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Figures of Resistance

Figures of Resistance: Essays in Feminist Theory

Teresa de Lauretis
Edited and with an Introduction by Patricia White
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 320
  • Book Info
    Figures of Resistance
    Book Description:

    Figures of Resistance brings together crucial essays and unpublished lectures of internationally renowned theorist Teresa de Lauretis, spanning twenty years of her finest work. De Lauretis's rigorous thought and elegant writing interrogate how cinema, literature, and psychoanalytic theory construct and deconstruct gender, sexuality, and ways of knowing. This collection invites us to reflect on the history of feminist theory and its power to envision anew issues of representation, reading, and epistemology. Essays include "Sexual Indifference and Lesbian Representation," "The Lure of the Mannish Lesbian," "Eccentric Subjects," "Habit Changes," "The Intractability of Desire," and the unpublished title essay "Figures of Resistance." _x000B__x000B_An introduction by feminist film scholar Patricia White provides an overview of the development and essential contribution of de Lauretis's thought. _x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09096-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Thinking Feminist
    (pp. 1-22)
    Patricia White

    Teresa de Lauretis is among the foremost feminist theorists of the past several decades; her thought has set terms of debate at key junctures, and it helps renew the relevance of feminist theory for our current moment. Just as her background bridges Europe and America, her work links continental theories with U.S. feminism in mutually productive ways. Having edited and introduced the 1991 special issue ofdifferencesentitled “Queer Theory,” she is a founder of that academic discourse who has nevertheless remained an astute critic of the status of feminist and lesbian theory within it.¹ Her writing, evoking that of...


    • Chapter 1 Rethinking Women’s Cinema
      (pp. 25-47)

      When Silvia Bovenschen in 1976 posed the question “Is there a feminine aesthetic?” the only answer she could give was, yes and no: “Certainly there is, if one is talking about aesthetic awareness and modes of sensory perception. Certainly not, if one is talking about an unusual variant of artistic production or about a painstakingly constructed theory of art.”¹ If this contradiction seems familiar to anyone even vaguely acquainted with the development of feminist thought over the past fifteen years, it is because it echoes a contradiction specific to, and perhaps even constitutive of, the women’s movement itself: a twofold...

    • Chapter 2 Sexual Indifference and Lesbian Representation
      (pp. 48-71)

      There is a sense in which lesbian identity could be assumed, spoken, and articulated conceptually as political through feminism—and, current debates to wit, against feminism; in particular through and against the feminist critique of the Western discourse on love and sexuality, and therefore, to begin with, the rereading of psychoanalysis as a theory of sexuality and sexual difference. If the first feminist emphasis on sexual difference as gender (woman’s difference from man) has rightly come under attack for obscuring the effects of other differences in women’s psychosocial oppression, nevertheless that emphasis on sexual difference did open up a critical...

    • Chapter 3 When Lesbians Were Not Women
      (pp. 72-82)

      There was a time, in discontinuous space—a space dispersed across the continents—when lesbians were not women. I don’t mean to say that now lesbians are women, although a few do think of themselves that way, while others say they are butch or femme; many prefer to call themselves queer or transgender; and others identify with female masculinity—there are lots of self-naming options for lesbians today. But during that time, what lesbians were was that one thing: not women. And it all seemed so clear, at that time.

      It would be perhaps appropriate, in [an essay] on Monique...


    • Chapter 4 The Lure of the Mannish Lesbian
      (pp. 85-99)

      Lesbian scholarship has not had much use for psychoanalysis. Developing in the political and intellectual context of feminism over the past two decades, in the Eurowestern “First World,” lesbian critical writing has typically rejected Freud as the enemy of women and consequently avoided consideration of Freudian and neo-Freudian theories of sexuality. Certainly, the feminist mistrust of psychoanalysis as both a male-controlled clinical practice and a popularized social discourse on the “inferiority” of women has excellent, and historically proven, practical reasons. Nevertheless, some feminists have persistently argued that there are also very good theoretical reasons for reading and rereading Freud himself....

    • Chapter 5 Letter to an Unknown Woman
      (pp. 100-117)

      When I was invited to contribute to a volume on Freud’s “Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman,” I saw an opportunity for reconsidering what I had written on this singular case history a few years ago inThe Practice of Love. In that book I revisited the classic texts of Freudian psychoanalysis on female homosexuality (Freud, Jones, Lampl-de Groot, Deutsch, and Lacan) as part of a larger project concerned with theorizing lesbian sexuality and desire. To that end, I reexamined Freud’s theory of sexuality and what little he and others had said specifically on the topic of...

    • Chapter 6 Public and Private Fantasies in David Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly
      (pp. 118-148)

      One of the first thinkers in the twentieth century to reflect on popular culture as a political force was Antonio Gramsci. In his prison notebooks, Gramsci traces a connection between politics and particular expressive forms that, in each country, inscribe its dominant cultural narratives. For example, he remarks that the rise and fortunes of opera in Italy and of the popular novel in France and England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coincided with the “appearance and expansion of national-popular democratic forces throughout Europe.”⁴ Considered as a whole, as a genre, rather than as the expression of individual artists, the...


    • Chapter 7 Eccentric Subjects
      (pp. 151-182)

      Consciousness, as a term of feminist thought, is poised on the divide that joins and distinguishes the opposing terms in a series of conceptual sets central to contemporary theories of culture: subject and object, self and other, private and public, oppression and resistance, domination and agency, hegemony and marginality, sameness and difference, and so on. In the early 1970s, in its first attempt at self-definition, feminism posed the question, Who or what is a woman? Who or what am I? And, as it posed those questions, feminism—a social movement of and for women—discovered the nonbeing ofwoman: the...

    • Chapter 8 Upping the Anti [sic] in Feminist Theory
      (pp. 183-198)

      Nowadays, the termessentialismcovers a range of metacritical meanings and strategic uses that go the very short distance from convenient label to buzzword. Many who, like myself, have been involved with feminist critical theory for some time and who did use the term, initially, as a serious critical concept, have grown impatient with this word—essentialism—time and again repeated with its reductive ring, its self-righteous tone of superiority, its contempt for “them”—those guilty of it. Yet, few would deny that feminist theory is all about an essential difference, an irreducible difference, though not a difference between woman...

    • Chapter 9 Habit Changes
      (pp. 199-216)

      It is not the purpose of this article to engage with the terms of debate set forth in the title of this special issue. I have indeed written on all three—gender, feminism, and queer theory—in the pages of this journal and elsewhere, but the theory I want to meet here is (forgive the presumption) my own: a theory of sexuality, and in particular lesbian sexuality and desire, as outlined in my recent bookThe Practice of Love.² The occasion for this article and the reason for its appearance in this issue ofdifferencesare Elizabeth Grosz’s review essay,...

    • Chapter 10 The Intractability of Desire
      (pp. 217-234)

      My work on female subjectivity—interdisciplinary research that has unfolded over a period of about twenty years, mainly in the United States—is rooted in the practices of North American feminism, but makes use of theoretical contributions and epistemological perspectives originating in Europe.

      I would like now to take up again and reflect upon certain concepts or terms that, to my way of thinking, constitute the key problems, the points of articulation of lesbian and feminist thought on subjectivity. I will try to compare these to current Italian thought.

      The terms I have chosen, in the order of a personal...

    • Chapter 11 Figures of Resistance
      (pp. 235-260)

      In spring 2004, I was invited to lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, on the occasion of the centenary of women’s entrance into the academy in Ireland.¹ The event, intended to honor women’s contributions to knowledge, was something of a personal celebration as well, for although that was only my second time in Dublin, it was for me the occasion of many returns. I had first visited Trinity College during my college years in Italy. My thesis director and professor of British and American literatures, Charles Haines, was an American expatriate who had received his degree from Trinity College and spoke...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 261-302)
  9. Name and Title Index
    (pp. 303-310)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-312)