"The Second Sex" in 1950s American Popular Journals
Keywords:The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir, translation studies, periodical studies, the United States, women’s question, feminism
The Second Sex has been considered one of the most important studies about the women’s question that preceded the so-called second feminist wave in the USA, and the paper deals with the inquiries about the urge to translate The Second Sex into English and for the American audience. Taking into account translation studies, the article approaches the process of translation as not neutral and as one that has far-reaching consequences for the reception of the translated work. In addition, the paper refers to feminist translation studies and the insight that translation invokes questions of power, exclusion, appropriation, and erasure. The rise of periodical studies, on the other hand, gives the opportunity to analyze digitalized journals from the period after the Second World War, and to question on a deeper level the norms and socially accepted ideals of femininity in plural, which, finally, could contribute to a more complex understanding of the position and role of women in postwar America. Having in mind specific the social, political and cultural context in which the first English translation of The Second Sex was published, the paper analyzes the reception of the book in popular journals during 1953, which was highly critical but simultaneously more positive than in France, despite all the problems with the translation that deform Beauvoir’s thought and its existentialist philosophy that underpins her deconstruction of various myths about women. The paper offers deep analysis of thirteen articles published in six American journals with different editorial policies and intended audiences. The analysis of these first published critiques of the book shows that some topics (the structure of the book, Beauvoir as ‘the French’ author, her alleged misunderstanding of the American context and positive stance towards the USSR, feminism, the ‘unscientific’ analysis that the book provides, existentialism, and Beauvoir's critique of the myth of motherhood), gained much more attention than for example the analysis of the quality of the book's translation, which deeply influences all of the above mentioned topics and problems and, in addition, there is no critical stance towards the role and position of women in the United States after the Second World War in any of the published critiques. The article argues that the reception of The Second Sex which was created in part by these critiques influenced both public opinion and feminists, who would quite soon remobilize the massive feminist movement in the 1960s.
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