File spoon-archives/french-feminism.archive/french-feminism_2001/french-feminism.0111, message 27

Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2001 01:04:53 EST
Subject: Irigaray and Colour

Hilary, I hope this post finds you feeling better. writes:

I think that one of the problems is that various meditative processes stress 
emptying or stilling the self, and have constructions of subjectivity which 
do not accord well with those found in psychoanalysis, or post-structuralist 
theory. The fragmented, partial, constructed self as opposed to.... let me 
give a quote from Yuanwu's Zen Letters (trans. Cleary) (Shambala 1994) 
(Yuanwu's dates are 1063-1135 CE):

"If you can cut off outward clinging to objects and inwardly forget your 
false ideas of self, things themselves are the true self, and the true self 
itself is things; things and true self are One Suchness, opening through to 
If you are attached to perception then this is a perception - it is not the 
arriving at the Truth. Those who arrive at the Truth transcend perception, 
but they manage to use perception without dwelling in perception. When you 
pass directly through  perception and get free of it, it is all the 
fundamental Truth."

he also quotes Yogjia: " It is not apart from here always profoundly clear 
and still. If you search for it, you know you cannot see it."

So we clearly have a huge problem with terminology between the disciplines 
current in academic theory today, and these texts. How to understand 'self', 
truth', etc. Then of course there is the vexed issue of translation. 
Translations of these Teachers can vary so much as to be almost 
unrecognizable as the same texts, and utterly infused with the values of 
their time and culture. In relation to Irigaray, teasing out the varying 
processes (esp. analysis and meditation), terminologies, and aims of these 
disciplines seems to be crucial. How do they differ? how can they be 
reconciled - as surely they must be within her/her writing, as she maintains 
practices of both.  The hints of her meditative practices (in English) goes 
back as far as I can see to a 1980 interview (Baruch & Serrano).

For now, and this is a limited view, it seems to me that the meditative 
traditions trump the psychoanalytic and post-structural ones.  The difference 
for me is this: the meditative traditions describe a "self" in a state of 
perfect health and reconciliation, where the academic traditions of ours 
describe a "self" in various states of alienation and degeneration.  The 
meditative traditions also recognized the 10,000 things, and it doesn't 
matter which 10,000, that distract us lead us into alienation.  Further, this 
is not a shameful illness, but the state of being unenlightened, which can 
(eventually) be overcome.  I'll try the theory based in health first, 
personally.  With the exception of the truly ill, the chemically imbalanced, 
the schizophrene, the meditative traditions hold out the hope that one can 
find rest in Big Womb of One Suchness, Emptiness, Nothingness, etc, which is 
NOT empty, but plentiful in the seamless extreme (and therefore a place one 
does not live, but visits and brings whiffs of back to the rest of us poor 
schmucks).  For me, Irigaray's trick is to bring these two traditions into 
dialogue where they meet naturally: Sex and sexuality.  And I don't think she 
reconciles them at all.  I think she uses the academic tools to point out the 
illness and imbalance of the academic tools and paradigms, and then says: 
there's a better system of over here.  Again and again I see her rejecting a 
Western mode or argument or interpretation for a not-quite-Eastern, but 
Eastern-and-woman-centered one.  She comes at this not strictly through 
ascetic Buddhism, but through the utter non-ascetic tradition of Tantrism.  
Once you've parsed the chapter I sent, that will make much more sense.  But, 
don't read it with a head cold.  I wouldn't !!!  Have tea instead.

Alison Martin's book Luce Irigaray and the Question of the Divine (mainly 
concerning christianity) discusses buddhism briefly in relation to Irigaray's 
reading of Nietzsche, and links her concepts of 'becoming'  back to the 
incident of Buddha and the flower - which Yuanwu interprets as the initiation 
of Zen transmission - and certainly, Irigaray discusses this incident, and 
uses the concept of the flower and/or blossoming elsewhere in a manner which 
can be read 'through' this incident productively (as opposed to reading it 
according traditional western constructions of the feminine, which  I have 
found to be a dead end in understanding these passages).

I think that's where Nietzsche got it, so it seems like a perfect fit.  The 
Eastern religions were known in many European circles for a good part of the 
19th C, I think.

(a coda: I am presently catching up with recent translations of Irigaray's 
work into English alongside the originals (I finished my PhD in 1998 and am 
just returning to working on Irigaray, and I'm not a fluent reader of french 
or italian), but you are right, Simone: we scholars of Irigaray's work must 
take this increasingly visible strand of her thought into account: it cannot 
simply be ignored. Her work has to be understood across its breadth - uses of 
terminology developed in one text appear as fundamental, but un-explained, 
elsewhere - the flower is but one example; and (as another correspondent 
emailed me privately last week) reading her late work through her early work 
(and vice versa????) is a wholly appropriate approach - in fact, I think, the 
only possible approach to a body of work which deliberately resists 
conventional academic analysis for political reasons. Hope all of this has 
made some sense - I'm stuffed full of a cold.)

I've thought about that process, or reading her backwards, and have always 
thought it woudl be very useful and enlightening, but, wow, more power to the 
brave among us who do so!  I have a miserable time tracing words and concepts 
through her various translators.  Some good indexing would be helpful, but I 
don't have the patience to do that myself.  She is  real philosopher: she has 
a lexicon, a system, a method, and tenaciousness and flair.  And she's pushy, 
which I like, she simply writes in her lexicon, as did Nietzsche or Hegel or 
Socrates, and says, "You can figure it out."  She trusts us to learn to read 
her, as they did.  So reading her work through itself seems like a fine idea. 
 Whatever, I'm babbling.  

G'night all,

It is equally deadly for a mind to have
a system or to have none.  Therefore
it will have to decide to combine both.
             ---  F. Schlegel

Simone Roberts, Ph. D. Candidate, A.B.D.
Humanities: Studies in Literature
University of Texas-Dallas

       "in Literature" means:
(19th and 20th Century European 
and American Poetics and Literature,
Literary Theory, and Feminist Philosophy,
all with a "History of Ideas" flava)

Instructor: Art Insitute of Dallas

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