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

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

"Epitaphs and Epigraphs: 'The End(s) of Man'"

Barbara Freeman

As my reader may have already noted, the quotation marks in my title are somewhat perplexing. But they are there for a reason, and since their story is bound up with this essay's inception, I would like to begin by recounting it. A version of this paper was presented at a special session that Gillian Brown and I organized, under the title of Ends and Beginnings: Feminist-Nuclear Criticism," at the 1986 MLA convention. The title of my paper bears the traces of its institutional origin. I did not know that the MLA Program Committee reviews and may disallow the title of each paper, and was shocked when Epigraphs and Epitaphs: The End(s) of Man (originally with no added quotation marks) was returned with "Man" circled and the following comment: "Organizer--We must change to avoid sexist language. Alternatives might be life, or human life. Please let us know which you prefer or provide another word." I was not willing to change it. The word "man" had been chosen not only to illustrate my paper's subject, but the issues at stake in the entire session; indeed, the MLA's objection itself presented an example of the kind of question I wanted to explore: in the context of nuclear catastrophe, is "man" really equivalent to "human life"? I wrote in response that the title referred to Derrida's essay The Ends of Man,"1 and suggested that putting single quotation marks around it might solve the problem. Fortunately the committee accepted the compromise and let the amended title stand. But I have retained the punctuation thereby necessitated because the story of how it comes to be there raises an important issue regarding sexual difference, sexism, and deterrence.

Why, for example, was my (or Derrida's) use of the word "man" considered an instance of sexist language? Perhaps because it employs the name of one sex to refer to both men and women, thereby denying sexual difference by implying that femininity is identical to or the same thing as masculinity. But although the title might appear sexist in that it gives to all of human life the name of only one gender, it was formulated to engage the following questions:

-303-

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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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