This book generates a critical framework through which to interrogate the way in which religious feminists have employed women's literature in their texts. This is in order that both the way we read literature and the literature we read might be subject to scrutiny, and that new reading practices be developed. Having both the critical and constructive agenda, this is a book in two parts. The first part locates the study of the use of women's writing by religious feminists in a much wider frame than has previously been attempted. In the past individual religious feminists have been criticised, often publicly and loudly, for the use they have made of particular literary texts. Having critically surveyed previously unacknowledged constraints under which religious feminists read women's literature, the second part of the book explores how the work of women poststructuralist thinkers and theorists can enrich the reading practices. It offers alternative models for an engagement between literature and theology. Julia Kristeva is best known within the academy for her unorthodox application of Lacanian theory to contemporary culture. Her work challenges religious feminists to reassess the utilitarian approaches to literary texts and enquire into whether these might have a more powerful political role when their status as literature is recognised and affirmed. The book elucidates Luce Irigaray's thinking on sexual difference and also demonstrates its significance for feminist religious readers.
women poststructuralist thinkers and theorists can enrich our reading
practices and offer alternative models for an engagement between literature and
Julia Kristeva is best known within the academy for her unorthodox application of Lacaniantheory to contemporary culture. She characterises her own
work, however, as a quest to discern how the interconnected energies of literature and the sacred represent a vital source of renewal for our deeply ailing
political system. Kristeva employs the now familiar device of characterising literature as feminine and
would finally gain access to. (1985a: 129)
Although Speculum does not offer an explicit critique of Lacan’s elaboration upon
Freud, the frequent ‘specular’ images are implicit recollections of his theories.
Irigaray implies that the male analyses of subjectivity it contains can be compared
to a (boy) child gazing in the mirror. He concentrates only upon the reflection
of himself and not the matrix (mother) which supports him. This judgement
particularly refers to the manner in which Lacaniantheory banishes the m/other
from representation but requires her
discourses are historically contingent.
See R. Barthes, ‘Writers, intellectuals, teachers’, in R. Barthes, The Rustle of Language,
trans. R. Howard (Oxford, 1986), p. 317.
7 Hassan, Sailing to Australia, pp. 78 – 88, 99, 135, 185 –7.
8 M.W. Alcorn, Jr, ‘The subject of discourse: reading Lacan through (and beyond)
poststructuralist contexts’, in M. Bracher, M.W. Alcorn, Jr, R.J. Carthell and
F. Massardier-Kenney (eds), LacanianTheory of Discourse: Subjects, Structure and
Society (New York, 1994), p. 19.
9 Ibid., p. 37.
10 Ibid., p. 19.
11 Ibid., p. 31
of Irigaray’s general argument about the violation of
female lips by male sexual intervention (sometimes under a medical
pretext), ‘that blade between my lips’ can be read as a penis or a speculum.
This violation has connotations of rape, loss of virginity, and masculine
appropriation of reproduction.
The second level of interpretation continues Irigaray’s engagement of
Lacaniantheories of language and its roots in psycho–sexual development:
it is his tongue/language which the man forces into the woman’s mouth,
causing her to lose her own speech and subjectivity
’ (1989: 259).
Black Sun, the last of Kristeva’s trilogy, is also the most conservative. Her work
has taken a progressively greater turn towards the clinical as her interest in
Lacaniantheory and psychoanalytic practice superseded the varied appropriation
of a variety of theoretical tools in her early writing. This gives these texts from her
second phase an extremely powerful internal coherence. However, whereas once
she could speak of concepts like the semiotic as theoretical suppositions justified
by the need for description, she later uses arguments about the
the initiation of social exchange, and the articulation of the unconscious. The locus of the
Other is at the same time that site within the subject known as the unconscious. (74)
The o/Other in Lacaniantheory has thus come to indicate two aspects of one
process. It registers the change from the imaginary (unconscious) to symbolic
(conscious) cultural conventions. At the same time, it indicates the site of an
original maternal bond that has been repressed in this transaction. While it is the
mistaken conflation of the imaginary with the symbolic representations