24 March 2010

MCT: Luce Irigaray

Luce Irigaray is clearly an interesting figure, but the extract in MCT is unimpressive in its methods. It's a speech, "The Bodily Encounter with the Mother", that she gave to a conference on mental health in 1981. The main thrust of the first part of the speech is to deplore orthodox Freudianism as banishing or censoring the role of the mother/child relationship. She argues that orthodox thinking - of which Freudianism is a part and a driver - thereby places male attributes as the norm. So far so good, but she (in this speech) attacks Freud using the same shabby tools that he used: speculation and self-reflection mixed with an ideological predisposition. The only difference being that in her case the predisposition is to valorise women's existence.

I don't have any problem with her doing that, but it seems to me it is a project, a call for further investigation, rather than a proof of anything. By the end of the lecture she is arguing that women have a different way of experiencing sexuality, and that they therefore may need a different way of speaking, a langage to supplant the existing langue. Which of course is where the lecture interfaces with literature.

The lecture ends on reflections on religious attitudes towards women, in particular the Catholic Church's views on contraception, abortion and women priests:
 A woman celebrating the eucharist with her mother, sharing with her the fruits of the earth she/they have blessed, could be delivered of all hatred or ingratitude towards her maternal genealogy, could be consecrated in her identity and her female genealogy. (p 540)
Well, yes, could be, and it would be great if that happened. But it's all built on such shaky foundations I don't have much faith in it.

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