Signifying Woman: Culture and Chaos in Rousseau, Burke, and Mill
Woman has been defined in classic political theory as elusive yet dangerous, by her nature fundamentally destructive to public life. In the view of Linda M. G. Zerilli, however, gender relations shape the very grammar of citizenship. In deeply textured interpretations of Rousseau, Burke, and Mill, Zerilli recasts our understanding of woman as the agent of social chaos and makes a major advance for feminist political theory.
Zerilli draws on the work of Julia Kristeva to help explain woman's traditionally ambiguous position, as a frontier figure neither inside nor outside political space. She discusses Rousseau, Burke, and Mill (as representatives of republican, conservative, and liberal thought) and traces how each author uses woman rhetorically as he sets forth a distinct political vision in response to the social conflicts of his time. These writers invoke "woman" to articulate not only the disruptive forces of sexuality but also those of class conflict and its resolution. Menacing the stability of meaning itself, woman symbolizes the looming social, economic, and political forces of civilization (for Rousseau), of revolution (for Burke), of capitalism (for Mill) - that threaten conventional distinctions of gender and class.
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abyss argument articulation beautiful Burke's Burkean chaos citizen claim Cornell University Press critical cultural danger Derrida desire discourse Discourse on Inequality disorder distinction domestic ideal economy Edmund Burke Emile Enquiry Erinyes Essay female body Feminism feminist figure of woman France French Revolution Freud furies gender historical human Ibid instinct Jacobin Jean-Jacques Rousseau John Stuart Mill Julia Kristeva kind Letter Liberty male Mary masculine subject maternal meaning of woman middle-class Mill's moral mother nature object Okin Pateman pleasure political meaning political text political theory Poor Law Powers of Horror Principles problem produced proper femininity prostitute public sphere radical reading Reflections reform Regicide Peace relation representation rhetorical semiotic sexual difference signifier social contract society Sophie speaking subject spectacle Stefano sublime Susan Okin symbolic theater theorists tion trans Transgression trope uncanny Victorian voice woman question women Women's Suffrage words workhouse working-class writes York
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