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Political Philosophy – Simone de Beauvoir

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About this Course

About the Course

This course explores the political philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir (1921-2002), oriented around the Feminism section of the Government and Politics A-Level specification. We begin with some biographical information on de Beauvoir, highlighting her importance and influence. We then move on in the second lecture to consider the philosophical framework for The Second Sex – existentialism – focusing on two claims: firstly, that ‘we are condemned to be free’, and secondly, that ‘existence precedes essence’. In the third lecture, we explore Simone de Beauvoir’s seminal work ‘The Second Sex’ (1949), structuring our discussion around two key claims: firstly, that ‘Woman is Other’, and secondly, that ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’. In the fourth lecture, we consider the reception of ‘The Second Sex’, focusing on second-wave feminism and other feminist writers, such as Kate Millett. Then, in the fifth lecture, we consider Simone de Beauvoir’s legacy, including her engagement with multiple strands of feminism, such as materialist and difference feminism, her political activism, and the modification of her ideas by later feminists and gender theorists, such as Judith Butler. In the sixth and final lecture, we conclude our discussion by considering the ways in which ‘The Second Sex’ addresses many of the major questions that still preoccupy feminists today, as well as its importance, sophistication, and comprehensiveness as a feminist, literary, and philosophical text.

About the Lecturer

Professor Margaret Atack is a Professor of French at Leeds University. In 2006-10 she was Principal Investigator on a major AHRC-funded research project: 'Narratives of the Second World War and Occupation in France: National Identity and Cultural Production'. She specialises in French film and fiction of the Vichy years, postwar narratives of war and occupation in France, French women's writing, and 20th century French thought. In 2019, she edited 'Making Waves: French Feminisms and Their Legacies'.