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Surfacing the Politics of Desire

Surfacing the Politics of Desire: Literature, Feminism and Myth

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 304
  • Book Info
    Surfacing the Politics of Desire
    Book Description:

    "Surfacing" the Politics of Desirere-examines the "myths" of masculine desire in order to challenge this premise, placing literature at the centre of recent feminist debates over the ontology and politics of sexual difference.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8924-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    What if, wonders Marguerite Duras, when we have a male in front of us, we asked whether he had some female in him? What if we reversed all analysis and criticism?² This book may be considered as an attempt to respond to Duras’s questions by studying the representation of women in four male-authored literary texts of the nineteenth century: Maupassant’sPierre et Jean, Balzac’sLe chef-d’oeuvre inconnuandSarrasine, and Gautier’sMademoiselle de Maupin. In many respects, this study is something of an anomaly within the context of current feminist literary scholarship which even over the past few years has...

  5. 1 Pierre et Jean, or the Erring of Oedipus
    (pp. 8-41)

    This chapter pursues two strands of inquiry that the myth of Oedipus lays out for the feminist challenge to psychoanalytical formulations of desire and subjectivity. Among the first is Barthes’s thesis (following Freud’s intuition) that the myth of Oedipus is emblematic of all narrative, while the second concerns the status of the Oedipal as a normative model of subjectivity and desire. This chapter thus follows the dual movement of feminist thought as it grapples with the complex conceptual nexus constructed by (and through) the myth of Oedipus, namely, the notions of Oedipal vision, desire, knowledge, and subjectivity. I first look...

  6. 2 The Error of Narcissus
    (pp. 42-79)

    As we saw in chapter 1, a male-authored text structured according to the paradigm of the Oedipal reveals what one might term a surprising willingness to accommodate feminine difference and, by so doing, questions a fundamental feminist tenet with respect to the solipsistic nature of masculine desire. The narcissism of masculine desire has received its most compelling theoretical elaboration in the work of feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray, whose critique of the phallogocentrism of philosophy and psychoanalysis is based on the premise that they are driven by the desire of and for the self-same. Psychophilosophical speculation (or thought) depends upon a...

  7. 3 The Three Virtues of Imperceptibility, Indiscernibility, and Impersonality
    (pp. 80-98)

    The present chapter takes as its starting point the following query: how and why do male-authored texts structured according to the myths accused of perpetuating the narcissism of masculine desire reveal themselves to be non-narcissistic by allowing for the expression of feminine difference? My investigation proceeds according to a threefold approach. First, I use Maurice Blanchot’s reading of the figure of Narcissus to arrive at an alternative view of the relationship between writing and difference. Second, I examine some of the blind spots of Irigaray’s conception of the unconscious that lead to an unhappy disjunction between the theory and practice...

  8. 4 Becoming-flower, Becoming-imperceptible: Oedipus, Narcissus, and Their Lines of Flight in Sarrasine and Le chef-d’oeuvre inconnu
    (pp. 99-135)

    In this chapter, I once again take up the presuppositions whose inconsistencies were exposed through our readings ofPierre et JeanandLe chefd’oeuvre inconnu: first, that (male) narrative speaks uniquely of an Oedipal desire that obliterates feminine difference; second, that the myths of Narcissus and Pygmalion are crucial to the analysis of how feminine alterity is erased by the masculine order; and third, that the signifying systems of art and literature effectuate a repression of feminine materiality and desire. Focusing primarily on Balzac’sSarrasine, a short story that depicts the dynamics of desire between a male artist and his...

  9. 5 Beyond the Dialectic of Self and Other: Towards a Thought of the Surface
    (pp. 136-153)

    The purpose of chapter 5 is twofold: to examine some of the inconsistencies that underlie psychoanalytical feminist theorizations of desire and to lay out the elements of a critique of affirmation that renounces the coordinates of depth and height in favour of a ‘thought of the surface.’ This chapter therefore attends to two moments of dialectical thought: the Platonic privileging of the idea over matter, and the Hegelian overcoming of difference (and matter) through the negating powers of self and spirit. Nietzsche’s critique of dialectics will first help us to understand how the persistence of the above categories in feminist...

  10. 6 ‘Une jouissance d’épiderme’: From Platonic Height and Depth to the Deleuzian Surface in Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin
    (pp. 154-182)

    Théophile Gautier’sMademoiselle de Maupinconstitutes the final maleauthored text within the trajectory of the present study. The novel will be read in the light of the myth of androgyny, which, in the nineteenth century, functions as a nodal point for various aesthetic, social, and political discourses constructed upon the common denominator of sexual difference. Romanticism and Decadence, for instance, draw upon the figure of the androgyne to symbolize the aesthetic struggle between the ideal and the material as well as the conflict between essence and appearance. The androgyne also serves as an important trope in the (Hegelian) dialectic of...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 183-192)

    We embarked upon this study with a simple suspicion – that literature expresses forces that cannot be explained away by representational paradigms. Writing is expressive of a desire that is irreducible to the dimension of representation, and that exceeds the categories of a macropolitics. An interpretive method that functions solely within the terms of signification and representation, that proceeds by way of the oppositional categories of signifier and signified or self and other is inadequate to the multiplicity of sense produced by writing. In other words, a macropolitics of reading is unequal to the micropolitics of literature. Literature, in blatant defiance...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 193-222)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-230)
  14. Index
    (pp. 231-234)