The Heroine with 1001 Faces

Maria Tatar. Liveright, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63149-881-7
Tatar (Enchanted Hunters), a professor of folklore and mythology, reshapes archetypes of the heroine in this rewarding if scattershot literary history. Expanding on the work of Joseph Campbell, Tatar defines a version of heroism that “is driven... by attentive care, an affect that is triggered by openness to the world.” Ranging from Greek mythology to contemporary literature, she structures her case by theme: “Resistance and Revelation” considers women who refuse to “remain silent,” such as Jane Eyre and Janie Crawford; “Wonder Girls” highlights characters who used the power of writing, among them Carrie Bradshaw and Anne of Green Gables, and were confronted with “challenges that remove them from the domestic arena”; and “Detective Work” features such sleuths as Nancy Drew and Dorothy L. Sayers’s Miss Climpson. What motivates each heroine, Tatar argues, is a pervasive sense of curiosity, which allows them to forge their own paths. The overarching conversational tone and modern-day relevance give the book color, but the pace is uneven: while the arguments are well supported with plenty of examples pulled from all corners of literature, Tatar jumps between subjects in an enthusiastic flurry that can be difficult to follow. Literature buffs who can deal with the sometimes-dizzying effect will find much to consider. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/14/2021
Release date: 09/14/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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