Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation

By Helen M. Cooper; Adrienne Auslander Munich et al. | Go to book overview

Margaret R. Higonnet


Civil Wars and Sexual Territories

In the past, analyses of civil war, considered as a "family" matter, have focused on men: on Bruderkrieg or fratricide. This essay pursues civil war as a metaphor for the "battle of the sexes." Since the French Revolution, a number of major writers have used their fiction to explore the links between political struggles to restructure the national "family" and social struggles to realign the relationships between men and women. The resulting literature of civil war is strikingly overdetermined: by metaphoric transfer, political actions are shown to be personal and the private public. Men and women both perceive these transfers of meaning between the political and the personal realms, but as this study of prose fiction will show, the structures they use to represent changes in gender relations differ fundamentally.

Wars may awaken our awareness of the ways sexual territory is mapped because they disrupt the normal division of labor by gender. In modern times, for example, we have seen women entering heavy industry and engaged in guerrilla warfare alongside men. Peace in turn reverses many wartime changes in gender assignments. These ephemeral but radical shifts in women's situation reveal how arbitrary our definitions of masculine and feminine roles truly are. 1

It is my thesis that civil wars, which take place on "home" territory, have more potential than other wars to transform women's expectations. In all wars roles traditionally assigned to women are political in the sense that to maintain the hearth takes on ideological coloration. Yet nationalist wars against an external enemy repress internal political divisions and with them feminist movements. Civil wars by contrast may occasion explicit political choices for women. Once a change in government can be conceived, sexual politics can also become an overt political issue; thus in the legend of Lucretia, her rape and suicide precipitate the revolt of Brutus against the Tarquins. The sexual struggle lays bare political tyr-

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Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Notes xix
  • War and Memory 1
  • Arms and the Woman: The Con[tra]ception of the War Text 9
  • Notes 23
  • Works Cited 23
  • "Still Wars and Lechery": Shakespeare and the Last Trojan Woman 25
  • Notes 39
  • Works Cited 40
  • Rewriting History: Madame de Villedieu and the Wars of Religion 43
  • Notes 55
  • Works Cited 57
  • Southern Women's Diaries of Sherman's March to the Sea, 1864-1865 59
  • Notes 75
  • Works Cited 77
  • Civil Wars and Sexual Territories 80
  • Notes 95
  • Works Cited 96
  • The Women and Men of 1914 97
  • Notes 118
  • Corpus/Corps/Corpse: Writing the Body in/at War 124
  • Notes 159
  • Works Cited 164
  • May Sinclair's The Tree of Heaven: The Vortex of Feminism, the Community of War 168
  • Notes 179
  • Works Cited 182
  • Combat Envy and Survivor Guilt: Willa Cather's "Manly Battle Yarn" 184
  • Notes 201
  • Works Cited 203
  • "Seeds for the Sowing": The Diary of Käthe Kollwitz 205
  • Notes 221
  • Works Cited 223
  • A Needle with Mama's Voice: Mitsuye Yamada's Camp Notes and the American Canon of War Poetry 225
  • Notes 241
  • Feminism, the Great War, and Modern Vegetarianism 244
  • Images of Love and War in Contemporary Israeli Fiction: A Feminist Re-vision 268
  • Notes 277
  • Works Cited 280
  • Nuclear Domesticity: Sequence and Survival 283
  • Notes 299
  • "Epitaphs and Epigraphs: 'The End(s) of Man'" 303
  • Notes 319
  • Works Cited 321
  • A Bibliography of Secondary Sources 323
  • The Contributors 331
  • Index 335
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