File spoon-archives/french-feminism.archive/french-feminism_2000/french-feminism.0007, message 25

Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 15:50:02 -0400
Subject: Re: talking about Irigaray

Simone, I couldn't agree with you more. Irigaray is read as "bad
essentialism" only by those incapable of reading her (and they are, of
course, legion).

One note though, concerning multiplicity. It's of course true that Irigaray
underlines the plurality of Being, its non-totalizability. But she rejects
the _multiple_ and multiplicity as well, seeing in this notion but another
avatar for the one (in the guise of the many).

A little example I happen to have at hand: in J'aime a toi (p. 223), she
writes, "Still in the shadows lies the revelation that neither nature nor
the subject nor the absolute can be one, and that the multiple risks ending
up in death." ("Encore dans l'ombre se tient la revelation que ni la nature
ni le sujet ni l'absolu ne peuvent etre uns, et que le multiple risque
d'aboutir a la mort." 

Pheng Cheah and Elizabeth Grosz have emphasized this difference of
Irigaray's work from other contemporary thinkers. I'll give a little
snippet here, since I think they put it very clearly. In the Spring 1998
diacritics, they wrote:

It is widely accepted that Irigaray's critique of phallogocentrism involves
an exposure of the violent logic of the one, a Platonic monologic that
reduces the other to a pale copy or deficient version of the same. It is
correctly noted that Irigaray regards this logic of sameness as the
theoretical underpinning of a variety of historical patriarchal social and
cultural structures as well as phallocentric discourses on femininity and
feminine sexuality. However, on the basis of a certain reading of her work
in the 1970s (such as "When Our Lips Speak Together"), Irigaray is then
characterized as a champion of multiplicity, which is enacted in/as
ecriture feminine or parler-femme. It will therefore be somewhat of a
surprise to many of her readers that Irigaray regards multiplicity as
complicit with the logic of the one. In her view the multiple is the one in
its self-willed dispersal into unrelated atomistic singularities, many
others of the same. The alternative model she offers is the paradigm of the
two, a mode of original relationality or being-with-the-other in which the
otherness of the other is respected.

See also Irigaray, "The Question of the Other," trans. Noah Guynn, Yale
French Studies 87 (1995) 7-19.

Best regards,
At 09:44 AM 7/31/2000 -0500, you wrote:
>Thanks Catherine, for this reminder.  With one small exception, I'm with
>you.  Here it is:
>Catherine Peebles wrote:
>The notion, for example, of the forgotten feminine is central;
>> however, after Heidegger we are certainly not speaking of a feminine
>> essence to be refound and reinstated. 
>Very often (and I don't know that you take this approach, but I feel
>compelled to explain anyway), Irigaray's call for a feminine divine, a
>feminine syntax, a feminine genealogy, are simplified as a return some
>kind of bad essentialism.  I really sincerely think that this is not
>what's going on due to several factors.  
>First, Irigaray insists not only on the feminine's multiplicity, but on
>any one woman's multiplicity, a term I have come to understand after
>exploring IRigaray's connections to Tantra, as complexity of self or of
>gender. (Shaw's Passionate Enlightenment, and Frosts Tantric Yoga, and
>Anand's Art of Everyday Ecstasy are all helpful in exploring this, and
>when published, so will be my dissertation -- plug plug)
>Second, No where, ever, in her writing does Irigaray argue that to
>establish a feminine divine would imply the definition of some feminine
>or female essence.  She writes of the divine as something to which a
>gender can aspire, a description of its most refined or perfected
>character.  She further notes that men do have a divine to which to
>aspire, and that their divine is different in itself: the tension
>between the Old Testament God and the far gentler Christ, and the
>interpretations of Christ offered by Paul or St. Augustine etc. 
>Additionally while men have this divine with which to 'anchor' to their
>subjectivity (acceptance of religious faith having nothing at all to do
>with the cultural availability of the model and its effects), women do
>not and this part of their abjection as nature, body, irrationality,
>Third, even while men have 'enjoyed' this 'anchor' their sex and gender
>is not considered 'essentialized' by it -- men still see themselves as
>having room to align themselves with whatever interpretation of the
>divine best resonate with them, to be, in short, themselves, and as
>having room to disregard any such alignment if they so choose. There is
>no prohibition in Irigaray against women also having this freedom of
>identification and interpretation.  Quite the opposite, I think.  
>(The problem for men and masculinity being essentialized as power,
>domination, rationality, etc. is also one that needs, and is being
>address by other theorists.  Either narrow definition of gender is
>damaging, even if the perks are ok-ish)
>So, to act like an academic, yes Catherine, there is no reinstated
>essence in Irigaray's attempts to 'reanimate' the feminine, but there
>are traces in her work that have been ignored or blasted because they
>seem to indicate so.  They are the most revolutionary, hopeful, radical,
>sustaining aspects of her work, and I just hope they can be attended
>to.  Ignoring these aspects of her work runs the risk of making her out
>to be a 'tame' or 'ladylike' philosopher, and she's not at all that. 
>Best wishes,
>Woe to the writer who fails to cultivate
>[her] megalomania, who sees it diminished
>without taking action. [She] will soon 
>discover that one does not become *normal*
>with impunity.
>		-- E.M. Cioran
>		"On the Verge of Existence"
>Simone Roberts
>Ph.D. Candidate, Studies in Lit.
>19 and 20 Century Euro-American Poetics, 
>	Feminist Philosophy
>The University of Texas-Dallas
>School of Arts and Humanities
>primary email:
>secondary email:
>Instructor, Art Institute of Dallas
>     --- from list ---

     --- from list ---

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