Re-Reading The Second Sex’s ‘Simone de Beauvoir’

Grimwood, Tom. “Re-Reading The Second Sex's 'Simone de Beauvoir,'” British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 16(1): 197–213, 2008.


Referencing ‘Simone de Beauvoir’ is to reference a stage in the history of feminist philosophy; when one cites the name ‘Simone de Beauvoir’, as the signature of The Second Sex, one is also citing not just the context of its original inscription, but a further context endowed upon it by the history of critical responses. Every time that the name is re-written, a particularfigure of the author is brought forth, shaped as much by every previous re-writing as its original inscription; but while the philosophical signature is traditionally afforded an authoritative value within such references, in the case of The Second Sex’s ‘Simone de Beauvoir’ such a citational context has played a fundamentally detrimental role in both the interpretation and value of the author’s work. In this paper, I will argue that this context of ‘failure’ that accompanies the citation of Beauvoir’s signature should not be ignored, but is rather a key to the understanding of The Second Sex’s philosophical meaning. I will examine the effect of such a context on various readings of The Second Sex; review possible responses to such a signature; and finally, suggest a way in which this negative context yields a constructive meaning