Politics with Beauvoir

Freedom in the Encounter

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 46 illustrations Published: August 2017

Author: Lori Jo Marso

Politics > Political Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

In Politics with Beauvoir Lori Jo Marso treats Simone de Beauvoir's feminist theory and practice as part of her political theory, arguing that freedom is Beauvoir's central concern and that this is best apprehended through Marso's notion of the encounter. Starting with Beauvoir's political encounters with several of her key contemporaries including Hannah Arendt, Robert Brasillach, Richard Wright, Frantz Fanon, and Violette Leduc, Marso also moves beyond historical context to stage encounters between Beauvoir and others such as Chantal Akerman, Lars von Trier, Rahel Varnhagen, Alison Bechdel, the Marquis de Sade, and Margarethe von Trotta. From intimate to historical, always affective though often fraught and divisive, Beauvoir's encounters, Marso shows, exemplify freedom as a shared, relational, collective practice. Politics with Beauvoir gives us a new Beauvoir and a new way of thinking about politics—as embodied and coalitional.


"An informed and interesting application of [Beauvoir's] politics. Recommended." — J. A. Gauthier, Choice

"A compelling re-examination of Beauvoir’s political thinking." — Maša Mrovlje, Contemporary Political Theory

"[Marso's] work on de Beauvoir demonstrates convincingly the inaccuracy of reading feminist theory as a species of thinking separated from politics." — Kathleen B. Jones, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Marso produces a different Beauvoir from the one most of us are familiar with, but a Beauvoir who is highly readable and relevant to contemporary theoretical debates. . . . She is to be commended for making Beauvoir germane to students of politics, cultural, and film studies in addition to her usual gender, philosophy, and literary readers.” — Elaine Stavro, Hypatia

"A gripping and novel reading of Simone de Beauvoir’s politics of freedom and Beauvoirian feminism. . . . A welcome contribution to Beauvoir scholarship and feminist political theory." — Megan Burke, H-France, H-Net Reviews

"Marso brilliantly demonstrates the way in which encounter is at the very center of everything Beauvoir wrote . . . . An important new contribution that extends studies on Beauvoir." — Mary Walsh, Review of Politics

"This book has a wide appeal. . . . Informative and accessible." — Angela Shepherd, Feminist Theory

"Marso accomplishes multiple remarkable feats. She liberates Simone de Beauvoir from the constraints of expectations constellated around either her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre or a feminism too white and tired. . . . She presents a bold and original account of freedom. Were I to criticize this account, I would say that Marso is too modest: she attributes the idea of freedom in the encounter to Beauvoir, even as she acknowledges that it is she, Marso, who introduces the term 'encounter' into her conversation with Beauvoir. . . . I will not make this criticism, though, because it would obscure Marso’s basic insight: freedom, whether of thinking, creating, feeling, or acting, is never individual, never isolated. It is always and only freedom through an encounter with others. This is the core idea Marso models and develops in this remarkable book." — Jodi Dean, Politics & Gender

Politics with Beauvoir is an essential text for any scholar who is interested in expanding their engagement with Beauvoir’s work. Just as the Beauvoirian encounters Marso stages in this text illuminate the fecundity of real engagement with alterity and difference, so, too, does the text itself show the possibilities for encounters in a world where Beauvoir truly becomes ours.” — Qrescent Mali Mason, Asian Journal of Social Science

"Politics with Beauvoir is a fascinating exploration of Beauvoir as a political thinker concerned with the conditions of collective freedom. By placing Beauvoir in conversation with thinkers and artists from Frantz Fanon and Richard Wright to Hannah Arendt and Lars von Trier, Lori Jo Marso shows why Beauvoir remains a fresh and invigorating feminist philosopher, more relevant than ever." — Toril Moi, author of Simone de Beauvoir: The Making of an Intellectual Woman

"Politics with Beauvoir is a remarkable and exciting book. It is a scholarly study that also brings Simone de Beauvoir's political thought to life, staging ‘encounters’ between Beauvoir and a whole host of others: people she knew personally; people she wrote about; people she might have known but didn't; people she couldn't have known; fictional characters—and of course Lori Jo Marso herself, whose brilliant interpretations and orchestrations give us an unparalleled understanding of Beauvoir on freedom, unfreedom, embodiment, collective action, and emancipatory politics. Smart, sharp, innovative, wonderfully unclassifiable, and vividly relevant, this is one of the best new works of political theory I've read in years." — Patchen Markell, author of Bound by Recognition


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lori Jo Marso is Doris Zemurray Stone Professor of Modern Literary and Historical Studies and Professor of Political Science at Union College, and the author and editor of several books, including W Stands for Women: How the George W. Bush Presidency Shaped a New Politics of Gender, also published by Duke University Press, and Feminist Thinkers and the Demands of Femininity: The Lives and Work of Intellectual Women.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction: Our Beauvoir  1
1. (Re)Encountering The Second Sex  17
Part I. Enemies: Monsters, Men, and Misogynist Art
2. "An Eye for an Eye" with Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem  41
3. The Marquis de Sade's Bodies in Lars von Trier's Antichrist  67
Part II. Allies: Antinomies of Action in Conditions of Violence
4. Violence, Pathologies, and Resistance in Frantz Fanon  97
5. In Solidarity with Richard Wright  122
Part III. Friends: Conversations that Change the Rules
6. Perverse Protests from Chantal Akerman to Lars von Trier  153
7. Unbecoming Women with Violette Leduc, Rahel Varnhagen, and Margarethe von Trotta  176
Conclusion: A Happy Ending  203
Notes  209
References  235
Index  247
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner of the inaugural Pamela Grande Jensen Book Award, presented by the Politics, Literature, and Film section of the American Political Science Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6970-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6955-4
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