The Seminar 2014

Introduction to the seminar 2014 by Luce Irigaray

Only women participated in the 2014 seminar at the University of Bristol. They belonged to various continents, countries and cultures. They went from Europe — England, France, Italy, Poland, Sweden — and also from Australia and India. The themes of their researches were also differing and more oDSCN2896r less minoring their tradition or culture: criticism of the status of woman as mother or as object of use and exchange in patriarchal traditions, but also of the impact of their unrecognized role on cultural and political categories, for example this of “the sovereign state”; meaning of a “new materialism” based on our bodies, especially as sexuate, and not only on money and goods; elaboration of a culture in the feminine through reconsidering language, silence, passivity, femininity and motherhood; importance of literary strategies for individual, but also political “therapy” and evolution; intervention of breath and space in the feminine life and performances; how love could modify our indivudual and collective existences.

Angelica Stathopoulos (University of Paris 8, Saint Denis, France)

Always-silent, Already-passive, Forever-feminine — Rethinking Feminist Writing with Luce Irigaray

The text that I presented at the seminar of Luce Irigaray in 2014 brought together parts of my master’s thesis with some thoughts from my current research project. In my master’s thesis, entitled Toujours-déjà féminine – penser une subjectivité entre-femmes avec Luce Irigaray, I discussed the possibility of creating alternative feminine subjectivities. I organized my thesis in three parts. In the first part, I discussed the importance of style for understanding Irigaray’s texts; in the second part, I accounted for the reception of Irigaray’s work in France, in Italy and by Anglophone feminists, and in the third part, I conducted close readings of Irigaray’s two books Passions élémentaires and Sexes et parentés. At the seminar, I addressed some of my thoughts from the first and the third part of my master’s thesis, more precisely I talked about Passions élémentaires and the question of style and how to read. Read more…

Nadine Picone (University of Tasmania, Australia)

Foundations for the future of feminist theory

As Luce Irigaray shows, the present lack of truly intersubjective relations is intrinsically linked to the different ways women and men use language – ways that repeatedly reinforce man as subject and woman as object. Thus, it is can be imagined that wherever women accomplish a degree of success in the formation of their own language, the strength of intersubjective appeal necessarily contained within such a language is likely to create shifts in the existing masculine language so that men too would attain a higher degree of intersubjective syntax – which is in no way to suggest that female and male languages ever could or should achieve synthesis (see Irigaray, Luce, I Love to You, p. 59-119). Read more…

Emily Jones (SOAS, University of London, UK)

Using Irigaray to push at the international law’s boundaries: The sovereign state

Feminist approaches to international law have long been caught between resistance and compliance; that is, caught between using international law as a tool to help women’s material circumstances whilst trying to critique the structures and foundations of this tool. Whilst structural bias, defined here as international law – being structurally based on sex and gender as an approach – was founded on the very conception of feminist approaches to international law, what this precisely means and how far this should go has not been thoroughly explored. Further, in recent years, feminist international legal scholars have moved away from analysing international law at the structural level, and largely preferred to consider and critique the law from the inside, therefore remaining hopeful of international law’s potential to “accommodate” women. Whilst these causes and achievements do have an impact and should be applauded and we ought to strived for them, they, alone, cannot change a lot the gendered structure of international law at a foundational level. The work of Luce Irigaray offers the most promising way for us to challenge the structural bias of international law. Read more…

Eva Birch (University of Melbourne, Australia)

Eating: a political theology of non-human bodies

My project studies sacrifice in terms of the original anthropological question of the constitution of the subject, and the objecthood of woman in the symbolic order. Food taboos and sexual taboos form subjectivity to the exclusion of woman, animal, and anything other to the technological ontology of Western man. I borrow Luce Irigaray’s critique of Karl Marx that women are the original units of exchange, to inform a trajectory from ritual to capital. From this position I look at modes of consumption in modernity. The status of woman as commodity leads to her inability to consume, eat, and thus enter as subjectivity in the symbolic order. Woman is not the only category through which we can track values of exchange. I use it, however, as a starting point to think about anything ‘other’ to the position of Western subject. Therefore I focus on objecthood instead of the construction of a new inclusive subject or subjectivity. Read more…

Katarzyna Szopa (University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland)

Toward a Culture of Relations: New Materialism in Philosophy of Luce Irigaray

The critique of monosubjective nature of patriarchal culture inspired Luce Irigaray to elaborate a positive philosophy of dialogue and culture based on intersubjective relations. In her latest works — such as The Way of Love, To be Two, I Love to You — Irigaray puts the stress on love, happiness and ethical mutual respect, and she develops a new model of subjectivity starting from our “relational identity”. In my research project I mainly focus on this “affirmative phase” of Irigaray’s work to emphasize the noticeable evolution of her philosophy. I believe that affirmative ethics is a creative position, which could have a great influence on our sociopolitical reality. Read more…

Ursula Del Aguila (University Paris 8, Saint Denis, France)

The Maternal Body of Philosophy’s original matricide

The History of Philosophy is the exemplary scene of representation regarding Sameness. Women have entered that scene in a truncated way: their bodies were defining themselves entirely whereas the masculine subject was showing off his splendor and integrity through the Father, the Logos of the Western Reason, the spiritual power extraneous to embodied humanity. This scene is the scene of one gender only, not of the two. “I believe that a lack of respect for the identity or subjectivity of each one is the most important fault since this amounts to a kind of murder: a spiritual murder, the most serious murder and also the most serious suicide” (See Luce Irigaray, ‘Towards Divine in the Feminine’, in Women and the Divine, ed. Gillian Howie, Palgrave, 2009, p. 15). Read more…

Jane Desmond (University of Portsmouth, UK)

PhD Creative Writing: The Self-Reflexive Muse

The significance of the hold the muse retains on the collective imagination widens when her history is read as a narrative of how the female became the ‘other of the same’. From ephemeral divinity to embodied (white) goddess, her story is the replacement of the feminine principle with the “beautiful object of contemplation” (Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which is Not One, trans. C. Porte with C. Burke, New York: Cornell University Press, 1977, p. 26). She has become central pillar of the “theatre of the identical” but she was once portal to the excluded (Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. G. C. Gill, New York: Cornell University Press, 1974, p. 138). Although already a dilution, the muse of mythology remained one of the last links to “the inaccessible thing from which words arise and to which they are addressed” and so to break the link to the muse is like breaking the link to the feminine. Those who utilize the mastering gaze for subversive artistic purposes epitomize mimesis and their work is haunted by the “an inaccessible, unutterable beyond” (Luce Irigaray, In the Beginning, She Was, p. 2-3). Read more…

Mahrokhsadat Hosseini (University of Sussex, UK)

The Representation of Dialogism and Ethical Subjectivity through Poetry: An Irigarayian Reading of Iranian Women’s Poetry from the Constitutional Revolution to the Islamic Revolution

In my thesis, I study the question of the ethical subjectivity and dialogism in the work of Iranian female poets, whose poems, I believe, are enclosed with dialogical elements and ethical tones. I show how the concept of “the Dialogic subjectivity” acknowledges ethical questions in their poetry, e.g. the importance of situating oneself in the other’s stance, the challenging of the binary oppositions, the responsibility towards the other and the interpretation of relations. In this respect, the monologist understanding of subjectivity in Iranian women’s poetry is exchanged for the interaction between the subjects. Iranian feminine poets through their poetry, transgress several socio-cultural boundaries. The strategy of women in both spaces is the same: to become more visible, to raise their voice, resist and to create a new identity not far off from their real self. Read more…

Giulia Patacci (Roma Tre University, Italy)

From “I Love to You” to “The Mystery of Mary”: About human love and divine love

The opportunity to meet each other cannot be separated either from the knowledge and awareness of the self, or from what relates to one’s sexuate identity, because respect for oneself, and then for the person next to you, cannot exist without assuming one’s femininity or masculinity. In this path of growth, there is no solitary completion, but we are enriched by the existence of the other. If we do not project onto the other lots of our expectations and do not wait from the other what we lack (especially our happiness), many relationships would be happier. But now we use each other, we claim, we ask for much (often without giving), and we are never satisfied. And to be satisfied is not to give up or not to aim at high, but realize that the other is a gift, as it is. There is no yardstick or a scale, but only the joy to greet each other and walk along a stretch of road. The enrichment that comes out is immense, for those who can meet each other in freedom. Read more…

Manola K. Gayatri (Jawaharlal Nehru Univeristy, New Delhi India)

Breath in Performance

My PhD dissertation was premised on the idea of ‘making fluid’ the ‘binary between body and word’ ‘through breath’. I approach breath through explorations of breath techniques in performance traditions, and also as a philosophical category to understand relations between actors in performance space including time, object, text, performer, space, audience, rhythm etc. Breath in performance has a very special relationship with body and text through the embodied actions of the actor. Breath is both a gesture of the body but also extends beyond it. Read more…