Toril Moi is a feminist literary critic whose work focuses on philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literary theory. She enjoys reading works by women writers and intellectuals and by Freud, Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, and Harvard University’s own Stanley Cavell. Much of her work deals with questions of feminist theory broadly conceived: Sexual/Textual Politics (Methuen, 1985) and What Is a Woman? (Oxford University Press, 1999). She considers Simone de Beauvoir to be the most important feminist thinker of the twentieth century and wrote Simone de Beauvoir: The Making of an Intellectual Woman (Blackwell, 1994).
At Radcliffe, Moi will try to show that the great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) is one of the exemplary writers of bourgeois modernity. One reason for the current neglect of Ibsen in literary and theoretical discussions of modernity, she thinks, is that he writes about the radical transformation of the situation of women. She also thinks that Ibsen’s revolutionary theatrical form is wrongly dismissed as “fuddy-duddy old realism.” Because Ibsen understood that the modernization of women’s situation would place serious difficulties in the way of relationships between men and women, his insights are more relevant than ever.
Moi is the James B. Duke Professor of Literature and Romance Studies at Duke University. She has received fellowships from the National Humanities Center, the American Council for Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (Paris), and Clare Hall (Cambridge, United Kingdom). She holds a doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Bergen, Norway.