Contents of spoon-archives/french-feminism.archive/Lubbock.abstracts/peebles

Catherine M. Peebles Binghamton University ABSTRACT: Sexual Difference Beyond the Phallus: Lacan and Irigaray It is now time to devote some thought to developing an ethics of inclusion or of the unlimited, that is, an ethics proper to the woman. Another logic of the superego must now commence. (Joan Copjec, Sex and the Euthanasia of Reason in Joan Copjec, ed., Supposing the Subject, London: Verso, 1994, p. 42.) In this essay, I address the difficult question of thinking sexual difference with and/or beyond Lacan, a challenge which has been taken up ever since the publication of the twentieth seminar, Encore. I start by taking Irigarays critique of Lacanian psychoanalysis as one which needs to be addressed and thought alongside that which it critiques, and not as simply dismissing the former. I also take Joan Copjecs response to feminist critiques of Lacan as useful for engaging in a dialogue about sexual difference, for it facilitates an opening up of Lacanian psychoanalytic thought to the questions which Irigaray brings to bear upon it. Part I of the text (Phallus) addresses Irigarays interpretation of Lacans use of this term. Rather than adopting a reading which assumes (by oversimplification) that Irigaray accuses Lacan of blurring the phallus and the penis and failing to acknowledge this blur, I argue that Irigaray (most specifically in her text Cos fan tutti in Ce sexe qui nen est pas un) points up the structures in the Lacanian symbolic (a phallus/castration symbolic) which make the existence of woman impossible, and the existence of man an imposture.Thus both Irigaray and Lacan conclude that because of their differing relation to the phallus, the mans existence is confirmed (he has, he gives, he is) while the womans status vacillates undecidably between existence and nonexistence (she doesnt have / she seems to have, she doesnt give / she seems to give, she is not / she seems to be). Irigarays quarrel with Lacan stems from the fact that he does not apparently argue against the crime inherent in this system, or insist on the need for its radical rethinking for the stake of there being two in a (sexual) relation. Irigaray is not arguing for a kind of ontological equality politics: let there be woman (as there is man). The question of womans existence is important here not because she should exist too, as man exists, but rather because existence itself is shown to be thought in such a way as forecloses difference, and thus the ethical possibility of (any relation to) a womans (living) difference. Thus the question of the phallus leads necessarily to the question of being(s). Part II (Sexual Difference/Not Existing) begins with Lacans own questioning of his notorious negations (e.g. il ny a pas La ny a pas dexistence du rapport sexuel...). But what he asks, does it mean to deny it? Is it in any way legitimate to substitute a negation for the apprehension of nonexistence? (Encore, 132) This question leads me to Copjecs reading of Lacans formulae of sexual difference, and her explanation of the not-All place that Woman occupies therein (Sex and the Euthanasia of Reason in Joan Copjec, ed. Supposing the Subject). I conclude this section by suggesting where Copjecs reading might lead, namely: that an ethics proper to the woman may involve what Irigaray calls taking the negative upon ourselves (Ethique de la diffrence sexuelle, p. 116). I proceed discuss the relation of this taking the negative upon oneself to feminine jouissance, and hence, to the possibility of an ethical relation in sexual difference based not on what Copjec (after Lacan) identifies as a superegoistic logic of the limit, but rather on an ethics of the unlimited, or the feminine. Part III (Dieu et la jouissance de Lafemme: Existence in relation, relations inexistence) then begins with a reading of parts of the twentieth seminar, most specifically Dieu et la jouissance de Lafemme and Une lettre dmour as an enactment of the possibility and failure of such an ethical relation. I focus on Lacans dramatic positioning of himself as an I in relation to a you which is his audience and a they which are his readers, and further interrogate the kind of love he calls for, and sees as failing between I and you as sexed subjects. I follow up this reading with a continuation of the discussion, begun in Part II, of feminine jouissance and Irigarays thinking of the negative. The concluding passage of my text reads as follows: We can now read Lacans demand that his audience desuppose him of knowledge (as his good, loving, and also hating, readers do) as a demand for another love, a love which does not situate a subject (supposed or desupposed of knowledge) as always and only beyond, a love which would allow something else to come between subjects. With Irigaray we suggest that this something may be a jouissance which, while neither known nor mastered, would be mutually created and experienced between subjects who listen without supposing finally to know what is heard and said, thereby forging a tenuous, and always shifting and shared, limit.

Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005