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Jacoby, M. (1996). El Saffar, Ruth Anthony. Rapture Encaged: the Suppression of the Feminine in Western Culture. London & New York: Routledge, 1994. Pp. 168. Hbk. £30.00.. J. Anal. Psychol., 41(2):299-302.
(1996). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 41(2):299-302
El Saffar, Ruth Anthony. Rapture Encaged: the Suppression of the Feminine in Western Culture. London & New York: Routledge, 1994. Pp. 168. Hbk. £30.00.
Review by: Marianne Jacoby
The subtitle refers to the status of femininity in Western culture, but at first glance is somewhat misleading. Professor El Saffar confines her research to Spanish literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These were the centuries, she claims, during which Western individualism developed in Spain which, as a rising colonial power, led the way. A strictly patriarchal culture prevailed. Men were able to pursue their individual careers, provided their ego could withstand the pressure. The author describes vividly the new bonding of the men who had to cut themselves loose from their roots in the mother. Women were dominated, barred from participating in the ambitious male culture. The majority of women lived in the shadow of their men. They were hardworking mothers and obedient wives. However, El Saffar focuses on a minority of these women who did not fit into this normal patriarchal underclass. They sought shelter in convents. Among this minority was the highly gifted, illiterate, visionary nun, Isabel de la Cruz. She is the protagonist of Rapture Encaged. Isabel attained the status of saint late in her life, which she devoted to her mystical experiences.
El Saffar perceives Isabel as one of the last exponents of the medieval age of mysticism, which she aligns with Jung's interest and absorption in the medieval search for the union of spirit and matter. In Rapture Encaged, the author lets Isabel's mysticism and Jung's mystical alchemy meet, confront and oppose each other.
The ground theme of the book is the confrontation of femininity and masculinity. These appear split under the impact of patriarchal claims on masculine domination, which had Jung in thrall when he invested the anima with men's soul, but found no equivalent - could there be an equivalent to the soul? - in the animus for women. Moreover, while men's inner femininity was hallowed, their external femininity, real women, could not expect to become equal partners. It meant that the animus, which was modelled on the masculine ideal of men freed from their mothers, cut women off from their own roots. This is a brief summary of the author's introduction to the dualism of male and female under the impact of a patriarchal culture.
Her ground theme could be more accurately defined as the history, development and final transformation of the animus.
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