Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand



The Randian-Feminism Mailing List is a forum for Objectivist and Randian Feminists -- people who share a common interest in Feminist philosophy, issues and perspectives, and in Ayn Rand's ideas and philosophy.  Thomas Gramstad created the list on January 14, 1998. 

April 26, 1999  (Bryan Register)

The Romances of Ayn Rand   -  Judith Wilt

    Chris Matthew Sciabarra introduces the discussion (Date: 25-Apr-1999 17:00:17):

Our discussion seems to be heating up on the list, and I'm delighted to see the engagement on
some very important questions in Rand's corpus.  I want to take this opportunity to invite some
of our other list members to contribute to the debate -- I know that we have lots of subscribers
who do lots of lurking, and I don't want anyone to be left out of the discussion.  We're listening...
Tomorrow, April 26th, we move onto a discussion of Judith Wilt's provocative essay, "The
Romances of Ayn Rand."  I'd like to take this opportunity also to invite Judith -- and I know she's
extremely busy -- to say a few words about her new contribution to this volume.
As we turn to that article, we might be able to focus more attention on the paradoxes and "sexual
violence" in Rand's representations of sexuality.  Some possible points to examine:
1.  Unlike Vacker, Wilt sees lots of masculinism in Rand's imagery:  her heroes and heroines are
"straight lines," while her antagonists are "sagging circles," part of the "apocalypse of goo."  Is
this a conflict between Vacker and Wilt -- or a conflict WITHIN Rand?
2.  Wilt -- like Melissa Jane Hardie (whose essay we will examine later)   raises the intriguing
possibility, thru the lens of Eve Sedgwick, that Rand's emphasis on romantic triangles
contextualizes a "homosocial" charge between Rand's male characters (Roark-Wynand;
Rearden-Galt; etc.)  This issue will be examined in much greater depth when we come to
Hardie's contribution, but it is raised by Wilt nonetheless.  Some thoughts?
3.  Does Ayn Rand engage in the "gendering of evil" -- think of "Elsie" Toohey or Comrade
Sonia as villains who are "inappropriate" to their sex   ?
     Judith Wilt discusses her contributions to the volume (Date: Sunday, March 21, 1999 2:43
It was Mimi's essay in College English that inspired me to write a letter in response which the
editor decided to print in full.  All my education between the time I first read Atlas Shrugged and
the time I wrote that CE letter as an assistant professor had in some respects taught me how to
name the things I had so powerfully responded to then, and in subsequent readings, and the things
in her work I had been uneasy about despite my strong response.  It was good practice, that early
encounter with my own multiple responses, for the way I would feel, and eventually write, about
the works of George Eliot and Ernest Hemingway and lots of others, and had a great deal, no
doubt, to do with the reasons why I became a student and teacher of the nineteenth century novel,
with its epic reaches, its heavy doses of stylization, its earnestness, and above all, its sense (Freud
seemed to think this and so did Rand, just to make a strange pairing) that to be able to NAME
something is to take a giant step towards achieving or (if naming the evil) disabling it.  This century
has sobered us a little about the degree to which naming things decides things, the degree to which
diagnosis is tantamount to cure.  But we still believe in trying it, don't we (especially, of course,
those of us in the language business).
I was a solitary little girl and will always be something of an "individualist feminist" to use Beth
Elliott's terminology, but my adulthood has also taught me to try to hear contrapuntally the thinking
of individuals and the thoughts of their "communities" which sometimes echo in their individual
voices.  I put my own name on most of what I write but I feel an element of communal thinking
even in my individuality, and I believe in doing some thinking and acting and even occasionally
some writing communally (a family letter, a letter coming from my Women's Studies group).
All "feminists" have something of the community's thinking in them, and much more of their own
communal-independent life in their thinking: those of us who take some responsibility for
"institutional" feminism by serving on Women's Studies Boards, or in women's organizations or
even in feminist "collectives" may risk sounding like (or even becoming) "second handers," but I
think it's worth the risk.  I guess my 1999 essay, with its more guarded homages, shows some of
the effects of all that.
What I mainly want to do, introducing Rand into courses on women's writers or 20th century
writers, is pay tribute to an extraordinarily original and unforgettable VOICE, and yet to show
what in American culture and in 19th century fiction it grew from.
One final note: I just last week got an EMail from a student who did a readings and research
course on Rand's novels and their 19th century backgrounds with me -- he's just joined the Peace

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