Katherine Murray Millett (MIHL-iht) earned a B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1956; studied at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, for two years; and received a Ph.D. in English and comparative literature from Columbia University in 1970. Her published dissertation, Sexual Politics, which sold eighty thousand copies, is regarded as one of the first works of literary criticism from a feminist perspective. In it Millett points out that the work of such writers as D. H. Lawrence, Norman Mailer, and Henry Miller is patently antagonistic to women; by contrast, she extols the virtues of the French writer and critic Jean Genet, whose work, she argues, reverses harmful social stereotypes.
Much of Millett’s work can be divided as being either autobiographical or political. Flying, the first of her autobiographical works, describes a point in Millett’s life when, after the success of Sexual Politics, she had become a somewhat unwilling spokeswoman for the feminist movement. In this work she discusses the the ramifications of her celebrity and of her having acknowledged her lesbianism, and she describes her search for identity and fulfillment as an artist and as a human being. Flying, even more so than Millett’s other autobiographical works, immerses its readers in the author’s life. The style, which often approaches stream-of-consciousness, is characterized by short, staccato, allusive sentences that seem to mimic the actual process of her thoughts about the issues of her life.
In Sita, an autobiographical work that is more personal and less political than Flying, Millett frankly describes her desperate, ultimately unsuccessful attempts to preserve a relationship with an older woman named Sita, who seems to be losing interest in her.
The Loony-Bin Trip describes what happens when Millett stops taking lithium for a manic-depressive disorder. Her family, friends, and the young women...
(The entire section is 810 words.)