Fair Sex, Savage Dreams

Race, Psychoanalysis, Sexual Difference

Fair Sex, Savage Dreams

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 21 b&w photographs, 1 table Published: February 2001

Author: Walton, Jean

Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory, Psychoanalytic Theory, Race and Indigeneity

In Fair Sex, Savage Dreams Jean Walton examines the work of early feminist psychoanalytic writing to decipher in it the unacknowledged yet foundational role of race. Focusing on the 1920s and 1930s, a time when white women were actively refashioning Freud’s problematic accounts of sexual subjectivity, Walton rereads in particular the writing of British analysts Joan Riviere and Melanie Klein, modernist poet H.D., the eccentric French analyst Marie Bonaparte, and anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Charting the fantasies of racial difference in these women’s writings, Walton establishes that race—particularly during this period—was inseparable from accounts of gender and sexuality. While arguing that these women remained notably oblivious to the racial meanings embedded in their own attempts to rearticulate feminine sexuality, Walton uses these very blindspots to understand how race and sex are deeply imbricated in the constitution of subjectivity. Challenging the notion that subjects acquire gender identities in isolation from racial ones, she thus demonstrates how white-centered psychoanalytic theories have formed the basis for more contemporary feminist and queer explorations of fantasy, desire, power, and subjectivity.
Fair Sex, Savage Dreams will appeal to scholars of psychoanalysis, literary and cinematic modernism, race studies, queer theory, feminist theory, and anthropology.


"By uncovering the racial unconscious of psychoanalytic texts that have been seminal for contemporary feminist psychoanalytic theory, Walton's lucid study opens up psychoanalytic discourse to fruitful new lines of inquiry." — Jean Wyatt, Signs

"Walton executes thoughtful close readings of a wide range of relevant, but previously underscrutinized, materials. Her claims are often persuasive, and are likely to have far-reaching impact on the field of feminist and queer studies." — Susan Edmunds , Modern Fiction Studies

“In this groundbreaking book Jean Walton subjects psychoanalysis to a sustained and highly illuminating ethnographic critique. She has isolated a period—the 1920s and 1930s, the era of the great debates about femininity—in which there is a critical confrontation between questions of gender/sexuality and questions of race. Her incisive analyses of five women writers of this period are often fascinating, always provocative, and she demonstrates persuasively the inextricability of sexuality and race in their attempts to negotiate a ‘speaking position’ for themselves within a masculine domain.” — Mary Anne Doane, author of Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis

“This intelligent and clear-thinking book provides a fascinating look into the racial fantasies of five modernist women. Focussing our attention on the evasions and displacements of both psychoanalysis and feminism, Walton demonstrates that race is never very far from twentieth-century culture’s founding narratives of sexual difference. A welcome and important investigation of white women’s racial imaginaries, a study as intellectually subtle as it is boldly original.” — Diana Fuss, author of Identification Papers


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jean Walton is Associate Professor of English, Women’s Studies, and Film Studies at the University of Rhode Island.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Figures



1. Masquerade and Reparation: (White) Womanliness in Riviere and Klein

2. “Nightmare of the Uncoordinated White-Folk”: Psychoanalysis and the Queer Matrix of Borderline

3. Marie Bonaparte and the “Executive Organ”

4. “The Black Spitting Girl!!”

5. The Ethnographic Alibi

6. A People of Her Own: Margaret Mead

7. A Rap on Race: Mead and Baldwin




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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2611-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2603-8
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