Monuments and Maidens

Marina Warner’s ( achievement in this excellent book is to trace the different meanings which have been ascribed to the female form throughout the ages. She examines a wide range of material art (Donatello, Vermeer, Judy Chicago), Greek mythology, the Bible, world literature, linguistics and mass media.

Warner suggests that some women (the armed maidens of Justice and Chastity, etc.) may take on male personas (the brandished weapons) to best shield themselves from the masculine code. Pandora, the first woman of classical myth, and Eve, the mother in the Judeo-Christian story, bear the burden of men’s dreams: made and named by others, agents of calamity through the desire they inspire but do not experience themselves. Unlike men, women lose their individuality as they become universal symbols, and the only way to rid the female form of contaminated meanings is ‘to respect the individual inside the symbol’.

This is a really insightful study of the tension between women’s historic and symbolic roles, and provides great background reading for anyone interested in the position of women in contemporary society. Check if this impressively researched study is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

456 pages in Weidenfeld & Nicolson

First published 1985

ISBN  978-0297784081

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Marina Warner

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