Women, Love, and Power: Literary and Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Women, Love, and Power: Literary and Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Women, Love, and Power: Literary and Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Women, Love, and Power: Literary and Psychoanalytic Perspectives


Elaine Baruch is not only among the most quiet-voiced and fair-minded of feminist writers. She is also among the most far-ranging in her scholarship, equally at ease with the writers of the Renaissance and Freud, the medieval troubadours, and our contemporary polemicists... instructive, absorbing, and persuasive.
--Diana Trilling

A lively mind is at work here and a keen and witty writer too.
--Irving Howe

This is a fine collection of essays... making many imaginative conjectures and amusing connections.
--Times Literary Supplement

In these essays what emerges is a history of romantic love... Highly recommended.--Library Journal

Arguing that romantic love need not be a tool of women's oppression, feminist critic Baruch... contends that unacknowledged male fantasies about love motivate much literature by men... rewarding, provocative.--Publishers Weekly

Utilizing both Freudian and non-Freudian psychoanalysis as well as feminist criticism, Baruch examines literary works by women and men from medieval and Romantic periods as well as cultural observations on the twentieth century and how they have influenced attitudes toward love.


This book is about women, love, and power in some past and present literary works, written mainly by men but also by women. It looks too at some recent cultural developments that have led to a resurgence of the romantic love that many social and literary critics had pronounced dead just a few years before (myself among them). the chapters here, written over a period of about a dozen years, explore different forms of love, particularly romantic love, in different periods, and the ways these have given women power or deprived them of it. For women, much more than for men, love has provided reparations for social injustice or has served as a giant pacifier. and because until recently women were prohibited from seeking knowledge directly, love has also been the chief agent of their development of self. It had once been primarily the husband or the tutor/lover that could bring them to intellectual and experiential awareness, however vicarious and however seldom this happened. But despite the usual view that women are more the victims of romantic illusion than are men, some literary works by women give the lie to this, as far back as the Middle Ages, when a practical realism revealed itself in the trobairitz, the female troubadours, unlike their brothers, who wallowed in longing. Unlike many social historians, I believe that literature and social reality are intimately connected, and that the courtly love tradition, for example, did affect the relations of women and men in everyday life, first in the upper classes and then, through a filtering-down process, in others.

Love has been variously defined as narcissism, illusion, ideali-

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