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Hélène Cixous and the feminine divine
Author: Sal Renshaw

This book is about abundant, generous, other-regarding love. In the history of Western ideas of love, such a configuration has been inseparable from our ideas about divinity and the sacred, often reserved only for God and rarely thought of as a human achievement. The book is a substantial engagement with Cixous's philosophies of love, inviting the reader to reflect on the conditions of subjectivity that just might open us to something like a divine love of the other. It follows this thread in this genealogy of abundant love: the thread that connects the subject of love from fifth-century-b.c.e. Greece and Plato, to the twentieth-century protestant theology of agapic love of Anders Nygren, to the late twentieth-century poetico-philosophy of Hélène Cixous.

Sal Renshaw

of creation (especially pp. 100–104). 9780719069604_4_005.qxd 09/01/2009 09:57 AM Page 173 Divine Promethean love Promethean differences Throughout this text, Promethea, in particular, symbolises the dispersal and freedom of feminine subjectivity. The subsequent possibilities this affords her with respect to ‘living’ the immediacy of the present in the absence of self-interest are clearly offered as the key to her divinity, and in this respect Promethea begins to assume some of the qualities of agapic love. In attempting to describe Promethea’s relation to the

in The subject of love
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For the love of God
Sal Renshaw

Page 61 Feminist theology: for the love of God consequence they have become the special focus of the self-sacrificial, otherregarding demand of agape. As Barbara Hilkert Andolsen says, the irony of this demand for women is that ‘Men have espoused an ethic which they did not practice; women have practiced it to their detriment’ (1981: 75). Self-sacrifice, exclusion, and denial have been the fulcrum on which women’s relations with love have turned within orthodox Christian theology, and it is agapic love that many feminist theologians have understood as being the

in The subject of love
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In the spirit of the gift of love
Sal Renshaw

love has in practice been very problematic, particularly for women around the question of selflessness,6 there is, nonetheless, something radically egalitarian about a conception of love that is universally expressed regardless of the specificity of the object of that love. Indeed, I would argue that this egalitarian aspect of Christian love, to the extent that it bears on an ethics of intersubjective relations, has potentially been Christianity’s most unique, radical and indeed provocative contribution to ethics. However, the other-regarding aspect of agapic love

in The subject of love
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Philosophy, theology, and French feminism
Sal Renshaw

on which New Testament ethics have turned? Having made selfless other-regarding love the defining quality of its deity, Christianity has had a longstanding investment in thinking about agapic love.38 To that extent its theological writings on love offer an extraordinarily rich history, not simply of love but of divine love. Yet agape has been a notoriously elusive notion, which itself has been the source of considerable, if productive, angst for contemporary theological scholars who are caught in the will-to-truth games of modernist discourse. At the heart of this

in The subject of love
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Sal Renshaw

expression of divine love, yet other remains essential. If the other does not remain other there is no space for what I am here suggesting is Cixous’ agapic love, no space for becoming in difference with the other and, thus, no divinity for Cixous’ subjects of love. Are we not then being offered a picture of love here that looks utterly reminiscent of the agape of Anders Nygren that we considered in the first chapter, a love that is spontaneous, other-regarding, generous, and creative, albeit a love that is now expressed in fully human terms? Moreover, I do think that

in The subject of love
Sal Renshaw

a revisioned agapic love conceived on a model of abundance. In a similar way, Cixous herself, or, more accurately, Cixous the author, resists the kind of linear narrative often imposed on the subject of biographies by their biographers, even intellectual biographers as rigorous and thoughtful as Cixous’. There is a noticeable tendency nonetheless to impose on her a kind of narrative of maturation which seems to posit her early work implicitly as somehow less formed and less sophisticated because it was more focused on the self and her later work as more mature

in The subject of love
Sal Renshaw

divinity and subjectivity, something I think is nonetheless well captured in Cixous’ account of feminine economies of difference, that we can more fully appreciate the way in which her account of the love between Achilles and Penthesileia conveys certain evocations of agapic love. Her reflections on the very structure of feminine subjectivities, which I read as the essence of her essay ‘Grace and Innocence’, provide the necessary bridge to the story I will subsequently tell in Chapter 5 of what I take to be Cixous’ much more explicit account of an unexpectedly agapic

in The subject of love
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Turning towards a radiant ideal
Kieran Keohane and Carmen Kuhling

of the city, rest; that they partake of and aspire towards. This level of love corresponds to agape: love as abstraction to pure and universal forms of Beauty, Truth and the Good, radiant Ideals that transform those who turn towards them and whose actions are guided by them. Socrates tells us that this is not his own original wisdom but that he is passing on the wisdom of Diotima, a wise woman whom he says was his instructress in this and many other things. Socrates’ passing on something handed down from another emphasizes the social nature of wisdom; that these

in The domestic, moral and political economies of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland