italy and her work in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the Women’s Center. A colorful portrait of a complicated, forceful, yet believable and compassionate woman.

Wallace, Christine. Germaine Greer, Untamed Shrew. New York: Faber & Faber, 1999. This unauthorized biography portrays Greer as talented and daring but also as misogynistic and hypocritical. A review called the book “careful, well-informed surprisingly fair.”