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May 2001

After my own heart: Dorothy Sayers's feminism

by Susan Haack

Reflections on Gaudy Night, the philosophical novel, and old-school feminism.

Lord, teach us to take our hearts and look them in the face, however difficult it may be.
—Gaudy Night (1935)

Might as well admit it: once upon a time, disinclined to mix business with pleasure, I found the very idea of the “Philosophical Novel” off-putting. It was Alison Lurie’s Imaginary Friends, a deliciously comic exploration of cognitive dissonance and of the pitfalls of social-scientific inquiry, that changed my mind and persuaded me of the merits of mixing pleasure with business. I began to appreciate how a work of fiction may explore philosophical questions and— by means of statements which, being about fictional characters, are not true—convey philosophical truths; and I soon began to acquire a taste for (not the epistolary but) the epistemological novel.

In this genre, I have a particular admiration for Samuel Butler’s ...

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Susan Haack is the author, most recently, of Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate: Unfashionable Essays (Chicago).


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 19 May 2001, on page 10

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