Fruits of Sorrow CL

Elizabeth V. Spelman, Author Beacon Press (MA) $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8070-1420-2
Suffering is endemic to the human condition, and tragic suffering is universal, not because it happens to everyone but because it could happen to anyone. So writes Spelman, a professor of philosophy at Smith College and author of Inessential Woman, in this reflective study of the ways in which suffering is given form in our lives. The book is filled with insights: e.g., Spelman shows how we illicitly appropriate other people's suffering by identifying with it, such as when disenfranchised white women adopted the language of emancipation in their search for equality--""some sow the seeds, others pluck the fruits of sorrow."" Spelman also writes that maternal pity and compassion is degrading and insulting as much as it is protecting and nurturing. These very suggestive ideas, however, are somewhat offset by feminist and liberal cliches that flaw the book. Spelman concentrates almost exclusively on the suffering of woman and minorities, and the figures she values are all women writers--some quite minor. Plato is given the obligatory put down here for maintaining that grief is woman-ish, and Aristotle is considered deficient for declaring slaves ineligible for tragic status--slavery, after all, is ""the American tragedy."" That having been said, Spelman has written a genuine and perceptive book that makes reading about suffering a highly enjoyable experience. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/30/1997
Release date: 07/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 220 pages - 978-0-8070-1421-9
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