Kate Millett Additional Biography

Biography

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...

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Biography

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

Author Profile

Writer and sculptor Kate Millett was an early member of National Organization for Women (NOW) and was the first chair of NOW’s education committee (1965-1968). She became a nationally known leader of the women’s movement after the publication of Sexual Politics.

Sexual Politics analyzes misogyny in the works of several prominent male writers who present underdeveloped female characters as sexual objects. The book also includes a critique of the ways in which society has created and reinforced the artificial and dichotomous paradigms of “masculinity” and “femininity,” with power and control vested wholly in the masculine. According to Millett, this paradigm is so socially ingrained that “[m]any women do not recognize themselves as discriminated against; no better proof could be found of the totality of their conditioning.”

Millett’s deeply personal autobiographical works, including Flying (1974), Sita (1977), and A.D. (1995), reveal the difficulties she has faced in her public and private life, including the furor following her public declaration of lesbianism, which became emblematic of the split among feminists during the early 1970’s.

She has also written The Basement: Meditations on a Case of Human Sacrifice (1979), about female victims of violence and the motives of both observers and perpetrators of this violence; Going to Iran (1982), about the repression of Muslim women in Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini; The Loony-Bin Trip (1990), about mental illness and institutions; and The Politics of Cruelty: An Essay on the Literature of Political Imprisonment (1994), about political torture.

Bibliography

Clough, Patricia Ticine. “The Hybrid Criticism of Patriarchy: Rereading Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics.” Sociological Quarterly 35, no. 3 (1994): 473-486. A reassessment of the underlying premises of Millett’s work, suggesting that literature does not reproduce society as transparently as Millett assumes.

Molina, Caroline. “Paranoid Discourse in the Lesbian Text: Kate Millett’s Sita.” Literature and Psychology 40, nos. 1/2 (1994): 108-117. Millett’s work is discussed in the context of the literary representation of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century.

Perreault, Jeanne Martha. Writing Selves: Contemporary Feminist Autobiography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995. Millett is one of several authors studied in an analysis of how women’s autobiography differs from men’s, and how feminist autobiography differs from both.

Weltman, Sharon Aronofsky. “Mythic Language and Gender Subversion: The Case of Ruskin’s Athena.” Nineteenth Century Literature 52, no. 3 (1997): 350-371. Reassesses Millett’s attack on Ruskin’s essay “Of Queens’ Gardens” in Sexual Politics.

Bibliography

Clough, Patricia Ticine. “The Hybrid Criticism of Patriarchy: Rereading Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics.” Sociological Quarterly 35, no. 3 (1994): 473-486. A reassessment of the underlying premises of Millett’s work, suggesting that literature does not reproduce society as transparently as Millett assumes.

Molina, Caroline. “Paranoid Discourse in the Lesbian Text: Kate Millett’s Sita.” Literature and Psychology 40, nos. 1/2 (1994): 108-117. Millett’s work is discussed in the context of the literary representation of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century.

Perreault, Jeanne Martha. Writing Selves: Contemporary Feminist Autobiography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995. Millett is one of several authors studied in an analysis of how women’s autobiography differs from men’s, and how feminist autobiography differs from both.

Weltman, Sharon Aronofsky. “Mythic Language and Gender Subversion: The Case of Ruskin’s Athena.” Nineteenth Century Literature 52, no. 3 (1997): 350-371. Reassesses Millett’s attack on Ruskin’s essay “Of Queens’ Gardens” in Sexual Politics.