While I am effusive about these chapters, I’m aware that my sense of having things well explained and summed up by Duchen is a feeling of which to be wary. On one hand, Duchen’s broad knowledge and clear writing creates discursive assurance, but on the other hand such assurance is something for suspicion. Certainly the nuances and textures of Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, Kristeva, Irigaray, Cixous, and Psych et Po are much more than she presents and it is within these crevices that more engagement emerges. So while I am appreciative of Duchen’s work, I’m also appreciative of it in dialogue with the other weekly readings.
“Made in America: “French Feminism” in Academia” by Claire Goldberg Moses is also an exciting and stimulating article for what it does in reshaping my understanding of “French Feminism.” In this article, Moses recounts emerging contemporary French scholarship on the history of the women’s movement in France. In doing this, she is able to examine how feminism in France parallels feminism in the United States in interesting ways and how the writer’s who come to represent “French Feminism” in the United States are in fact not central to the movement in France. (In fact a key argument of hers has to do with the conflation of writers and feminists.) In particular, her account of the ascendancy of Psych et po was fascinating especially in light of what was then known and unknown about their financial situation. Moses then examines the ways that “French Feminism” was constructed in the academy through publishing in feminist journals and the construction of books and anthologies. In her conclusion, she argues that the U.S. academy has “exoticized and even eroticized French feminism” and that a consequence of this “we have abused our power. . . which proved injurious to the interests” of “very real French women” (p. 265.) While I am not entirely convinced of this conclusion (it seems to me in general this is a function of the movement of ideas across different countries/communities of practice/etc. and labeling it injurious is a little farther than I want to go), I was impressed and intrigued by the different strands of analysis that were mobilized to reach the conclusion. I think it is an interesting way of thinking about the writers with whom we engage this week.
Kelly Oliver’s French Feminism Reader, published in 2000, interested me in a number of ways. First, by way of Summary, what Oliver does is bring together selected writings from eight French feminists: de Beauvoir, Le Doeuff, Delphy, Guillaumin, Wittig, Kristeva, Irigaray, and Cixous. She combines these selections with quite thorough introductions by a variety of scholars that provide not only biographical information but a quite thoughtful analysis of the work. One of the things that is striking in reading this work in relationship to feminist theory from the United States is the way that these writers engage with “continental” philosophers. I was intrigued by this having just finished two books by contemporary queer theorists who are engaging philosophy in this way (Ahmed and Winnubst) and realizing how much this doesn’t feel to me a part of my/our (?) intellectual tradition.
The other thing that interested me in the book is the way that the tension between materialist feminism and post-structuralist feminism emerges in the collection. I’m not sure that this was a conscious strategy of Oliver in assembling the anthology, but it seemed evident to me (though I’m keenly interested in this debate right now.) As this is not an area that I imagine we will discuss tonight given the description of our guest, it is something I’m interested in talking about here if others are.
Other questions I am interested in for discussion from this week’s reading include:
- •Can we tease out further some of the relationships that these writers see between psychoanalytic theory and language/semiotics?
- •How do Irigaray and Cixous in particular see “lesbian” similar to and different from Rich in “Compulsory Heterosexuality?”
- •What do you think about Moses call in her article to be more direct about the disciplinary grounding of work? And what about the assertion that “Today , the predominant discipline in women’s studies is literature, and especially that kind of literary studies that has been influenced by the discourses and concerns of philosophy.” (p. 261.)
- •I’m also keenly interested in feminist theory of the 1970s that is polemical in form (though we’ve not read tons of in here yet, there is tons – CM mentioned The Furies, Redstockings, Valerie Solanas and many others produced a particular type of polemical theory that interests me). I consider some of the material that we read for today in that polemical form and spirit and am interested in making those connections as well.