Ecriture Feminine

Topics: Feminism, Feminist theory, Julia Kristeva Pages: 5 (1741 words) Published: January 7, 2012
Écriture féminine, literally "women's writing,"[1] more closely, the writing of the female body and female disparity in language and text,[2] is a strain of feminist literary theory that originated in France in the early 1970s and included foundational theorists such as Hélène Cixous, Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray,[3] Chantal Chawaf,[4][5] and Julia Kristeva,[6][7] and also other writers like psychoanalytical theorist Bracha Ettinger,[8][9] who joined this field in the early 1990s.[10] Generally, French feminists tended to focus their attention on language, analyzing the ways in which meaning is produced. They concluded that language as we commonly think of it is a decidedly male realm, which therefore only represents a world from the male point of view.[11] Nonetheless, the French women's movement developed in much the same way as the feminist movements elsewhere in Europe or in the United States: French women participated in consciousness-raising groups; demonstrated in the streets on the 8th of March; fought hard for women's right to choose whether to have children; raised the issue of violence against women; and struggled to change public opinion on issues concerning women and women's rights. The fact that the very first meeting of a handful of would-be feminist activists in 1970 only managed to launch an acrimonious theoretical debate, would seem to mark the situation as typically 'French' in its apparent insistence on the primacy of theory over politics.[12] Hélène Cixous first coined écriture féminine in her essay, "The Laugh of the Medusa" (1975), where she asserts "Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies" because their sexual pleasure has been repressed and denied expression. Inspired by Cixous' essay, a recent book titledLaughing with Medusa (2006) analyzes the collective work of Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Bracha Ettinger and Hélène Cixous.[13] These writers are as a whole referred to by Anglophones as "the French feminists," though Mary Klages, Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has pointed out that "poststructuralist theoretical feminists" would be a more accurate term.[14] Madeleine Gagnon is a more recent proponent. And since the aforementioned 1975 when Cixous also founded women's studies at Vincennes, she has been as a spokeswoman for the group Psychanalyse et politique and a prolific writer of texts for their publishing house, des femmes. And when asked of her own writing she says, "Je suis la où ça parle" ("I am there where it/id/the female unconscious speaks.") [15] American feminist critic and writer Elaine Showalter defines this movement as "the inscription of the feminine body and female difference in language and text."[16] Écriture féminine places experience before language, and privileges non-linear, cyclical writing that evades "the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system."[17] Because language is not a neutral medium, the argument can be made that it functions as an instrument of patriarchal expression. Peter Barry writes that “the female writer is seen as suffering the handicap of having to use a medium (prose writing) which is essentially a male instrument fashioned for male purposes”.[18] Ecriture féminine thus exists as an antithesis of masculine writing, or as a means of escape for women,although the phallogocentric argument itself has been criticised by W. A. Borody as misrepresenting the history of philosophies of ‘’indeterminateness’’ in Western culture. Borody claims that the‘black and white’’view that the masculine=determinateness and the feminine=indeterminateness contains a degree of cultural and historical validity, but not when it is deployed to self-replicate a similar form of gender-othering it originally sought to overcome.[19] In the words of Rosemarie Tong, “Cixous challenged women to write themselves out...
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