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Partial Visions

Feminism and Utopianism in the 1970s


Angelika Bammer

What would a good world for women look like? How would we get there from where we are and how would we have to change ourselves in the process? This book examines a critical moment in recent American and western European history when the utopian dimension of political movements was particularly generative and feminism was at their core. The imaginative literature that emerged out of American, French, and German feminisms of the 1970s engaged the dialectic between the actual and the possible in radically new and creative ways. Ranging from conventional utopian and science fictions to avant-garde and experimental texts, they countered the idea of utopia as a pre-set goal with the idea of the utopian as a process of «dreaming forwards.»
This book explores the transformative potential of feminist visions of change, even as it sees their ideological blind spots. It does more than simply look back to the 1970s. Instead, it looks ahead, anticipating some of the shifts and changes of feminist thought in the following decades: its transnational scope, its critique of identity politics and the gendered politics of sexuality, and its embrace of affect as an analytical category. The author argues that the radical utopianism of second wave feminisms has not lost its urgency. The transformations they envisioned are still our challenge, as the vital work of social change remains undone.
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Chapter One: “Wild Wishes …”: Women and the History of Utopia


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“Wild Wishes …”: Women and the History of Utopia


In 1405, a text that still stands as a landmark in the history of women’s literature appeared on the cultural scene of western Europe: Christine de Pizan’s Le livre de la Cité des Dames [The Book of the City of Ladies]. Once again, as in her previous book, Le débat sur le Roman de la Rose [Debate of the Romance of the Rose], Christine took up the issues raised by the dispute about women [the querelle des femme] that had been raging within French literary circles for well over a century. Conscious of the fact that hers was the only public woman’s voice in this debate, she did not content herself with a simple response this time, but presented her book as an antidote.

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