Introduction to French Feminism: Gender and Difference
96 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249
Is gender equality possible without relying on gender neutrality? Whereas many Anglo-American feminists attempt to undermine sexism by eliding sexual difference, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, and others embrace it. These “French feminists” use what might be called “anatamo-epistemology”—invoking the metaphor of the female body to illustrate other ways of seeking and speaking knowledge. In this course, we will explore the relevance and value of French feminism as a critique of the Western philosophical tradition. Is bodily anatomy, the phallus and vagina specifically, useful as a metaphor for how knowledge is organized and communicated? Is an ethical framework of interdependency a more cogent basis for conceptualizing liberation than the traditional philosophical tools of liberalism, with the latter’s emphasis on the individual, autonomy, and personal achievement? How do speech, logic, and masculinity connect? How does one reconcile the French feminist commitment to sexual difference with other trans-, queer- and other feminist ideas about gender fluidity? Where does French feminism break from Western tradition and where does it reassert it with vehemence? Texts will come primarily from Irigaray and Cixous, with the possible inclusion of Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Jennifer Hansen, Julia Kristeva, Oliver Braidotti, and more.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm
June 03 — June 24, 2019