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Sex, Love, and LettersWriting Simone de Beauvoir$
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Judith G. Coffin

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501750540

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501750540.001.0001

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The Intimate Life of the Nation

The Intimate Life of the Nation

Reading The Second Sex in 1949

(p.24) 1 The Intimate Life of the Nation
Sex, Love, and Letters

Judith G. Coffin

Cornell University Press

This chapter reconstructs how the public was introduced to The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir's most famous work, and considers its critical reception. It mentions reviewers and critics who saw themselves as custodians of literary standards and public taste, and held very firm and contrasting views on the broader reading public. It elaborates how the reviewers and critics' views provide new ways to understand Beauvoir's arguments and the expectations that took shape around her. The chapter describes The Second Sex as an eight-hundred-page manuscript that challenges philosophical argument, literary criticism, history, and social science, as well as provide a detailed description of sexual and bodily experience. It points out how The Second Sex was considered ahead-of-its time with its narrative of the philosophical reconsideration of the female condition or situation.

Keywords:   The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir, reading public, philosophical argument, literary criticism, philosophical reconsideration

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