CHAPTER 6 Luce Irigaray and the threshold of the divine The symbolic has annihilated women Openings and pointers I have argued that the significance Kristeva accords to literature as a political and spiritual force is challenging to feminist religious readers, and that the semiotic is a deeply resonant image that does display many of the salient features of the social order and is worth struggling with despite its ambivalence. However, despite my largely sympathetic reading of Kristeva’s oeuvre, I am aware that her work does not result in a radical

in Literature, theology and feminism

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.

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Luce Irigaray, women, gender and religion

This book explores the work of Luce Irigaray, one of the most influential and controversial figures in feminist thought—although Irigaray herself disclaims the term ‘feminism’. Irigaray's work stands at the intersection of contemporary debates concerned with culture, gender and religion, but her ideas have not yet been presented in a comprehensive way from the perspective of religious studies. The book examines the development of religious themes from Irigaray's initial work, Speculum of the Other Woman, in which she rejects traditional forms of western religions, to her more recent explorations of eastern religions. Irigaray's ideas on love, the divine, an ethics of sexual difference and normative heterosexuality are analysed. These analyses are placed in the context of the reception of Irigaray's work by secular feminists such as Judith Butler, Drucilla Cornell and Elizabeth Grosz, as well as by feminists in religious studies such as Pamela Sue Anderson, Ellen Armour, Amy Hollywood and Grace Jantzen. Most of these thinkers reject Irigaray's proposals for women's adoption of gender-specific qualities as a form of gender essentialism. Finally, Irigaray's own spiritual path, which has been influenced by eastern religions, specifically the disciplines of yoga and tantra in Hinduism and Buddhism, is evaluated in the light of recent theoretical developments in orientalism and postcolonialism.

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A reading of Luce Irigaray’s Elemental Passions

The recognition of a female subject is relatively recent in Western philosophy, through Western intellectual history, it has been assumed to be normatively male. This book provides the first English commentary on Luce Irigaray's poetic text, Elemental Passions, setting it within its context within continental thought. It explores Irigaray's images and intentions, developing the gender drama that takes place within her book, and draws the reader into the conversation in the text between 'I-woman' and 'you-man'. In Irigaray's philosophy of sexual difference love is of ultimate significance for the development and mutual relationship of two subjects. The book explains how the lack of a subject position for women is related to the emergence of rigid binaries, and catches a hint of how subversive attention to fluidity is to the masculinist pattern. This emphasis on desire and sexual difference obviously intersects with the psychoanalytic theories of S. Freud and J. Lacan, theories which had enormous impact on French philosophers of the time. Irigaray has used vivid imagery from the very beginning of her writings. A few of her images, in particular that of the lips, have become famous in feminist writings. The development of mutually affirming sexual subjects, different but not oppositional, and thereby the destabilizing of traditional binary categories of oppositional logic, is simultaneously highly innovative and has far-reaching consequences. The book presents a critique of Irigaray's methods and contentions to critical scrutiny, revisiting the idea of fluidity in relation to logic.

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Encountering Irigaray

Introduction: encountering Irigaray Luce Irigaray is a formidable and passionate presence, both in person and in her writings. She has charted a unique course of enquiry into the contemporary situation of women. In so doing, Irigaray has not identified herself with any particular movement. Irigaray declines the term ‘feminism’. She does not accept ‘isms’ of any variety, as she indicates that they constrict the free play of exploration. ‘Male-bashing’ is also not a word that can be used to discredit Irigaray’s commitment to change both the personal and social

in Divine love
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Introduction A female subject?1 Laisse–moi aller où je ne suis pas encore. (Pe 30) Let me go where I have not yet arrived. (EP 25) These words, from Luce Irigaray’s Elemental Passions, lie at the heart of this book. They characterize the journey towards female subjectivity undertaken by the woman within Elemental Passions as well as by those who engage with her in that adventure. ‘Let me go where I have not yet arrived’ captures the attitude of the feminist thinker who embarks on her project without prior knowledge of where it will lead her. It indicates the

in Forever fluid

in a supportive role. Yet as Cavarero points out, none of these ‘rebirthings’ would be possible unless there had been an initial birth from a mother. The philosopher, the Christian and the soldier seem to forget that they could not have chosen their new birth, or their new philosophical home, or their manliness, had they not first been born into the world. Luce Irigaray makes much of this forgotten debt to the woman: repeatedly she argues that men want to forget to whom it is that they owe their existence (FA; SG21; etc.). Part of her intention in her analysis of

in Forever fluid

the woman as such be speaking in this book? Who is speaking here, and who is asserting the otherness of the woman? If, as Luce Irigaray suggests, the woman’s silence, or the repression of her capacity to speak, are constitutive of philosophy and of theoretical discourse as such, from what theoretical locus is Irigaray herself speaking in order to develop her own theoretical discourse about women’s exclusion? (Felman 1997: 120) If we are all steeped in and structured by the masculinist symbolic, then how can Irigaray step outside of it and analyse it? In terms of

in Forever fluid
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Angela Carter and European Gothic

Carter’s feminist dialogues with a male-authored – and often misogynist – bloodline of European Gothic. Feminism in the Gothic House of Fiction My analysis of European Gothic’s topographical and representational territories engages, in the course of its travels, with aspects of French feminist theory, in particular the work of Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva, that operate in

in Decadent Daughters and Monstrous Mothers

, Passion and Action (James 1997), contends that, once Descartes’ depiction of the passions is taken into consideration, the simplistic dichotomy of mind and body often attributed to Descartes can no longer stand. It is intriguing to locate where Luce Irigaray stands in this debate, for in her work there are two distinct treatments of Descartes’ ideas. Firstly, in Speculum, there is the chapter entitled ‘... and if, taking the eye of a man recently dead ...’ (1985a: 180-90), and, in Ethics of Sexual Difference, there is ‘Wonder: A Reading of Descartes’ Passions of the

in Divine love