“Mitsein” in Beauvoir’s The Second Sex

What I found especially enjoyable about reading Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper together was the way in which Gilman’s text functioned as a sort of case study for Beauvoir’s questions surrounding femininity. I found the concept of “Mitsein” that Beauvoir references in The Second Sex to be of particular interest. Beauvoir writes that “Male and female stand opposed within a primordial Mitsein, and women has not broken it” (Beauvoir xlix). I was curious as to the meaning of the word and looked it up during my reading to discover that the phrase “primordial Mitsein” was coined by Heidegger. I referenced the Larousse online dictionary for a german- english translation of the word and was provided with the definition of  “Verb: to go or come along”.  A quick reference to Wikipedia for a synopsis of Heideggerian terminology tabbed “Mitsein” under a meaning of “Being-with”. According to the subsequent explanation provided by Wikipedia “The term ‘Being-with’ [Mitsein] refers to an ontological characteristic of the human being, that it is always already with others of its kind… it is a statement about the being of every human, that in the structures of its being-in-the-world one finds an implicit reference to other humans”. I found the concept of “Mitsein” to be in direct opposition with the Hegelian model of the “Other” which Beauvoir outlines at the very beginning of the text. I see the argument between humans as being naturally individualistic or communal as directly connected to this opposition and central to Beauvoir’s analysis of the role of sexuality in determining “gender” roles. As my research was obviously only very preliminary I am interested in exploring “Mitsein” in more depth in seminar and wonder what role this concept plays in Beauvoir’s later analysis of Freud’s theory and also how the concept of “Mitsein” might be analyzed in relation to Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.

– Sophie Draper 2/9/15

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