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Writing in the Feminine in French and English Canada

Writing in the Feminine in French and English Canada: A Question of Ethics

Marie Carrière
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Writing in the Feminine in French and English Canada
    Book Description:

    Considers the contemporary movement of "writing in the feminine", by examining the work of five women writers from French and English Canada and the dialogue therein with feminist and psychoanalytic theory and theories of ethics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8371-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Writing in the feminine has had a lasting impact on contemporary Canadian letters. In Québec, by the mid-seventies and early eighties, feminism distinguished itself by its formal subversions and innovations. It was also known for its appropriations of the philosophical, linguistic, psychoanalytic, literary, and feminist theories of Continental thinkers, most of whose work now falls under the heading of poststructuralism. With the aesthetic and political explosiveness of Louky Bersianik′sL′euguélionneand Nicole Brossard′s L′amèr in the seventies came the heady beginnings of writing in the feminine in Québec, even though the intense and collaborative dedication to the feminist project was...

  5. Part 1: Poetics, Ethics, and Writing in the Feminine

    • One Introduction to Writing in the Feminine
      (pp. 11-30)

      Writing in the feminine has made its presence known, albeit in different stages and with differing impact, in both French- and English-speaking literary Canadian milieus. Conferences, collaborations, and collectives have been extremely important in establishing contact among women writing in French and English (more precisely, between Québécois and English-speaking feminists), and also among English-speaking women themselves writing from various geographical regions of Canada. The Dialogue Conference held at York University in 1981, transcribed and published in 1987 asGynocritics /La Gynocritique, constitutes one of the most successful literary and theoretical dialogues between the two cultures. Bringing together articles by Canadian...

    • Two Writing (As) a Feminist Ethics
      (pp. 31-56)

      One mode of thought that is deeply entrenched in writings in the feminine is an ethics of alterity, which necessarily constitutes a relational ethics. A broad term to be sure, this ethics lies at the (eclectic) confluence of a number of philosophical works in which the question of alterity is pivotal. As it is understood here, a feminist ethics is premised upon Lévinas′s concern with a post-humanist or post-Enlightenment theory of the other, Ricoeur′s own development of a relational ethics, and, most importantly, Irigaray′s rendition of an ethics of sexual difference. Some poetic works are informed by the poststructuralism (and...

  6. Part 2: Mothers and Daughters

    • [Part Two Introduction]
      (pp. 57-60)

      If the starting point for Brossard, Brandt, and Théoret is a critique of the social order′s organization of sexual difference, this critique does not present a single discourse against patriarchy. After all, not all patriarchies are the same, and as Kathleen Martindale observes, different women suffer under various systems ′to different degrees and in significantly different ways, in terms of race, class, ethnicity and sexual preference′ (54). Although the lives of the speakers in the texts under study here are not complicated by their whiteness, their positions are under-written by sexual preference, ethnicity, religion, and class. Nicole Brossard situates her...

    • Three Resurrecting the (M)Other: Nicole Brossard
      (pp. 61-71)

      InL′amér, ou le chapitre effrité, Nicole Brossard presents a sharp critique of Western, androcentric representations of maternity. The book′s first epigraph offers an explosive anticipation of Brassard′s attack: ′C′est le combat. Le livre. La fiction commence suspendue mobile entre les mots et la vraisemblance du corps à mére dévorante et dévorée.′ ′Dévorante et dévorée′: such are the attributes of this ′corps amer,′ this ′corps [de la] mère,′ that Brossard sets out to textually reproduce and deconstruct. This deconstruction is what generates the text′s reconception of sexual difference, which recalls Irigaray′s critique of psychoanalysis inSpeculum of the Other Woman....

    • Four Questioning the Mother: Di Brandt
      (pp. 72-84)

      In her critical work,Wild Mother Dancing, Di Brandt chooses Aeschylus′sOresteiaand the motherless Athena to illustrate the denial of the mother in classical Greek mythology, a denial that Brandt extends to the Western literary tradition as a whole. Sprung motherless from Zeus′s head, Athena pronounces Orestes′ fate after his (and Electra′s) murder of Clytemnestra, following a mad cycle of murder and revenge. Athena′s exoneration of Orestes not only condones the necessity of Clytemnestra′s murder but also forever undermines the powers of Clytemnestra′s Furies, ′Goddesses of retributive justice,′ especially in matters involving matricide (Smith 84). In this same text,...

    • Five Performing Hysteria: France Théoret
      (pp. 85-98)

      In their Introduction toNarrating Mothers: Theorizing Maternal Subjectivities, Brenda Daly and Maureen Reddy propose a notion of maternalism inherent in Brossard′s lesbian ethics and Brandt′s ′not mother′: ′apotentialrelationship rooted in female physicality′ rather than ′biologically predetermined and central to all women′s lives′ (3, emphasis added). In much of France Théoret′s poetic prose, female physicality figures as a site of cultural determination, especially of the negative alterity historically allotted to women. It is also through the body that Théoret stages her aggressive attack on and displacement of social, cultural, mythical, and religious constructions which she portrays as patriarchal...

  7. Part 3: Mothertongues

    • Six Tracing the (M)Other: Erin Mouré
      (pp. 103-115)

      In an essay, ′Poetry, Memory and the Polis,′ Erin Mouré describes the Law of ′″the same″′ as ′the norm′ of social organization (203), the ′anesthesiaof our memories′; it is ′the force that pulls us toward the centre, centripetal. To make us forget, or repress, or define in terms acceptable to the order′ (202). By Law, Mouré refers to ′the laws of representation, meaning, codification′ (202) of the civic order or the ′Polis.′ Borrowed from Kristeva, the ′Polis′ corresponds to a symbolic order of logocentric and heterocentric thinking, a ′binary thinking, hierarchical thinking. Thinking to the end. The tyranny of...

    • Seven Mothering Text: Lola Lemire Tostevin
      (pp. 116-128)

      Even though they adopt different formal strategies or focus on different renditions of maternalism, writings in the feminine certainly express their awareness of the suppression of difference under the Logos. As Shirley Neuman argues, ′there is no particular body inscribed in ... feminist writers′ texts but rather many bodies: mothering bodies, erotic bodies. The mothering body appears in many rhetorical shapes′ (′Importing′ 400). In Lola Lemire Tostevin′s work, an appropriation of Derridian theory entails the formulation of a poetics in the feminine, throughout an oeuvre that foregrounds Derrida′s idea of a ′residueirreducible to the dominant force organizing the hierarchy...

  8. Part 4: Beyond Ethics

    • [Part Four Introduction]
      (pp. 129-132)

      In the context of a feminist ethics, it is only logical that inscriptions of female selfhood include representations of intersubjective relations that, in the end, are the ultimate concern of a relational ethics. Indeed, a relational ethics is synonymous with an ethics of recognition – the recognition of the otherness of the other – and thus with an ethics of intersubjectivity. In fact, what is called here a relational ethics, an ethics of recognition, and an ethics of intersubjectivity are interchangeable terms. The question to ask is this: how do the terms that apply to the subject′s constitution in language...

    • Eight An Ethics of Selfhood: Théoret and Tostevin
      (pp. 133-165)

      To contemplate France Théoret′s treatment of female subjectivity is to place oneself in a space of oscillation and its resulting antinomies. Théoret′s feminism pronounces itself against the individualism of humanist ontology, to unveil the necessity of ′une autre idée de l′individualié′ (Entre 111), still using the language of traditional liberal thought. The speaking subject surmounts her subservience to the established power structure that oppresses her by unveiling its truth claims as constructed and arbitrary, disenchanted about any ideal of (male or female) autonomous self-determination. Yet, in an effort to inscribe a female speaker as the subject of her own discourse,...

    • Nine An Ethics of Love: Brandt, Mouré, and Brossard
      (pp. 166-206)

      Di Brandt′sAgnes in the Sky and Jerusalem, Belovedinclude some of her most emotional and spiritual writing. The lyrical quality of these collections may appear as an odd choice for comparison with two ′cerebral′ and at times stylistically impenetrable writers, Erin Mouré and Nicole Brossard. Yet Brandt, Mouré, and Brossard do echo one another in their religious, amorous, and/or essentialist reversions to, as well as transcendental conceptions of, the self and the other. While these conceptions can present an ethics of intersubjectivity, they can also entail its breakdown. Is this where the feminist version of those postmodernist refusals of...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 207-210)

    As postmodern- or poststructuralist-influenced feminists, the five writers examined in this volume recognize the determining role of the socio-symbolic order in the construction of (inter)subjectivities. Yet, if this symbolic order were to be deemed only and utterly androcentric, patriarchal, or hierarchically dichotomous, how would it even be possible to transgress the paradigm of sameness, the binary logic that has held difference in a subjected position? In view of the malleability of any construct (however difficult it may be to undermine it), Brossard, Brandt, Théoret, Mouré, and Tostevin manage to demonstrate that human subjects and social relations do not have to...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 211-218)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 219-232)
  12. Credits
    (pp. 233-234)
  13. Index
    (pp. 235-243)