Colette, Beauvoir, and Duras:
Age and Women Writers

Bethany Ladimer

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"A sophisticated and well-informed work of literary criticism . . . . Represents the new scholarship on women and aging at its best."--Nancy K. Miller, Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

In a pioneering study of the three best-known French women writers of the 20th century, Bethany Ladimer examines the ways in which the aging process shaped their creativity and their lives.
Simone de Beauvoir, Colette, and Marguerite Duras all lived long lives and were prolific writers until the end. Bethany Ladimer's developmental approach to their creativity takes into account literary analysis but also discusses their work and lives from the standpoint of history and the social sciences, a three-way conjunction that considers age, gender, and a culture that depends on the ideas of sexual difference for its national identity. She incorporates the work of Betty Friedan, Carolyn Heilbrun, and Margaret Gulette, among others, into her study.
Asking how a French woman's heritage affects the way she writes when she has gone beyond the age when women are usually considered sexually desirable, Ladimer examines the problems and resolutions that face aging women in France. The light she sheds on the question illuminates the relationship between femininity and aging in all Western societies.


Bethany Ladimer is professor of French language and literature at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, and the author of articles on 20th-century French writers in Yale French Studies, Critical Quarterly, Feminist Studies, and Romance Quarterly.

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"groundbreaking in a number of important ways. Not only does she take on a subject she admits is taboo, but she also argues that aging is an 'important empowering force' for Colette, Beauvoir, and Duras." - Modern Fiction Studies Modern Fiction Studies

"This is a well-written book that should be of interest to the general population, students, and specialists in women's studies, aging, or the twentieth century." -South Atlantic Review South Atlantic Review

"This book is highly innovative. It provides a springboard for a large number of possible studies on a much neglected theme in the work of many women writers." - Modern Language Review Modern Language Review

"offers many refreshing and valuable insights into three writers' approach to the problem of aging and the liberation that it became for them." - French Review French Review

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