Feminism, Technology, and Art in C. L. Moore’s “No Woman Born”

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Wymer, Thomas L. “Feminism, Technology, and Art in C. L. Moore’s ’No Woman Born.’” ‘’Extrapolation’’ 47.1 (Spring 2006): 51-65.

Though it hadn’t yet been named, the cyborg in “No Woman Born” is of high importance in the story as feminist fiction (p. 52). Note in the article:

Wymer's citing as the "first real acknowledgments of the important feminist themes in the story" appearing late, in the 2003 Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction essays by Helen Merrick, "Gender in Science Fiction," and by Veronica Hollinger, "Feminist Theory in Science Fiction," Merrick offering "'remarkable insights into issues of embodiment, female beauty, power[,] and what it means to be "human", by uncoupling "femininity" from the biologically female body'" (Cambridge 244); Hollinger relating the story to Donna Haraway's "A Manifesto for Cyborgs" (1985 [Cambridge 133]).

That “Moore uses the cyborg image to explore and radically reassess the image of the female, exposing the extent to which it is both socially constructed and bound to the physical body” (p. 52).
In in the narration we're told that "Maltzer's fear for her," the main character, Deirdre — in part as his creation as a kind of resurrected robot — "is rooted in what [the Narrator] Harris recognizes as his [Maltzer's] 'psychic blindness,' which comes in part from his never having known her except as a machine (252)* but more for his focus on the body" of Deirdre, whom he sees in robot form as a kind of Abelard: the artist castrated (Wymer 53), except in "No Woman Born" we have what in stories by later authors has been called whole body prosthesis. 
Stresses how Maltzer tries to control Deirdre ("for her own sake, of course" Wymer notes), whereas "for  Deirdre victory [...] means being in control of herself, being her own person," not a thing to be owned (Wymer 55).
Wymer relates "No Woman Born" to Frankenstein (1818) and the film BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), the Irish legend of Deirdre the legend of Pygmalion and Galatea (and the play by G. B. Shaw), but also to the dance (ballet) and, relevant here: the motif of a «brain in a vat», Lester del Rey's "Helen O'Loy" (1938), Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (pp. 61-63 & passim), and other works looking at "various visions of the female, of the mechanical, [and] of the human [...] based on prior expectations and assumptions which are projected out onto the world" (Wymer, p. 63).

  • Wymer's references are to "No Woman Born in The Best of C. L. Moore, ed. Lester del Rey. New York: Ballantine, 1975: 136-77.

RDE, Initial Compiler, 10May19