Cover: The Feminist Difference in PAPERBACK

The Feminist Difference

Literature, Psychoanalysis, Race, and Gender

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$32.50 • £26.95 • €29.50

ISBN 9780674001916

Publication Date: 05/19/2000


224 pages


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The Feminist Difference contains first-rate essays on the Romantic poet Marceline Desbordes-Valmore and on female muteness as a poetic ideal; Johnson raises good questions, too, on Petrarch and the Petrarchan tradition.—Brooke Allen, The New York Times Book Review

The Feminist Difference is testimony that the dialogues between difference feminists and psychoanalysis is ongoing and vigorous. In this marvelous collection of essays, Johnson…demonstrates that the interrogation of difference is crucial to dialogue. Moreover, the difference/equality binary is exposed as a device for forestalling dialogue. For Johnson, difference is not a symptom but the very soul of feminism. She reads the contradictions, ambivalences, and impasses within feminism as indications of a revitalizing transformative process… [Her] exquisite meditations on literature, psychoanalysis, race, and gender offer compelling evidence that literary discourse is not merely theoretical nor indifferent to social and cultural inequalities. Literature is the place where the impasses of feminist theory and thought can be guarded from the anxieties that lead to theraputic closure.—Louise J. Kaplan, The Boston Sunday Globe

[These] ten essays make fascinating bedfellows of Toni Morrison, Sigmund Freud, John Keats and Jane Campion, Rene Descartes and Patricia Williams, each demonstrating and interrogating how differences across texts, histories, and cultures enable critical reading of ‘more than one story at a time.’—S. Bryant, Choice

This acute and brilliant interrogation of feminism, race, and psychoanalysis turns each term back upon the other, producing illuminations that are, in their own way, quietly spectacular. Insisting on the productive moments of ambivalence and perplexity within the field, [Johnson] single-handedly expands our capacity for critical thinking in directions we did not know we could move.—Judith Butler, author of Gender Trouble

The place where other theories of difference end is the point where Barbara Johnson’s work typically begins. While most cultural commentaries tend either to censor or to celebrate the fact of difference, this brilliant new book takes difference itself as the enabling contradiction of feminism. One of the most original and influential thinkers in the academy today, Johnson suggests that it is time to stop simply discovering difference and time to start rigorously analyzing it.—Diana Fuss, author of Identification Papers

The Feminist Difference is an exhilarating, energizing experience which moves like a complex, and melodic musical composition. I was so caught up in the fun of it, the accessibility of it, that I barely realized its feat. Barbara Johnson’s intellect is like water on a mountain—changing the shape of rock, subtly, patiently, persistently, inevitably, giving us alternate routes. She shifts around dynamics of power and representation, looking at them from underneath and from all sides, reorganizing the pieces into an unforgettable and new image. It would be impossible for me to understand contemporary race-gender identity issues in art and life without her help. She sits in the corners and the shadows of what sometimes seems overbearing, entrenched, monumental, with her vigilant sense of humor and light. She brings visibility to so much of what we don’t see, even when we are in the business of enlarging the population of who is seeing and being seen.—Anna Deavere Smith, author of Fires in the Mirror

From Baudelaire to Beloved, from Freud to de Beauvoir, there is no more deft reader than Barbara Johnson, with her resonant insight, observant ear, and her linguist’s taste for the complexities of the chosen word. This brilliant book is a work of art and grammatical intrigue, of translation and diplomacy.—Patricia Williams, author of The Alchemy of Race and Rights

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