Luce Irigaray: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Sexual Difference
In the wake of the publication of her landmark book Speculum of the Other Woman, a scathing critique of Freud’s writing on female sexuality, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan famously expelled Luce Irigaray from her position at the University of Paris Vincennes. What was so shocking about Irigaray’s writing?
A philosopher, a linguist, and a psychoanalyst, Irigaray’s project is monumentally ambitious, an attempt to reread the texts of the Western philosophical canon and make the members of that canon give back what they owe to what she calls “the feminine.” For as she writes in This Sex Which Is One One, “it is indeed precisely philosophical discourse that we have to challenge, and disrupt, inasmuch as this discourse sets forth the law for all others, inasmuch as it constitutes the discourse on discourse.” In this class, we will trace Irigaray’s critical project, following her through feminist, deconstructive, and psychoanalytic readings of figures from Plato to Hegel to Nietzsche to Freud and Lacan. We will explore Irigaray’s conception of “the feminine” as the unconscious of philosophy; her emphasis on what she terms sexual difference; her distinctive style and her strategy of mimesis; and her efforts to challenge the cultural imaginary. Does Irigaray’s work move beyond essentialism, or is it fundamentally mired in an essentialist binary logic of masculine and feminine? Why might one wish to “have a fling” with the philosophers, as she puts it? What new possibilities for a distinctively feminine language and subjectivity does Irigaray’s work open up? And, what is sexual difference, anyway? Readings will include selections from Speculum of the Other Woman, This Sex Which Is Not One, Sexes and Genealogies, and The Ethics of Sexual Difference, as well as secondary literature by Jane Gallop, Elizabeth Weed, and Margaret Whitford.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
July 12 — August 02, 2021