Evil Sisters: The Threat of Female Sexuality and the Cult of Manhood

Bram Dijkstra, Author
Bram Dijkstra, Author Alfred A. Knopf $30 (0p) ISBN 978-0-394-56945-1
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-8050-5549-8
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Beginning with ""vamp"" Theda Bara's 1915 silent-film debut in A Fool There Was, Dijkstra (Idols of Perversity), writing with passionate feminist scholarship, decodes images of women as predators, destroyers and vultures who deplete civilized males of their creative energies. He unmasks predatory females in Hemingway, H.L. Mencken, Elinor Glyn's bestselling 1907 potboiler Three Weeks, and unravels the sexist assumptions of sociologist mile Durkheim, sexologist Havelock Ellis and philosopher of love Remy de Gourmont. Shuttling between high and popular culture, Dijkstra argues that antifeminine, racist and imperialist attitudes merge in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and the Damned, in Kipling, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard, in Jung's psychology of unchanging archetypes, in the social Darwinist teachings of Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. Finally, he traces a trajectory of fantasies involving men attaining supermale status from Nietzsche to Ezra Pound and Hitler. His conviction that sexist imagery, codified around 1900, still dominates the popular imagination informs this brilliant, often startling study. Dijkstra is professor of American and comparative literature at UC-San Diego. Illustrated. (Oct.)
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