Sexuality, Sin, and Sorrow: The Emergence of the Female Character

  • Mieke Bal


The first love story of the Bible, the first love story of our culture, is the one that has been most generally abused, presented as evidence that it was the woman who began it all, that hers is all the guilt; in short, the story is widely adduced as a justification for misogyny. It has not always been used in that way, however. Angenot (1980), for example, shows how in seventeenth-century France, Eve was often praised in unexpected ways. Eve’s position as super-mother, competing with Mary in that function, excludes unambiguous judgment, and there the problem starts. Christian morality has to carry such a painful burden of ambivalence, of admiration and contempt, that its mythical motivations cannot be monolithic. This essay will combine several features in order to shed more light on the relations between modern views of narrative art and ideological evolution. Character will be considered a concept so central to narrative that in it the other aspects of subjectivity combine. In this essay, the question of the problematic status of the concept itself in literary theory and poetics will be considered as symptomatic and will serve as a starting point for a questioning of its self-evidence. Analogy and chronology are involved here, but chronology will be considered from a nondiegetical point of view.


Sexual Identity Female Character Sexual Knowledge Earth Creature Christian Morality 


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Copyright information

© Elizabeth A. Castelli 2001

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  • Mieke Bal

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