The Female Body

Figures, Styles, Speculations
Laurence Goldstein, Editor
Diverse thoughts on the female body as both anatomical object and cultural construction.


The female body has been a topic much discussed during the past two decades as scholars have attempted to place the subject in historical and theoretical contexts. Acknowledging the topic's emergence as a central one in contemporary debates, Laurence Goldstein, editor of the acclaimed Michigan Quarterly Review, invited a group of anthropologists, historians, literary scholars, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists, and art historians, as well as poets, artists, and fiction writers, to provide their reflections.

The range of vantage points is impressive. Carol Gilligan defines how the body, as "a repository of experience and desire" is a source of resistance to complex family and social demands. Ruth Behar, speaking of hysterectomy and abortion, asks whether the female body is nothing more than the pliant subject of the "master narrative of medical science."

In other writings, Susan Bordo studies the plasticity of the female body in the technological age; Andrea Dworkin portrays the terror of a woman on urban streets; Anne Herrmann considers cross-dressing in society and film. Still other writers examine the presence of the female body in fiction, poetry, and ballroom dance, among other venues. The book also features an essay by art historian Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, accompanied by a rich portfolio of women artists' representations of female bodies.

The Female Body synthesizes and extends the previous literature, increasing the possibilities for understanding and experience. General readers and specialists alike will find abundant new information and insights, and much to argue with as well as to agree with, in this engrossing book.

Praise / Awards

  • "The Female Body is a good example of what pluralistic principles can produce. It is a large anthology that includes works by people who, bringing the expertise of their respective fields to the collection, cross boundaries of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age, class, and religion. It does not attempt to eradicate difference by normalizing the terms of the discourse, editorially speaking, and thus avoids the common pitfalls of a nominal pluralism."
    --The Drama Review

Look Inside


Laurence Goldstein     vii

The Female Body
Margaret Atwood     1

Venus and Others
John Updike     5

From Nestor to Helen Now of Troy (poetry)
Zona Teti     9

The Dream (poetry)
Nin Andrews     10

Joining the Resistance: Psychology, Politics, Girls and Women
Carol Gilligan     12

Ophelia (poetry)
Elizabeth Socolow     48

Choose (poetry)
Sarah Messer     50

How Not to Argue About Abortion
Carl Cohen     52

In October 1973 (Age 27) (fiction)
Andrea Dworkin     69

Dilemmas of Visability: Contemporary Women Artists' Representations of Female Bodies
Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby     83

Illustrations following page     102

Kala Gave Me Anykine Advice Especially about Filipinos When I Moved to Pahala (poetry)
Lois-Ann Yamanaka     103

Heel Should Not Be an Insult (poetry)
Marge Piercy     105

"Material Girl": The Effacements of Postmodern Culture
Susan Bordo     106

Leda (poetry)
Beckian Fritz Goldberg     131

Body (poetry)
Robert Creeley     133

In Rooms of Women
Kim Edwards     135

From Eroticism to Transcendence: Ballroom Dance and the Female Body
Sally Peters     145

A Red T-Shirt with "Poetry" Emblazoned in Block Letters on Its Chest (poetry)
Gregory Orr     159

Beauty on the Beach (poetry)
Debra Bruce     161

Beauty (fiction)
Julie Brown     163

"Passing" Women, Performing Men
Anne Herrmann     178

Southern Aphrodite (poetry)
Jefferson Humphries     190

Muse Figures: Notes on Gender Difference in Poetry
Jefferson Humphries     192

Made in His Image: Frankenstein's Daughters
Stephanie Kiceluk     204

Indelible Ink (fiction)
Elizabeth McCracken     221

"The Body in Pain" in Thomas Eakins' Agnew Clinic
Judith Fryer     235

To a Poet (poetry)
Susan Rubin Suleiman     255

Plath's Hair (poetry)
Brenda Hillman     256

Mittelschmerz: A Lady's Complaint upon Reaching the Age of Forty-Four
Joan K. Peters     258

The Body in the Woman, the Story in the Woman: A Book Review and Personal Essay
Ruth Behar     267

Trash (poetry)
Margaret Holley     312

Contributors     314

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 320pp.
  • 48 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1991
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06477-9

Add to Cart
  • $22.95 U.S.