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Sociologija  2010 

Identity, sex and 'women's writing' in French poststructural feminism

DOI: 10.2298/soc1003237s

Keywords: French poststructural feminism , women's writing , gender , sex , identity

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Abstract:

The paper discusses political implications of the feminist revision of psychoanalysis in the works of major representatives of 1970s French poststructuralism, and their current significance. The influence and modifications of Lacan's interpretation of imaginary structure of the Ego and linguistic structure of the unconscious on explanations of the relations between gender and identity developed by Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray and Héléne Cixous are examined. French poststructuralist feminism, developing in the 1970s, was the second major current in French feminism of the times, different from and in a way opposed to Simone de Beauvoir's approach. While de Beauvoir explores 'women's condition' determined by social and historical circumstances, French feminists of poststructuralist persuasion engage with problems of unconscious psychological structuring of feminine identity, women's psychosexuality, theoretical implications of gendered visions of reality, especially in philosophy, semiology and psychology, as well as opening up new discursive possibilities of women's and feminine self-expression through 'women's writing'. Political implications of their approach have remained controversial to this day. These authors have been criticized for dislocating women's activism into the sphere of language and theory, as well as for reasserting the concept of women's nature. Debates over whether we need the concept of women's nature - and if yes, what kind - and over the relation between theory and political activism, have resulted in the split between the so-called 'essentialist' and 'anti-essentialist' approaches in feminist theory, and the subsequent division into American (non-essentialist) and French (partly labeled as essentialist) strands. The division is an oversimplification and overlooks concrete historical circumstances that produced the divergence between 'materialist' and 'linguistic' currents in France.

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