Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Sacred and the Feminine: Imagination and Sexual Difference
Edited by Griselda Pollock and Victoria Turvey-Sauron
London and New York: I. B. Tauris, June 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-1845115203, $85; paper: ISBN 978-1845115210, $29.95. 320 pages.
Review by Gypsey Teague, Clemson University
The longer I teach Gender and Women’s Studies, the more I am made aware that there are two distinct types of books in the field. The first type is the fluffy book. This type of book says very little but has a glitzy cover, and blurb on the back promising the latest information, and usually a forward by someone you have never heard of but who has been changed forever because of the content of the material. The second type of book is the scholarly tome. This book has little more than a title and an author on the cover, is usually a single color, often very thick with small print and too many references and citations; as though the author had little original to say and backed up what he could think of with someone else’s ideas.
The Sacred and the Feminine: Imagination and Sexual Difference, fortunately, is somewhere between these two polar extremes. Griselda Pollock and Victoria Turvey-Sauron have edited a delightful book that takes into account both the heavily scholared essay and interspersed a few lighter, more easily read articles. True, this book is tightly packed with information, there are very few illustrations [Editor’s note: the cloth edition is more fully illustrated], and the citations are lengthy; however, the information is pertinent to the subject area, the illustrations are specific to the essay and are there as augmentation, not as filler, and the citations are essential as a jumping-off point to more research.
Turvey-Sauron is an art historian, and her work reflects that background. Pollock is the Director of the Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory, and History at the University of Leeds. She brings to the table a “social criticism” that is found in few works currently published. Between them they have chosen 13 essays, each adding one to this Baker’s Dozen, and have emerged with 15 critical pieces on the world of feminism and how that feminism coexists, at times, with current thought and dogma. The authors do not take themselves or their subjects either lightly or frivolously, but rather, apply themselves to answering specific questions that they have found important to the feminist movement.
I recommend this book to professors and instructors of feminist theory, or to gender constructionists. This is not a book to pick up lightly. It demands and expects attention to detail and a background in at least a couple of the waves of feminism to fully grasp what is being presented; however, once those foundations are attained, this book will become essential to all feminists’ and genderists’ libraries.

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