Saturday, October 20, 2007

Weininger and/or His Publisher

After having put it off for some time (along with many other things, some of them not academic), I took it upon myself to check out Otto Weininger's infamous Sex and Character (1903), which was strangely influential for a good many years.
I have not really launched properly into reading it, but the publisher of the Sixth German Edition seemed to think that Weininger's characterization of women into the "two elemental figures" of the Courtesan and Mother was something new and striking.
While I realize that every idea was new at some point, I really don't think that this particular dichotomy was new in 1903, and I will be surprised if Weininger himself thought it was. However, the publisher strikes me as much less intelligent than Weininger. The publisher refers to "the programme of the modern feminist movement, with its superficialities and its lies" whereas while Weininger is famous for his misogyny, he did regard all men and women as being comprised of varying percentages of what I suppose we could call male and female essence and claimed that his analysis "turns against man in the end" and "assigns to man the heaviest and most real blame."
Well, we shall see, or that is we shall see if I can slog my way through to the end.
It's not really what I might consider a reward for having drafted yet another postdoc proposal this morning. It seemed, however, time to move away from Reich and the German sex reform movement, and when one contemplates early 20th-century theories of gender, one can hardly leave out Weininger.

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Blogger Kristen said...

Well a Courtesan-Mother complex does sound a bit less strident than the Madonna-Whore dichotomy we're used to talking about these days.

October 21, 2007 10:53 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Yeah, but it's probably just a difference in translation (I'm using a reprint of the 1906 version).

October 23, 2007 2:20 PM  

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