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The Body in the Work of Simone de Beauvoir

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Sarah Fishwick

This study provides a comprehensive introduction to Simone de Beauvoir’s writings on corporeality. By means of a ‘constructivist’ exploration of the vision of bodily being which is elaborated by Beauvoir in her essay, Le Deuxième Sexe, and in her fictional productions, this analysis highlights, first, the central role played by issues of corporeality in Beauvoir’s work and, second, Beauvoir’s acute awareness of the cultural-contouring of female bodily experience. Situating Beauvoir’s theorisation of the female body contained in Le Deuxième Sexe in relation to key post-Beauvoirian accounts of the gendered body offered by Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler, this work demonstrates the lasting contribution made by Beauvoir to the feminist theorisation of gendered corporeality. In addition, it proposes a series of innovative readings of Beauvoir’s fictional representations of different aspects of gendered bodily being. Incorporating observations drawn from the work of Beauvoir, Irigaray and Butler, as well as contemporary cultural theorists interested in the body’s status as a cultural product, these readings illuminate the richness and contemporary resonance of Beauvoir’s fictional treatment of gendered embodiment.
Contents: Conceptualisations of the Female Body in Le Deuxième Sexe – The Body after Beauvoir: Corporeality in the Work of Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler – The ‘Productive’ and ‘Non-Productive’ Body in Beauvoir’s Fiction – The Female Reproductive Body – Reproduction and the Female Ageing Body – The Desiring Body in Beauvoir’s Fiction – Female Eroticism in Adolescence and Adulthood – Liberatory Erotic Relationships – The ‘Performing’ Body in Beauvoir’s Fiction – Bodily Fashioning and the Normalisation of Gendered Embodiment – Dancing Bodies.