Is the gesture male?
in Killing Men & Dying Women
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This chapter follows Hilary Robinson’s reading of the philosopher of sexual difference Luce Irigaray’s exploration of ‘Gesture in Psychoanalysis’. Questioning the gender neutrality of Freud’s interpretation of his grandson playing and repeating a gesture when his mother was absent – and his naming the throwing and recovering of a toy the fort–da game – Irigaray suggests three sites of sexual difference in the negotiation of the maternal absence through a girl’s play. Pollock then analyses gesture in photographs of Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler. Their painting methods stripped the act of painting back to the actions of the artist’s body, her/his medium and the canvas as a space/arena, inviting further psychoanalytically inflected theories about unconscious and phantasmatic negotiations of maternal otherness and maternal absence. Exploring this with Bracha L. Ettinger’s thesis of ‘the matrixial gaze’ and metramorphosis, questions emerge when we cease to think of subjectivity only in terms of Oedipal oppositions, masculine and feminine, and embrace the inherent unfixity of psychological formations through both the non-Oedipal matrixial encounter and the Oedipal process of identification.

Killing Men & Dying Women

Imagining difference in 1950s New York painting


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