Margaret Atack speaks to Melvyn Bragg about Simone de Beauvoir.
BBC Radio 4 - In our Time
Thursday 22 October - 09.00am
Melvyn Bragg and guests, including LCS's Prof Margaret Atack, discuss Simone de Beauvoir.
"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," she wrote in her best known and most influential work, The Second Sex, her exploration of what it means to be a woman in a world defined by men. Published in 1949, it was an immediate success with the thousands of women who bought it. Many male critics felt men came out of it rather badly.
Beauvoir was born in 1908 to a high bourgeois family and it was perhaps her good fortune that her father lost his money when she was a girl. With no dowry, she pursued her education in Paris to get work and in a key exam to allow her to teach philosophy, came second only to Jean Paul Sartre. He was retaking. They became lovers and, for the rest their lives together, intellectual sparring partners. Sartre concentrated on existentialist philosophy; Beauvoir explored that, and existentialist ethics, plus the novel, and increasingly in the decades up to her death in 1986, the situation of women in the world.
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