Feminism beyond Modernism

By Elizabeth A. Flynn | Go to book overview

Introduction

Despite our desperate, eternal attempt to separate, contain, and mend, categories always leak.

—Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism

modernism. On the longest view, modernism in philosophy starts out with Descartes's quest for a knowledge self-evident to reason and secured from all the demons of sceptical doubt. It is also invoked—with a firmer sense of historical perspective—to signify those currents of thought that emerged from Kant's critical revolution in the spheres of epistemology, ethics, and aesthetic judgement. Thus “modernity” and “enlightenment” tend to be used interchangeably, whether by thinkers (like Habermas) who seek to sustain that project, or by those—the post-modernist company—who consider it a closed chapter in the history of ideas.

—Christopher Norris, “Modernism”

Modernism. [F]rom about the middle of the nineteenth century—and even this date is arbitrary—the foundations of an earlier understanding of the nature and place of humanity were so shaken that, by the end of the century, a great many artists and writers throughout the Western world had developed a kind of future-shock, a sense that one view of the world and the meaning and place of human existence had been taken from them, and that a replacement had not yet arrived, or that a sometimes bewildering array of possible replacements were contending for sovereignty. The broadest view of modernism is that, unconsciously as well as consciously, technically as well as thematically, it encompasses not only comprehensions and accommodations, but also the initial apprehensions of this change, and that the range of its works extends from George Moore and George Gissing to Joyce and Wyndham Lewis, from Browning and Arnold to Eliot and Pound.

—David Brooks, “Modernism”

The feminist movement is composed of a number of different social, political, and intellectual perspectives and institutions in a number of locations that intersect and overlap in complex ways. It is also a movement that has been influenced by and that influences other traditions, including ones focusing on related concerns such as class, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, and age. Given this complexity, it is not surprising that there is considerable confusion, both within

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