Milan Kundera and Feminist Criticism

Dangerous Intersection


‚Eliot to Derrida is a book which should be read by all students contemplating enrolment for a university course in modern English or European literary studies.‘ – Times Higher Educational Supplement This study offers the first extensive critique of the problematic representation of women in the fiction of Milan Kundera, in particular the apparent reliance on simplistic binary oppositions in the representation of women (beauty/ugliness, Madonna/whore, free will/fate, and others). Without waving away these concerns, this study goes on to show that a feminist criticism attentive to poststructural theoretical perspectives is able to engage Kundera’s work most fully. While remaining ambivalent about a number of Kundera’s representational strategies, this consideration of Kundera suggest that Kundera exposes the very narrative practices and representational strategies that he seems to proliferate himself on the misogynist surface of these expansive novels. Using an eclectic perspective that draws on the insights and methodology of feminist criticism, poststructuralism, and deconstruction, O’Brien argues that the character of Sabina herself offers the most effective paradigm for reading Kundera’s work. Suggesting a dual vision of surface/depth, this understanding of Kundera accounts for the simplistic surfaces and ambiguous depths, both of which pose serious problems for the feminist reader.