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Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

ABSTRACT

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand is a landmark anthology, the first book to critically engage the writings of the controversial novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand from feminist perspectives. For this explosive volume, part of the Penn State Press series, Re-Reading the Canon, co-editors Mimi Reisel Gladstein and Chris Matthew Sciabarra, both distinguished Rand scholars themselves, have assembled an eminent international cast of authors from a variety of disciplines.

Interdisciplinary feminist strategies of rereading Rand range from the lightness of camp to the darkness of de Sade, from post-androgyny to post-structuralism. A highly charged dialogue on Rand's legacy provides the forum for a reexamination of feminism, and its relationship to egoism, individualism, and capitalism. Rand's place in contemporary feminism is assessed through comparisons with other twentieth-century feminists, such as de Beauvoir, Wolf, Paglia, Eisler, and Gilligan. What results is as provocative in its implications for Rand's system as it is for feminism.

The book is divided into three parts: Part One opens with a new biographical sketch written by Barbara Branden, author of The Passion of Ayn Rand, upon which the new SHOWTIME movie-biography is based.   The section also includes Gladstein's path-breaking 1978 article, "Ayn Rand and Feminism: An Unlikely Alliance," as well as reprints of important essays by Judith Wilt, Susan Brownmiller, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, and Camille Paglia.

Part Two focuses on feminist rereadings of Rand's fiction. Essays by Valérie Loiret- Prunet and Barry Vacker trace moments of feminist synthesis in Rand's novels, challenging conventional notions of her "masculinist" bias. Wendy McElroy reexamines the infamous "rape scene" in The Fountainhead, challenging existing paradigms of sexuality. Judith Wilt explores the paradoxes in Rand's romances of female agency, while Karen Michalson views Dagny Taggart of Atlas Shrugged as the archetypal female epic hero.

Part Three poses the question "Toward a Randian Feminism?" and elicits a host of provocative answers. Nathaniel Branden brings to his examination the unique perspective of the evolving stages of his close relationship with Rand. Joan Kennedy Taylor's interview with Objectivist philosopher David Kelley centers on the very meaning of the concept, "feminism," and its links to individualism. Sharon Presley surveys the psychology literature on egoism and altruism, and views Rand as a contributor to a humane feminist ethic. Susan Love Brown roots Rand's repudiation of a Woman President in a cultural gender model that dichotomizes human identity. Taking a Paglian stance, Robert Sheaffer examines Rand's reading of the appeal of dominance in male-female relationships. Diana Mertz Brickell employs lessons from the Randian corpus as she constructs a paradigm for authenticity in the expression of our sexual selves. Thomas Gramstad disputes Rand's "Platonic" view of gender, while using Rand's own premises to reclaim an ancient archetype of female power: the Amazon. Finally, by employing Gaitskill's Two Girls, Fat and Thin and other works, Melissa Jane Hardie deconstructs the camp appeal of Rand's corpus, exploring the sadomasochistic and the homosocial in Randian representations of sexuality.


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