Toril Moi Criticism - Essay

Ellen Cronan Rose (review date February 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rose, Ellen Cronan. “Discourse and Ideology.” Women's Review of Books 3, no. 5 (February 1986): 17-18.

[In the following review, Rose evaluates the themes of Sexual/Textual Politics in the context of comparison to Gayle Greene's Making a Difference.]

It hasn't been much more than a decade since the first, ground-breaking anthologies of feminist literary criticism appeared, bravely claiming The Authority of Experience, heralding nothing short of a revolution in pedagogy, publishing and canon (re)formation. Yet three years ago as I was putting together a reading list for a course in Feminist Literary Theory, I thought I could glimpse outlines of...

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Donna Landry (essay date winter 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Landry, Donna. “The Word According to Moi: Politics and Feminist Literary Theory.Criticism 29, no. 1 (winter 1987): 119-32.

[In the following essay, Landry addresses the political implications of Sexual/Textual Politics in the context of contemporary feminist theory.]

“In our country culture has become so complex, this complexity is reflected in our literature. It takes a certain level of education to understand our novelists. The ordinary man cannot understand them. …”

… And she reeled off a list of authors, smiling smugly. It never occurred to her that those...

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Pamela McCallum (review date summer 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McCallum, Pamela. Review of Sexual/Textual Politics, by Toril Moi. Signs 12, no. 4 (summer 1987): 822-23.

[In the following review, McCallum outlines Sexual/Textual Politics, praising the work as illuminating and provocative.]

Toril Moi's Sexual/Textual Politics takes as its theme “the methods, principles and politics” (xiii) that inform contemporary feminist literary theory. This provocative and wide-ranging book is not concerned with a conventional survey of contributions to feminist critical practice. Rather, it is concerned with a critical reexamination or decoding of the numerous theoretical models and political strategies that...

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Linda Anderson (review date September 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Anderson, Linda. “Review Article: Questions of Feminist Criticism.” Prose Studies 10, no. 2 (September 1987): 225-30.

[In the following review, Anderson compares the feminist theory that informs The Kristeva Reader with that of two others, concluding that Moi's collection represents an ongoing process of questioning within feminist criticism in relation to other critical theories.]

“The problem is not only who is speaking and how she is speaking but to whom is she speaking and on behalf of whom is she speaking.” (Mary Eagleton in Feminist Literary Criticism, 5)

Literary criticism is necessarily framed (both produced and...

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Jane Marie Todd (review date fall 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Todd, Jane Marie. Review of Sexual/Textual Politics, by Toril Moi. Comparative Literature 39, no. 4 (fall 1987): 364-66.

[In the following review, Todd maintains that Sexual/Textual Politics succeeds in uncovering the theoretical assumptions of feminist theory, but finds some weaknesses in the second half of the book.]

Published as part of the New Accents series, Sexual/Textual Politics presents itself as an introduction for the general reader to “the two main approaches to feminist literary theory, the Anglo-American and the French” (xiii). This is not quite an accurate picture, however. Although Moi does indeed discuss the major texts...

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Catherine Slawy-Sutton (review date October 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Slawy-Sutton, Catherine. Review of Sexual/Textual Politics, by Toril Moi. French Review 61, no. 1 (October 1987): 101-02.

[In the following review, Slawy-Sutton praises Sexual/Textual Politics, asserting that Moi's ideas are brilliant, thought-provoking, and well-documented.]

In this stimulating and well-documented introduction to feminist literary theory [Sexual/Textual Politics], Moi posits as a core idea that no reading of literary texts is politically “innocent” and, therefore, that the political implications of feminist critical study should be made clear. She proceeds to a detailed examination of the best known Anglo-American and...

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Carol H. Smith (review date March 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Smith, Carol H. “The Literary Politics of Gender.” College English 50, no. 3 (March 1988): 318-22.

[In the following review, Smith outlines the feminist scholarship of Sexual/Textual Politics, comparing it to the political and social concerns of Making a Difference and Rewriting English, two other gender studies.]

These books [Sexual/Textual Politics, by Toril Moi, Making a Difference, by Gayle Greene and Coppelia Kahn, and Rewriting English, edited by Janet Batsleer, Tony Davis, and Rebecca O'Rourke], all part of the Methuen “New Accents” series, edited by Terence Hawkes, represent the offerings on gender in a...

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June Howard (review date spring 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Howard, June. “Feminist Differings: Recent Surveys of Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism.” Feminist Studies 14, no. 1 (spring 1988): 167-90.

[In the following review, Howard surveys various volumes of feminist thought, including Sexual/Textual Politics, praising Moi's book for showing “an extraordinary range, sophistication, and power.”]

The title of one of the books I review in this essay—Making a Difference—evokes some crucial elements of the situation of feminist literary criticism and theory at this moment. Feminist critics, like those of other persuasions, necessarily write these days in dialogue with (whether from or against)...

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Diana Fuss (essay date winter 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fuss, Diana. “Getting into History.” Arizona Quarterly 45, no. 4 (winter 1989): 95-108.

[In the following essay, Fuss discusses Sexual/Textual Politics in terms of recent feminist approaches to historicism that emphasize histories of feminism instead of feminist theories of history.]

The problem may be not how to get into history, but how to get out of it.

—Hayden White, “Getting Out of History”

While historians like Hayden White have busily been trying to get out of history, feminist literary critics have been just as energetically trying to get into...

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Elizabeth Fallaize (review date January 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fallaize, Elizabeth. Review of Feminist Theory and Simone de Beauvoir, by Toril Moi. French Studies 45, no. 1 (January 1991): 102-03.

[In the following review, Fallaize outlines the themes of Feminist Theory and Simone de Beauvoir.]

This volume [Feminist Theory and Simone de Beauvoir] has a rather curious format, drawing together an overview of Toril Moi's well-known work on feminist literary theory by Michael Payne, an interview with Moi by Laura Payne, and two new essays by Moi on Simone de Beauvoir. In the second of her essays Moi addresses the question of why it is that readers of ‘La Femme rompue’ frequently refuse to read the story in...

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Deborah Cameron (essay date fall 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cameron, Deborah. “Is There an Anglo-American Feminist Linguistics?” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 12, no. 2 (fall 1993): 223-27.

[In the following essay, Cameron contrasts different feminist theories of language in terms of Moi's linguistic analysis in Sexual/Textual Politics.]

Since I am a linguist rather than a literary critic, I want to consider the term “Anglo-American” in terms of its application to feminist theories of language: theories that arguably hold a central place in the more general project of feminist criticism. So, is there an Anglo-American feminist linguistics?1

Toril Moi, of course, implies that there...

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Susan Stanford Friedman (essay date fall 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Friedman, Susan Stanford. “Relational Epistemology and the Question of Anglo-American Feminist Criticism.” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 12, no. 2 (fall 1993): 247-61.

[In the following essay, Friedman analyzes the dialectical implications of the term “Anglo-American feminist criticism” in Sexual/Textual Politics, surveying the American feminist/academic milieu.]

Is there an Anglo-American feminist criticism? The question of this forum contains a host of other questions about the meaning of the question itself. What does “Anglo-American” mean in the context of feminist criticism? Does it imply a “school,” with a coherent system of...

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Felicity A. Nussbaum (essay date fall 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Nussbaum, Felicity A. “(White) Anglo-American Feminism in Non-US/Non-us Space.” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 12, no. 2 (fall 1993): 263-70.

[In the following essay, Nussbaum discusses the historical significance of the term “Anglo-American feminist criticism” nearly twenty years after the publication of Sexual/Textual Politics.]

That the history of Anglo-American feminism's conflict within and without itself is being written and rewritten testifies to its power as an originary moment for feminism in the 1990s. The nostalgia for the apparent solidarity of Moers and Showalter, Gilbert and Gubar, Ellmann and Millett, Jehlen and Kolodny, Chodorow and...

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Christina M. Howells (review date 6 May 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Howells, Christina M. “The Making of Beauvoir.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4753 (6 May 1994): 22.

[In the following review, Howells treats the multiple approaches to biography in Simone de Beauvoir.]

Toril Moi's subtitle [of Simone de Beauvoir: The Making of an Intellectual Woman] gives a clear indication of the substance of her work. Professor Moi examines what Simone de Beauvoir made of what had been made of her—what Sartre, in his study of Flaubert, calls the stages of “constitution” and “personalization”, or, in terms closer to Engels, how Beauvoir made history on the basis of what history had made her. And Simone de Beauvoir would...

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Deborah Knight (essay date winter 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Knight, Deborah. “The Rhetoric of Theory: Responses to Toril Moi.” New Literary History 26, no. 1 (winter 1995): 63-70.

[In the following essay, Knight analyzes the antithetical relationship between “theory” and “feminist theory,” comparing the critical practices of both kinds of thought.]

In “Women, Subjectivity, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Humanism in Feminist Film Theory,” I investigate some of the ways in which feminist (film) theory relates itself to, and distinguishes itself from, theory in general. If one imagines that feminist theory is something that is distinct from theory due to a specifically political causal history, then...

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Catherine A. Civello (review date winter 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Civello, Catherine A. Review of Simone de Beauvoir, by Toril Moi. Southern Humanities Review 30, no. 1 (winter 1996): 87-90.

[In the following review, Civello praises the insights and organization of Simone de Beauvoir.]

Toril Moi's Sexual/Textual Politics has become required reading in the area of feminist theory. Her latest work, Simone de Beauvoir: The Making of an Intellectual Woman, equals the excellence of the first, but for different reasons. The former brilliantly surveys French and Anglo-American theory, comparing both while sacrificing the heterogeneity of neither. The latter concentrates on one French theorist, Simone de...

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Meryl Altman (review date January 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Altman, Meryl. “Taking Thinking Seriously.” Women's Review of Books 13, no. 4 (January 1996): 9-10.

[In the following review, Altman surveys the project to rehabilitate Beauvoir's reputation in such works as Simone de Beauvoir.]

“But what exactly were you looking for in The Second Sex? A theory, or the voice and support of a big sister?” “What are we looking for in any philosophical text if not the theoretical support of a forerunner? Although, of course, we may not find it.”

(Hipparchia's Choice, p. 133)

The Second Sex is to Western feminism as the Bible...

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Margaret Atack (review date April 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Atack, Margaret. Review of Simone de Beauvoir, by Toril Moi. Modern Language Review 91, no. 2 (April 1996): 485-86.

[In the following review, Atack assesses the strengths of Simone de Beauvoir.]

Although the corpus devoted to her work is not large compared to that of Sartre or Camus, Simone de Beauvoir has recently been gaining the critical attention she deserves as writer and philosopher. Toril Moi's book [Simone de Beauvoir] is particularly orientated towards the latter dimension, but the interdisciplinary framework she is mobilizing also encompasses the autobiography, some of the fiction, and the life. Her aim is to analyse how Beauvoir came to...

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Elizabeth Fallaize (review date April 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fallaize, Elizabeth. Review of Simone de Beauvoir, by Toril Moi. French Studies 50, no. 2 (April 1996): 230-31.

[In the following review, Fallaize comments on the historical significance of Simone de Beauvoir in terms of its subject and its analysis.]

This eagerly-awaited book [Simone de Beauvoir] comes as a beacon in Beauvoir studies, presenting a forceful case for Beauvoir as the greatest feminist theorist of our century whilst simultaneously identifying in her intellectual and emotional trajectory a series of emblematic dilemmas which patriarchy continues to pose to intellectual women today. Thus in an illuminating investigation of the...

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M. Carmela Epright and Laura Hengehold (review date fall 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Epright, Carmela M., and Laura Hengehold. Review of Simone de Beauvoir, by Toril Moi. NWSA Journal 8, no. 3 (fall 1996): 177-80.

[In the following review, Epright and Hengehold evaluate Simone de Beauvoir in the context of rehabilitating Beauvoir's critical reputation.]

Until very recently, studies of Simone de Beauvoir have presented the French thinker either as the lifelong confidant, editor, and companion of Jean-Paul Sartre or as an early (and, some argue, dated and privileged) feminist and author of The Second Sex. Although Beauvoir's own philosophical writings include two monographs and numerous essays, articles, and letters, her...

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Catherine R. Montfort (review date October 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Montfort, Catherine R. Review of Simone de Beauvoir, by Toril Moi. French Review 70, no. 1 (October 1996): 125-26.

[In the following review, Montfort provides a brief overview of the three main subsections of Moi's Simone de Beauvoir, concluding that the book is a powerful and significant contribution to feminist cultural history.]

The normal posthumous reevaluation of the work of Simone de Beauvoir has been eagerly anticipated, in part because of startling new facts about her private life unveiled in her Journal de Guerre, her Lettres à Sartre (1990), and Bianca Lamblin's Mémoires d'une jeune fille dérangée (1993). Lynne...

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Rey Chow (essay date fall 1999-2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Chow, Rey. “When Whiteness Feminizes … : Some Consequences of a Supplementary Logic.” Differences 11, no. 3 (fall 1999-2000): 137-68.

[In the following essay, Chow analyzes the effects of the rhetorical strategies used in Sexual/Textual Politics on the book's premises.]


Since the introduction of poststructuralist theory into the English-speaking academic world, a point of tension between feminists sympathetic toward poststructuralism and feminists hostile toward it has been the controversy over the status of the term...

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Lorna Sage (review date 18 May 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sage, Lorna. “Mother's Back.” London Review of Books 22, no. 10 (18 May 2000): 37-8.

[In the following review, Sage contrasts Moi's early feminist theories with the themes of What Is a Woman?]

Feminism is fiftysomething if you start counting from The Second Sex, and, like Toril Moi, a lot of academic women are taking stock. The good news is that wherever positive discrimination in favour of men has been suspended, there are many more women in universities than there used to be, as students, teachers and even tenured professors. What's been lost is the sense of connection with utopian politics. Part of the fiftyish feeling is to do with having to...

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Diana Knight (review date September 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Knight, Diana. Review of What Is a Woman?, by Toril Moi. Modern Language Notes 115, no. 4 (September 2000): 827-30.

[In the following review, Knight evaluates the themes of What Is a Woman?]

Faced with the less than warm American reception of her Sexual/Textual Politics (1985), Toril Moi always denied that she had set out to advance the claims of high French feminism (abstract, theoretical) at the expense of its more lowly Anglo-American counterpart (pragmatic, empirical). Rather, she thought she had written a critique of both in the light of a politically committed materialist feminism. Nevertheless, a number of American...

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Meryl Altman (review date October 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Altman, Meryl. “Reality Check.” Women's Review of Books 18, no. 1 (October 2000): 6-7.

[In the following review, Altman assesses the themes and style of What Is a Woman?, noting the relevance of Moi's readings of Beauvoir's thought to current feminist theory.]

What we need today more than ever is a feminism committed to seeking justice and equality for women, in the most ordinary sense of the word. … That feminism, I am happy to say, exists. Moreover, usually even the most anti-metaphysical feminist theorists support it in practice. No feminist I know is incapable of understanding what it means to say that the Taliban are...

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Mechthild E. Nagel (review date summer 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Nagel, Mechthild E. Review of What Is a Woman?, by Toril Moi. NWSA Journal 13, no. 2 (summer 2001): 213-17.

[In the following review, Nagel criticizes the politics of What Is a Woman?]

The three books under review [What Is a Woman? by Toril Moi, Whiteness: Feminist Philosophical Reflections, edited by Chris Cuomo and Kim Hall, and Shadowboxing: Representations of Black Feminist Politics, by Joy James] highlight the diversity of commitments to feminist “practice” in contemporary U.S. academia. Moi's liberal feminist analysis argues that the definition of woman is at stake in much of feminist theory, and she is intent on showing...

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