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Beauvoir, Simone de


Subject Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial History » Postcolonial History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444334982.2016.x


Simone de Beauvoir (1908–86) was a French writer, existentialist philosopher, and feminist whose career spanned the twentieth century. She is best known for The Second Sex (1949), a critique of patriarchy and its positioning of woman as “other.” She also wrote a number of novels, which were well received by her contemporaries; The Mandarins (1954) won the Prix Goncourt. Beauvoir believed that literature could effect social change and she encouraged the concept of a littérature engagée (committed literature). Thus, like her theoretical texts, her literary works investigate philosophical, social, and political themes: the concept of situated freedom, the relationship of an individual conscience to “the other,” the principles of ethical relationships, and the existentialist concern with the possibility of changing the world. Born in Paris into a respected bourgeois family, Beauvoir was the elder of two girls. She was educated at convent schools under the religious discretion of her devout Catholic mother. At age 14 she declared herself an atheist, a standpoint from which later in life she argued that religion supplied a reason to evade truth. In 1925, Beauvoir passed the baccalaureate exams in mathematics and philosophy, after which she studied mathematics at the Institut Catholique and literature at the Institut Sainte-Marie, Neuilly. In 1929, she graduated from the Sorbonne, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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