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HL 410 lecture 3

Feminism and Psychoanalysis 2013

Slide 2:
The relationship between eminism and psychoanalysis is! at best! ambi"alent# $n the one hand!
there are eminists who re%ect psychoanalysis as phallocentric& on the other! there are eminists!
li'e (uliet )itchell! who ta'e on psychoanalysis appropriati"ely: *+ am not interested in what
Freud did! but in what we can ,et rom him! a political rather and an academic e-ploration#.
/)itchell! 3001 This certainly brin,s to mind what )oi outlined 2 that it is ultimately the
political ,oals o the eminist appropriation o any theorist that counts! not the theorist or his
theory itsel#
Slide 3:
The rele"ance o psychoanalysis to the eminist stru,,le
(uliet )itchell! e-cerpt rom the introduction to Psychoanalysis and Feminism! reprinted in
Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism A Norton Reader! ed# Sandra )# 3ilbert and Susan
3ubar! 4#4# 5orton 6 7ompany: 5ew 8or' and London! 2009#
)itchell ar,ues that psychoanalysis *is not a recommendation for a patriarchal society! but an
analysis of one# + we are interested in understandin, and challen,in, the oppression o women!
we cannot aord to ne,lect it#. /3:01 +n other words! she does not see psychoanalysis as
prescribin, phallocentricism! but as a means o unco"erin,! or e-posin,! it# She ad"ocates the
use o *psychoanalysis or an understandin, o the operations o the unconscious ;###< to analyse
how men and women li"e as men and women within the material conditions o their e-istence 2
both the ,eneral and the speciic#. /3011
+n order or us to understand the place o woman in society today! how she came to be here! the
terms o her socialisation that label her as inerior and a *second se-.! we need to turn to
Slide 4:
Psychoanalysis *is about the material reality o ideas both within! and o! man=s history& thus in
>penis en"y= we are tal'in, not about an anatomical or,an! but about the ideas o it that people
hold and li"e by within the ,eneral culture! the order o human society#. /3:01 )itchell=s
statements seem to imply thereore that biolo,y! or anatomy! is not destiny! since >penis en"y=
reers to the ideas that people hold and li"e by# ?ut as @liAabeth 3rosA points out! e"en on the
le"el o ideas! the act that the male or,an is chosen as a pri"ile,ed term! already points towards
a male bias that is based on biolo,y#
Slide B:
*The way we li"e as >ideas=! the necessary laws o human society is not so much conscious as
unconscious 2 the particular tas' o psychoanalysis is to decipher how we acCuire our herita,e o
the ideas and laws o human society within the unconscious mind! or to put it another way! the
unconscious mind is the way in which we acCuire these laws#. /3:0D3001 The purpose o
psychoanalysis is thereore to disco"er how we acCuire these ideas! how these ideas become part
o our psyche! how they become naturalised#
Howe"er! e"en as a tool o analysis! we ind that psychoanalysis has its shortcomin,s! as
outlined by 5ancy 7hodorow#
Slide E:
5ancy 7hodorow! Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory# 8ale Fni"ersity Press: 5ew Ha"en and
London! 10:0#
5ow ,ranted )itchell is ri,ht in the use o psychoanalysis towards unco"erin, some o the ideas
human society holds! there are o course shortcomin,s to such application as well# Glthou,h
7hodorow "alues psychoanalysis as a useul tool o analysis! she obser"es that it tends towards
uni"ersalism! *to imply that there is a psycholo,ical commonality amon, all women and amon,
all men#. /41 4hat she means is that psychoanalysis has thus ar not included considerations o
class! race! ethnicity! location! social practices and relations! as actors contributin, to the
ormation o the unconscious# Gt its best! psychoanalysis should be able to analyse actors o
race! class! culture or history and how these actors shape the psychic de"elopment o a bein,#
Slide 9:
7hodorow=s own approach thus claims to be more *holistic and pluralistic 2 encompassin, a
number o or,anisational a-es ;###< +t is the ocus on relations amon, elements! or dynamics!
alon, with an analysis and critiCue o male dominance! which deine an understandin, o se- and
,ender as eminist! and not %ust the e-clusi"e ocus on male dominance itsel#. /B1 To this end!
7hodorow=s approach ta'es on dierent social actors such as race! class! ethnicity and culture
/the sections rom her boo' +="e ,i"en you demonstrate this more *sociolo,ical. approach to the
study o identity ormation1# She also shits the ocus rom the atherDchild relationship in
traditional psychoanalysis! to the si,niicance o the motherDchild relationship# This is
somethin, we=ll come bac' to later#
Slide ::
5ow + want to state ri,ht at the start that this is not a lecture on psychoanalysis 2 but rather a
lecture on some o its principles that ha"e come to orm the basis or the conlict between
psychoanalysis and eminism# This lecture also attempts to identiy aspects o psychoanalysis
that ha"e been appropriated to ser"e eminist criticism# 7i-ous! +ri,aray and Hriste"a write out
o a tradition o psychoanalysis# Psychoanalysis is also central to the wor' o ?utler 2 e"en i
she raises ob%ections to it# So do ta'e a ew wee's to di,est the material! and try to ha"e as ,ood
a ,rasp as you can possibly ha"e! o psychonalaysis#
Let=s be,in with what is perhaps the lar,est point o contention between eminism and
psychoanalysis: penis en"y# Then + will ,o into motherhood and motherin,! and inally to
women and madness#
Slide 0:
Penis en"y
Freud sees penis en"y as a crucial sta,e in the de"elopment o the emale child# For Freud! all
emale children ,o throu,h this sta,e# +t is a necessary sta,e in her supposed healthy
de"elopment 2 what he belie"es to be healthy anyway# There are three si,niicant outcomes to
this de"elopmental sta,e:
/11 Penis en"y is crucial to the relinCuishment o the ,irl=s preDoedipal attachment to the
mother# Gll children ,o throu,h what Freud reers to as an $edipal phase! durin, which
the initial attachment to the mother! who is the irst point o contact or all children! is
relinCuished! and the child enters into a phase o dierentiation! indi"iduation and
/21 Penis en"y si,nals the renunciation o the ,irl=s clitoris as an eroto,enic Aone in
preerence or the more passi"e "a,ina# This entails the cessation o masturbatory
acti"ity and is part o the path to healthy heterose-uality /+ will e-plain urther1# $ne can
see why eminists re%ect penis en"y on these ,rounds& since it means the relinCuishment
o acti"e independent se-ual en%oyment by the emale! in a"our o penile penetration#
The latter is a state o se-ual en%oyment that reCuires dependency on the male or,an#
Freud=s ormulation is also clearly one that is inormed by the maleDacti"eI emaleD
passi"e binary#
/31 Penis en"y si,nals the replacement o her inantile narcissism /e,o! bein, the idea o a
whole selDsuicient sel1 with a lastin, eelin, o ineriority /id! in terms o her relation
with the e-ternal world1#
Slide 10:
To understand penis en"y! we need to try to understand the $edipus comple- irst o all# The $7
is traditionally seen as the central comple- around which Freudian theory re"ol"es# +t is
supposed to account or the inant=s ne,otiation o incestuous desires or its parents# These are
all lar,ely unconscious! and in"ol"e dynamically repressed eelin,s# $ur interest as literary, as
well as feminist, critics is in how these theories re,ardin, these dri"es come to determine se-ual
dierentiation# 5ow + want to say at this point that we are not interested in Freud as a clinical
authority on psychose-ual de"elopment 2 his theories! + belie"e! are not ta'en seriously by
psycholo,ists# $ his contributions! the idea o the tal'in, cure would be the ,reatest to the ield
o psychotherapy# Gnd ,enerally! his wor' has been more o a social and anthropolo,ical nature!
than that o clinical psycholo,y# So! to sum up! we! as literary and feminist critics! are
interested in Freud=s narratives or stories o the ori,ins o se-uality! and ,ender identity# To
understand ,ender theorists li'e ?utler! we need to understand that the approach to Freud these
eminist critics ta'e! is to "iew him as a creator o narrati"es! e"en i Freud himsel was not
aware that he was only *tellin, stories.#
So! accordin, to the story o the $edipus comple-! these incestuous desires! speciically or the
mother! occur at a preDoedipal sta,e! beore the a,e o three# +n traditional ormulations! the
inant is portrayed as disco"erin,! e-plorin, and passin, throu,h this comple- phase durin, a
speciic sta,e o de"elopment called the *oedipal phase.! that is! between 3 and B years old#
The $7 is inspired by the tra,edy o Hin, $edipus recounted in the Theban cycle o le,ends# +n
this! $edipus pro,ressi"ely disco"ers the chain o past e"ents which ha"e brou,ht a pla,ue upon
his 'in,dom# He realiAes that an old man he had pre"iously murdered at a crossroads was Lauis!
his ather! and that (ocasta! his wie and the mother o his children! is indeed also his own
mother# 4hen the truth dawns on him! he blinds himsel and lees the 'in,dom#
Slide 11:
Freud admitted to indin, in himsel the phenomenon o >bein, in lo"e with my mother and
%ealous with my ather=# +n this incest fantasy! the boy child eels se-ual desire or the parent o
the opposite se- /the mother1 and desires the death o the parent o the same se- /the ather1#
Freud considered the successul resolution o the $7 as 'ey to the de"elopment o ,ender roles
and identity# He posited that boys and ,irls resol"ed the conlicts dierently as a result o
castration anxiety /or males1 and penis envy /or emales1#
+n drawin, on 3ree' mytholo,y to e-plain identity ormation! Freud is not doin, anythin, new:
humans ha"e always turned to myth ma'in, as a way o e-plainin, the world! and Freud is
merely appropriatin, one myth towards the creation o a myth o ori,ins /here! the ori,ins o
se-ual identity1# The tra,edy o $edipus is itsel a story about ori,ins and ori,inal identity#

Slide 12
Jery briely! all newborns ha"e as their irst point o contact! the i,ure o the mother# Their irst
attachment is to the mother! and their irst desires are ulilled by the mother# 7hodorow
e-plains this attachment in the ollowin,:
This state consists irst in the persistence o primary identiication with the
mother: the child does not dierentiate hersel or himsel rom her or his mother
but e-periences a sense o oneness with her# /+t is important to distin,uish this
rom later orms o identiication! rom *secondary identiication!. which
presupposes at least some de,ree o e-perienced separateness by the person who
identiies#1 Second! it includes an oral incorporati"e mode o relationship to the
world! leadin,! because o the inant=s total helplessness! to a stron, attachment to
and dependence upon whoe"er nurses and carries him#
?oth aspects o this state are continuous with the child=s prenatal
e-perience o bein, emotionally and physically part o the mother=s body and o
the e-chan,e o body material throu,h the placenta# That this relationship
continues with the natural mother in most societies stems rom the act that
women lactate# /7hodorow 4:1
For now! 7hodorow=s description o the Freudian preD$edipal phase will ser"e us well& + say or
now! because 7hodorow ,oes on to conclude that *For con"enience! and not because of
biological necessity, this has usually meant that mothers! and emales in ,eneral! tend to ta'e all
care o babies#. /7hodorow 4:1 7hodorow=s anti-essentialist "iew is clearly at odds with
Freudian psychoanalysis! which belie"es in the idea o anatomy as destiny#
Slide 13
Castration anxiety
Should the boy insist on continuin, to indul,e in his se-ual desire or his mother! he would
e-perience the threat o castration rom the ather# Throu,h the threat o castration! the boy
transers his aections or the mother! to those o identiication with the ather#
Penis envy
The ,irl e-periences this psychose-ual de"elopment in a dierent orm# Kather than a threat o
castration! she realiAes that she! unli'e the boy! is without the penis# +n other words! she is
already a castrated bein,# Fnli'e the boy! or whom castration is a fantasy and in acceptin, it he
symbolically deers to his ather! or the ,irl! the lac' o a penis is a real and irre"ocable matter#
?y this + mean that the ather is not really ,oin, to chop the boy=s or,an o! and so or the boy!
there is no real conseCuence o castration an-iety# ?ut or the ,irl! the absence o the penis /o
bein, already always castrated1 will ha"e a real eect on her! and as we shall see! on her place in
the world as a bein, who lac's /the penis1#
Slide 14
The ,irl comes to realiAe that her mother is also without a penis! and thereore turns her
aections towards her ather instead! who does ha"e a penis# 5ow! Freud contends that the ,irl
child does this because o a narcissistic identiication with the penis! that is! she wants the penis
as well# She disco"ers she does not ha"e one! and so wants to possess one# This also orms the
basis o the ,irl=s de"elopment towards heterose-uality#
To understand this! let=s ,o bac' a little way: Freud=s basic premise is that all inants belie"e that
e"ery human bein, has a penis& durin, the $edipal phase! the emale child realiAes that she in
act does not ha"e one! whereas the male child does# +n ma'in, this disco"ery! she comes to
realiAe that she cannot be the ob%ect o her mother=s desire /since the mother also desires a
penis1# She also realiAes that the mother does not ha"e a penis! so turns to the ather instead who
possess one# So in this sense! the ,irl transers her aections or her mother! to her ather! thus
securin, her in heterose-uality#
Gnd this is why Freud "iews penis en"y as an important part o the ,irl=s de"elopment towards
*healthy. se-uality 2 her desire or the penis ensures her heterose-uality# 5ow! it should be
Cuite apparent by now! that his theory o se-ual de"elopment is dependent entirely on
heterose-uality as the norm# Penis en"y in a ,irl ensures that she mo"es towards healthy
Slide 1B
The ,irl thereore e-periences her lac' as a disad"anta,e which she must deny! compensate or
see' to repair# Gcceptin, *castration. means ac'nowled,in, her lac' o the phallus 2 that is! the
lac' o social power# She is let with a number o choices:
/11 She can despise and debase the eminine body and the social power o emininity! which!
accordin, to Freud! will induce neurosis#
/21 She can choose the >healthy= path: she shits her desire rom mother to ather! wantin, his
phallus! and then! by analo,y! his child! to substitute or her own lac'in, member! reD
indin, in a lo"er the ather she can now lo"e#
/31 Gnd in choosin, the healthy path! she also abandons the clitoris as an eroto,enic Aone
/since she now 'nows that this is not the penis she thou,ht she possessed1 or the more
passi"e "a,ina! which a,ain secures her in heterose-uality#
So while or the boy acceptin, castration means lea"in, the $7! or the ,irl! what it really means
is securin, her in heterose-uality! in a relationship with a man# G,ain! we can see how this
mi,ht be a point o contention or later eminists! lesbian and nonDlesbian# Gccordin, to Freud=s
theory! there are really only two options or the emale upon disco"ery that she lac's a penis: /11!
to re%ect the emale body! which will lead to madness! and options /21 and /31! which are really
the same thin,: ,o or heterose-uality# $ption /21 is also worthy o note: or Freud! >normal=
emininity is only ully established i the wish or a male child replaces the desire or the ather=s
penis# 4ithout ha"in, to ,o into the how=s or the why=s! this assumption alone is enou,h or us
to see how it mi,ht ha"e led to! or ormed the basis or! some o the cultural assumptions we hold
re,ardin, women! emininity and childbirth# Gccordin, to Freud! desirin, a child 2 especially a
male D is part o a emale=s healthy psychose-ual de"elopment#
Slide 1E
Gs Phyllis 7hesler notes in Women and Madness:
*+t is clear that or a woman to be healthy she must >ad%ust= to and accept the beha"ioral norms
or her se- e"en thou,h these 'inds o beha"iour are ,enerally re,arded as less socially
desirableL The ethic o mental health is masculine in our culture#. ;E:DE0<
*The sine qua non o >eminine= identity in patriarchal society is the "iolation o the incest taboo!
ie#! the initial and continued >preerence= or Maddy! ollowed by the appro"ed allin, in lo"e
andI or marryin, o power ather i,ures#. ;13:<
/cited in Shoshana Felman! *4omen and )adness: the critical phallacy.! 9! Feminisms1
Slide 19
+n Freud=s account! the ,irl ne"er does come to want heterose-ual intercourse or itsel# She irst
wants a penis narcissistically /as her own body or,an1! and turns to her ather to ulill this! thus
de"elopin, a heterose-ual orientation because he will ,i"e her one! and then comes to want a
baby rom him as an alternate narcissistic e-tension! meanin, a substitute or the penis she can
ne"er ha"e# Freud=s account or the ,irl=s turn to heterose-uality is thus the desire or the
possession o the penis! which a,ain e-plains eminist ob%ections to penis en"y# 4omen only
en,a,e in heterose-ual intercourse because! really! unconsciously! they want to possess the penis#
So! accordin, to this theory! a woman is considered healthy only i she is heterose-ual#
Secondly! e"en i she were heterose-ual! accordin, to Freud! it=s because she desires the penis#
Her se-uality is not dictated by an autonomous desire! or pleasure! or hersel! but by the desire
to posses the man=s penis# His theory o how emale se-uality de"elops is phallocentric to the
coreN This o course adheres to pre"alent Jictorian "iews on emale se-uality durin, Freud=s
time: women were not supposed to ha"e se-ual desires#
Slide 1:
G narcissistic selD"alidation is also tied to the primacy o this or,an! the penis& in other words!
the penis assumes a central role in the inte,rity o the child=s selDima,e! and the threat o losin,
this pri"ile,ed or,an is a threat to the child=s inte,rity as well# So while the male child!
threatened with the loss o the pri"ile,ed or,an! simply shits his incestuous aections or his
mother to identiication with the ather! the ,irl child! in realiAin, she is already castrated!
e-periences a process o ineriorisation# 4hat this means in terms o the $7 or the
de"elopment o the ,irl=s psyche! is the eelin, o bein, *naturally. inerior to men! and ha"in,
to li"e with this ineriority#
Slide 10
Gnother aspect o the threat o castration that is important to our sur"ey o eminism and
psychoanalysis! is the woman=s lac' o penis which comes to si,niy the castrated body that the
male ears he may become# ?esides the ear o bein, emasculated! this aspect o the castration
comple- is also si,niicant in e-plainin, the ear o women /that they are incomplete creatures
who lac' and are thereore monstrous1 in men# This ,i"es rise to the *otherness. that woman is
in relation to man: he is complete! she is incomplete! he is the 'nown! she is the un'nown! he is
normal! she is abnormal! he is human! she is monstrous etc#
So a,ain! Freud=s narrati"e about the de"elopment o se-ual identity e-poses the hierarchical
nature o ,endered relations# 4e cannot say that Freud=s theories ,a"e rise to the *otherness.
that characteriAes woman=s relationship with man 2 this would be anachronistic! o course#
Kather! his theories e-pose the deepDseated phallocentric bias that our cultures and social norms
are built upon#
Slide 20
So in sum! here are some preliminary eminist ob%ections to Freud=s ormulation:
Some eminists ha"e ound this ormulation o the ,irl=s oedipal comple- unsatisactory! ar,uin,
irst o all that there is too little importance placed on the role o the mother# Some Cuestion the
e-tent to which the preDoedipal attachment to the mother is relinCuished by the little ,irl# + you
recall! Freud "iews the path towards healthy se-uality or the ,irl as a transference o desire or
mother! to that o ather# )other is absent rom then on# Feminists li'e 5ancy 7hodorow see
that a continuance o the motherDdau,hter relationship /which is absent in Freud1 is important in
ormulatin, the emale child=s sense o sel#
Some attac' the Freudian atalism which presents penis en"y as ine"itable! as an inescapable part
o the ormation o the emale psyche#
Slide 21
5ow Freudian psychoanalysis has come under attac' primarily because o its pri"ile,in, o the
penis! and the subseCuent mar,inaliAation o woman because she lac's the pri"ile,ed penis#
Some eminists see the wor' o the postDstructuralist psychoanalyst (acCues Lacan! who
reormulates the notion o the penis as phallus! as bein, a worthwhile contribution to eminism#
G,ain! as you read @liAabeth 3rosA=s essay! don=t be too concerned with the technical terms you
come across# This is not a module on psychoanalysis! and you are not reCuired to 'now these
terms in ,reat detail# + will simply ,i"e you the ,ist o the ar,ument# $b%ecti"e:
/11 To understand the dierence between the penis /the se- or,an1 and the phallus /its
symbolic eCui"alent1
/21 How this dierence is ormulated
/31 +ts si,niicant implications or eminist criticism
Juliet Mitchell helped to chan,e eminist attitudes to the term >penis en"y=! and to
psychoanalysis! by stressin, the relationship o >penis en"y= to a psychical reality# +n other
words! the penis is not simply a physical or,an! but reers to an idea! or ideas! o it that people
hold and li"e by# The reDinterpretation o penis en"y was inluenced by the wor' o (acCues
Lacan! who redeined the distinction between the se-es! in terms! not o the presence or absence
o the penis! but in terms o the sub%ect=s relation to the phallus /which is the symbolic
eCui"alent o the penis1# Lacan deined the phallus as a si,niier o desire /in its relation to lac'1
which! by implication! neither se- possesses# $ne cannot possess a si,niier#
Mo we all 'now the relationship between si,niier and si,niiedO Let=s recap since this is
important in understandin, Lacan! who sees the unconscious as structured as lan,ua,e# This is
o course also crucial when we come to ecriture feminine: the French eminists were postD
structuralists! and their ideas hea"ily inluenced by Lacan and the Merrida=s deconstruction# Gt
this point! a basic understandin, o the theory o lan,ua,e is useul#
Slide 22
The two main approaches to lan,ua,e we are concerned with are structuralism and post-
Ferdinand de Saussure !"#$-!%!&'
Course in General Linguistics !%!('
Two salient points he ma'es o rele"ance to us:
D Lan,ua,e as social reality
D The arbitrary nature o the si,n
Slide 23
)anguage as social reality
*Lan,ua,e.! says Saussure! *at any ,i"en time in"ol"es an established system and an e"olution#
Gt any ,i"en time! it is an institution in the present and a product o the past#. /01
Saussure sees the lan,ua,e o any community as an inheritance rom the past# For instance! the
namin, o thin,s! the establishin, o the contract between the si,niier and the si,niied! is
somethin, that we can concei"e o ha"in, happened at some point in our ima,inations! but no
one obser"es it ha"in, ta'en place# Thus when we are born into the world! we inherit a
lan,ua,e! whose ori,ins elude us# ?y implication! when we use lan,ua,e! we ne"er use it
innocently or neutrally! since lan,ua,e! as a social reality! is ne"er ree rom the politics that
inorm that social reality#
Lan,ua,e thereore needs to be considered in its social conte-t: *a lan,ua,e ne"er e-ists e"en or
a moment e-cept as a social act! or it is a semiolo,ical phenomenon#. /991
4e all understand that lan,ua,e does not merely reer to the spo'en lan,ua,e 2 but to a system
o representation# ?y this! we understand that any system o representation is a unction o a
particular social reality! and hence a unction o ideolo,y! and power# Gnd to %ump ahead 2 this
is why it is crucial or contemporary emale writers to disco"er a lan,ua,e o their own# For
these emale writers! lan,ua,e! as an institution! is already bound by history 2 and in this case!
bound by a history lar,ely written by men# Gnd or the blac' emale writer! the need to disco"er
a blac' lan,ua,e as well! that can adeCuately represent blac' e-perience# Gs Glice 4al'er says
in her essay *+n Search o $ur )other=s 3ardens.! which we will read! blac' people were not
allowed to read or write 2 the situation she describes really underscores what Saussure says
about lan,ua,e as an institution which ser"es speciic ideolo,ical unctions#
Slide 24
*he +rbitrary ,ature of the Sign
For Saussure! lan,ua,e is a structural system composed o lin,uistic si,ns# He di"ides the
lin,uistic si,n into the si,niier /the soundDima,e1 and the si,niied /the concept to which the
soundDima,e reers1:
Si,niied /concept1
DDDDDDDDDDDD lin,uistic si,n
Si,niier /sound ima,e1
$ne o the more salient points he ma'es is the obser"ation that the lin' between the si,niier and
the si,niied is arbitrary# ?y this Saussure means that there is no internal connection between the
two in reality! but only a relation that rests in *collecti"e habit! or on con"ention ;L< i-ed by
rule#. /E:1 There is no essential! intrinsic lin' between the si,niier and the si,niied#
?ecause there is no intrinsic lin' between the two! lan,ua,e is thereore not simply a process o
namin,# Si,niieds chan,e o"er time! meanin, there is no deinin, property which the concept
must retain in order or it to count as the si,niied o that particular si,niier# The act that the
relation between si,niier and si,niied is arbitrary means that there are no i-ed uni"ersal
concepts# ?oth si,niier and si,niied are thereore purely relational or dierential entities#
Slide 2B
Ha"in, established the arbitrary nature o the si,n! S ,oes on to point out that lan,ua,e does not
merely assi,n an arbitrary name to a set o independently e-istin, concepts it sets up an
arbitrary relation between the two# 7onceptsI si,niieds are not independent entities that are
deined by an essence& they e-ist as part o a system# They are the product or result o a system
o distinctions and dierentiations# +n other words! the "alue o a unit is determined only in its
relation with other units in the system#
+n this system! there are no positi"e dierences! only ne,ati"e dierences: one term is what the
other is not# +t is crucial that you understand what positi"e and ne,ati"e dierence reers to#
Positi"e dierence means two terms that are dierent independently: G is G because it is G! and
? is ? because it is ?# 5e,ati"e dierence reers to a relational dierence: G is G because it is
not ?! and ? is ? because it is not G# 5e,ati"e dierence orms the basis or $therness: the
$ther is deined in relation to the centre! where the centre /in this case man1 acts as the arbiter#
The centre deines what it is! and the $ther is deined in ne,ati"e relation! or ne,ati"e dierence
to it# This notion o lan,ua,e as system that operates in dierence! should recall the notion o
otherness we="e seen in M? 2 that women are deined in relation to men! within a masculine
system that operates on dierence! in which man is the centre! and woman is differentiated in
relation to him#
Gnd so he says! *we disco"er not ideas ,i"en in ad"ance but values emanatin, rom a system
;L< concepts are purely dierential! not positi"ely deined by their content but ne,ati"ely
deined by their relations with other terms o the system# Their most precise characteristic is that
they are what the others are not#. Saussure employs the term *"alue. to speciy the relational
aspect o the terms# +n other words! lan,ua,e as a system operates throu,h difference- This
notion o dierence is important in appreciatin, M?=s idea o woman as the second se-: second
in relation to man! other in relation to man# The distinction between *positi"ely deined. and
*ne,ati"ely deined. is important here: woman is not positi"ely deined /that is! she has no
identity in and o hersel1! rather she is ne,ati"ely deined in relation to man /she is deined in
relation to him1# 4e co"ered this last wee'#
Slide 2E
Gnd here we come to post-structuralism.
Jac/ues 0errida, Of Grammatology, 1*he 2nd of the 3oo4 and the 3eginning of 5riting6
*he relationship between signifier and signified.
Merrida de"elops the relational and the differential in Saussure#
4here Saussure sees the si,n as di"ided into si,niier and si,niied! Merrida sees the si,niied as
always and already only a si,niier 2 there is no such thin, as a inal si,niied# There are only
si,niiers# This destroys the lo,ic o the si,n! since it destroys the relationship between si,niier
and si,niied#
4hile Saussure ac'nowled,es the arbitrary nature o the si,n 2 there is no intrinsic lin' between
si,niier and si,niied 2 he does not Cuestion the notion that the si,niier in act points to
somethin,! e"en i this somethin, mi,ht be arbitrarily desi,nated# There is still a desi,nation 2
hence a si,niied# Merrida sees that si,niiers do not point to a si,niied 2 there is no i-ed
desi,nation# There is only an endless chain o si,niiers# Thin' o the dictionary#
Slide 29
Lan,ua,e has thereore ceased to be *selDassured! contained! and guaranteed by the ininite
si,niied which seemed to e-ceed it. because *there is not a sin,le si,niied that escapes! e"en i
recaptured! the play o si,niyin, reerences that constitute lan,ua,e#. /f !rammatology! 91
Gs said abo"e! or S! there are concepts on the one hand! and there are si,niiers which reer to
concepts# So this already presumes a hierarchical relationship between the two: the si,niied
comes irst! then the si,niier that points to the si,niied 2 e"en i the relationship between the
two is arbitrary# Merrida deconstructs this hierarchical relationship between the two! by showin,
that si,niieds! which occupy a pri"ile,ed position in this relationship /comin, irst1! are always
already only si,niiers# +n other words! there is no *concept. prior to si,niication# @"erythin,
is si,niication# The concept o tree did not come beore the sound ima,e *tree. 2 they appeared
to,ether! i you will! meanin,! or us to concei"e o a tree! or us to percei"e a tree and thin' o
the tree 2 we would already ha"e to participate in the act o si,niication# There is nothin,
outside o si,niication! or representation# Hence his amous claim! there is nothin, outside o
the te-t# He is not sayin, that there is no reality outside o lan,ua,e or representation! but rather!
the moment we percei"e anythin,! we are en,a,ed in the act o si,niication#
Gnd so! any comort and reassurance we mi,ht thereore ,et rom the si,niied! that ultimate
presence to which the si,niier reers! which we had thou,ht re,ulated the lin,uistic system 2
that anchored the system! that i-ed the system 2 any such security disappears# For Merrida! it
was ne"er there in the irst place# ?ecause there is no >si,niied=! there is no limit to the ield o
si,niication! only an endless and continually shitin, operation! a continuous deerral# So
meanin, is ne"er inaliAed 2 meanin, is ne"er arri"ed at 2 thin' the dictionary once more# 4hat
postDstructuralism e-poses then! is the act that lan,ua,e is a iction# The word *penis. does not
point to a penis! and so *penis. en"y! does not point to the en"y o the actual penis#
+ hope you=re be,innin, to see connections between postDstructuralist thou,ht and M?=s claim
that one is not born a woman! one becomes a woman# Her statement ma'es the distinction
between the woman as *natural. bein, /born1! and woman as *historical. sub%ect /becomes1# +
we thin' o the place o nature in binary relations! we=d ha"e somethin, li'e 5ature "s# 7ulture!
in which 5ature is pri"ile,ed# Thin' o theory o mimesis# M?=s claim that one is not born a
woman! but one becomes one! shits! or decentres the relationship between nature and cultureI
history# 5ow althou,h she doesn=t ,o so ar as to say this! but i we apply this postDstructuralist
ar,ument to urther M?=s conclusions! we can ar,ue that i woman has! all these years been
deined in relation to man! why is it that man has not reco,niAed that he is %ust as dependent on
woman or his e-istenceO So! really! i we ta'e a postDstructuralist approach to M?=s
conclusions! we can say that both men and women are inessential! and e-ist only in relation to
one another! where neither one is pri"iele,ed! or neither can e-ist without the other# ?ut we
'now! historically spea'in,! that has ne"er been the case# Gnd M?=s point is! this situation is not
eternal! and that it can be chan,ed#
Slide 2:
?ac' to psychoanalysis# Since the si,niier *penis. does not point in act to the physical penis!
Lacan ar,ues that it is more appropriate to use the term *phallus. rather than *penis.# So what is
the phallus in relation to postDstructuralismO 4hat is a phallus irst o allO Lacan did not in"ent
the word# The phallus is simply a penisDshaped ob%ect! a mimetic ima,e o a penis# The phallus
e-ists! has e-isted! in all cultures since antiCuity# For Lacan! it is the mimetic property o the
phallus that is important! since the mimetic property o the phallus is that which e-poses the
iction o lan,ua,e: that it can only mime! it can ne"er be& it is thereore always other to itsel! it
is deined by what it is not#
Freud! as his theories indicate! claims that e"erythin, happens in the unconscious 2 castration
an-iety! penis en"y etc# Gnd Lacan belie"es that the unconscious mind is ormulated li'e
lan,ua,e 2 there is not a inal si,niied 2 there are only si,niiers# Gnd i this is the case! i the
psyche! where all this is happenin,! is ormulated li'e a lan,ua,e! then the anatomical penis
cannot possibly be the thin, that=s causin, all the hype# +t must be a symbolic eCui"alent o the
penis that=s causin, the hype# Hence! he substitutes the term *phallus. or the physical or,an
penis# The phallus! as a si,niier! does not point to a final signified-
The phallus= identiication with the penis! is thereore a alse one! an illusion# The penis is the
physical anatomical or,an! while the phallus is a si,niier# So the penis is simply an or,an
ser"in, a biolo,ical unction! whereas the conception o the penis as privileged organ this is
the symbolic, meaningful value, of the penis'! is based on the value accorded to the penis!
"alues that are determined by culture and society! which o course shit continuously# Gnd
this is why no one can possess a si,niier /because it always si,niies somethin, other than itsel
2 it is always deerred D so how can one possess itO1 and conseCuently! no one can possess the
phallus# 4hat we can say o the phallus as a si,niier! is simply that it si,niies what one
desires! what one lac's! what is absent! whate"er that may be# The phallus! by its memetic
property /thin' bac' to the what a phallus is& it is the mimetic ima,e o a penis1! si,niies lac'! its
own absence! what it is! parado-ically! not! but can only mime#
5ow a,ain! we can see how this mo"es away rom biolo,ical essentialism /the penis! the or,an1
to a nonDessentialist approach to psychose-ual de"elopment /what the penis means! the value
accorded to the penis! determined historically by culture! by social norms! by ideolo,y1# So!
what Lacan in act oers! in his reormulation! is the possibility o chan,e# 4omen are not
bound by the act that they lac' a penis /the or,an1 2 this is the *biolo,y is destiny. that Freud=s
theories ,i"e us# +t=s not the mother=s lac4 of a penis! per se! which mar's her as inerior to the
ather! or to the male in ,eneral# Kather! mother simply lac4s! as everyone does! since no one
possesses the phallus! which is a si,niier! not some physical ob%ect that can be possessed! and
lost# 4e can see why Lacan=s reormulation o Freud is attracti"e to eminist scholars#
Slide 20
*he Penis and the Phallus
@-cerpt rom Jac/ueline 7ose 8Feminine Sexuliaty. 9ntroduction:, Psychoanalytic Criticism,
ed- Sue ;ice
The meanin, o the phallus! and the meanin, o its possession! is described by Kose in the
ollowin, terms:
*Se-ual dierence is then assi,ned accordin, to whether indi"idual sub%ects do or do not possess
the phallus! which means not that anatomical dierence is se-ual dierence /the one as strictly
deducible rom the other1! but that anatomical dierence comes to figure se-ual dierence! that
is! it becomes the sole representative o what that dierence is allowed to be#. /1331
4hat this means is that se-ual dierence has come to be figured in terms o a possession o the
penis! or the lac' o one# This is not the same as anatomical dierence! but only that because the
phallus is represented by the se-ual or,an! the penis! hence anatomical dierence has come to
i,ure se-ual dierence# There is a clear distinction here between the anatomical which reers
to the or,an! and the sexual! which is more o a representation! a cultural construct#
+n other words! the dierence between the se-es has come! throu,hout history! to be determined
by an o"erDsimplistic anatomical dierence# 4hile no one disputes anatomical dierence is /we
are dierent creatures biolo,ically1! stoppin, at mere anatomical dierence to e-plain the
dierence between men and women is hi,hly unsatisactory# +t is ob"ious that anatomy has been
conerred with particular cultural "alues that then come to si,niy the dierences between the
two se-es# Kose states emphatically: *The importance o the phallus is that its status in the
de"elopment o human se-uality is somethin, which nature cannot account for#. /1321
Slide 30
Kose continues to say that the phallus has only a *seeming "alue.! in other words! an arbitrary
"alue: *Freud ,a"e the moment when the boy and ,irl child saw that they were dierent the
status o a trauma which the ,irl is seen to be lac'in, /the ob%ections oten start here1# ?ut
somethin, can only be seen to be missin, accordin, to a preDe-istin, hierarchy ;L< 4hat counts
is not the perception but its already assi,ned meanin, ;L< )eanin, is only e"er erected! it is set
up and i-ed# The phallus symboliAes the eects o the si,niier in that ha"in, no "alue in itsel!
it can represent that to which "alue accrues#. /1341
+n other words! in order or somethin, to be seen as missin,! in order or one to percei"e onesel
as lac'in, in somethin,! that somethin, must already have an assigned meaning or assigned
value that ,rants it its pri"ile,ed status# 4hat this means is that the penis itsel! is! rom the start!
a pri"ile,ed or,an because a preDe-istin, hierarchy has ,i"en it that "alue# +n other words! the
penis! is simply a si,niier! since it has no "alue in and o itsel! but only an assi,ned! or to use
Kose=s term! seemin, "alue# Gnd this is why it is more appropriate to use the term phallus a
signifier', rather than penis anatomical organ'#
Slide 31
Gs such! *se-uality belon,s or Lacan in the realm o masCuerade# ;L< For Lacan! masCuerade
is the "ery deinition o >emininity= precisely because it is constructed with reerence to the male
si,n#. /13B1 Se-uality as masCuerade means that se-ual dierence has ,ot nothin, to do with
what or,an one possesses or lac's! but rather! is simply a matter of representation! which is o
course limited by! or determined by! the "alues within that particular system o representation#
)ore si,niicantly! emininity is only a masCueradeI constructI representationI dis,uiseI illusion
as opposed to bein, essential! simply because it is deined and determined in relation to! or is
deerred to! the male si,n# +n the current system within which we operate! emininity is not
deined or determined in and o itsel# Gs such! emininity does not really e-ist# This certainly
recalls some o what M? was tal'in, about when she as's do women e-istN
Slide 32: 3oslin, slide
Slide 33
2li<abeth =ros<, 8*he Penis and the Phallus:, Psychoanalytic Criticism, ed- Sue ;ice
>er aim. To e-pose the *assumed patriarchal context in Freud=s and Lacan=s wor'#. /1421
>er thesis: *+n spite o Lacan=s claims! the phallus is not a >neutral= term unctionin, eCually or
both se-es ;L< Gs the word su,,ests! it is a term pri"ile,in, masculinity! or rather! the penis#.
/1421 Gnd later she adds! *The relation between the penis and the phallus is not arbitrary! but
socially and politically moti"ated# ;L< +t is moti"ated by the already e-istin, structure o
patriarchal power! and its eects ,uarantee the reproduction o this particular orm o social
or,nisation and no other#. /1441
3rosA ta'es Lacan to tas'! and ar,ues that the phallus is not a si,niier li'e other si,niiers!
which is what Lacan claims 2 it is already imbued with a "alue! and already en%oys a pri"ile,ed
status that is ali,ned with masculinity: *it is committed to an a "riori pri"ile,e o the masculine#.
/1431 + we simply a,ree that the phallus is li'e any other si,niier! and not reco,niAe that the
phallus *en"elops the penis as the tan,ible si,n o a pri"ile,ed masculinity. /1421! then we are in
act naturaliAin,! and neutraliAin,! male dominance# She ar,ues that *the penis! as ima,inary
ob%ect! is already bound up with si,niication#. /1301
Slide 34
(ust to bac'trac' a little: Lacan replaces *penis. with *phallus.! since it is not the physical penis
that is desirable! but what the penis represents 2 is a symbol o 2 which is power# The phallus is
not the penis 2 it can be the penis! it can be anythin, else# This! or a lot o eminist
psychoanalytic critics! was a step towards pro,ress# Lacan=s contribution to eminism thus lies
in the distinction he made between the penis and the phallus! which enabled Freud=s biolo,ical
account o male superiority and women=s penis en"y to be e-plained in /on pa,e 1421 *lin,uistic
and symbolic! and thus historical terms. /1421! rather than essentialist terms! since the "alue o
any one thin, can only be located in tracin, its history# /$n pa,e 1421 *This had the ma%or
ad"anta,e o enablin, the possibility o chan,e to be articulated#. /1421 ?ut o course! as 3rosA
points out! Lacan=s conception is still limited! since he o"erloo's the act that the phallus is
already a biased si,niier# 3rosA ar,ues! is that the phallus howe"er already pri"ile,es the
masculine 2 so the si,niier itsel is only su""osedly neutral 2 it is in act not neutral at all# The
term *phallus. comes rom the Latin and 3ree'! meanin, to inlate! to swell# Gnd as e-plained!
in many cultures! the phallus is an ima,e o the penis# So! while Lacan would ha"e us thin' that
the phallus is li'e any other si,niier 2 that is! neutral 2 3rosA points out that the phallus is
already biased towards the masculine#
Slide 3B: +ma,es o Phallus
Slide 3E
3 opens her essay with the ollowin, claim: *The process by which the phallus! a si,niier!
becomes associated with the penis! an or,an! in"ol"es the procedures by which women are
systematically e-cluded rom positive self-definition and a potential autonomy# The relations
each se- has to the phallus qua si,niier map the position/s1 each occupies as a eminine or
masculine sub%ect in the patriarchal symbolic order#. /13E1 4hat 3 means here is simply that
the act that the phallus has become associated with power 2 that it is a si,niier or what one
desires 2 this in"ol"es a process or representation rom which women are e-cluded# + suppose to
put it another way! why isn=t the *yoni. 2 the opposite o the phallus 2 why isn=t this the si,niier
or lac'O ?y the way! there is no 3ree' eCui"alent or the opposite o Phallus& 8oni comes rom
Sans'rit# Her claims here ha"e the same basis as Kose=s: that the phallus itsel has a "alue that is
acCuired! moreo"er! a "alue determined by patriarchal thou,ht# +n other words! the lan,ua,e
system itsel! the system of representation itself! within which all these terms e-ist! is a
patriarchal one! and so any "alue /includin, that o the phallus1 that resides within the system! is
inherently already biased towards the masculine# 5o si,niier is neutral D e"en i the relation
between si,niier and si,niied is arbitrary /Saussure1! and e"en i there are only si,niiers that
point to other si,niiers /Merrida1 2 because the entire system is already bound up with
5ow the notion that the system o representation itsel is hi,hly patriarchal! already biased
towards the masculine! will be crucial or when we discuss the male ,aAe! so do ha"e this in
Slide 39
She says a,ain on pa,e 140! *The penis ta'es on the unction o the phallus only because it is a
mar' or trace that is able to si,niy! indeed! produce! the e-clusion o hal the population#. /1401
+n other words! the establishment o the phallus as a si,niier is politically and ideolo,ically
moti"ated 2 to e-clude women# 5ow this particular conclusion is an e-ample o how eminist
critics treat Freudian psychoanalytic theories as stories, narratives ? told by one half of the
population, with the intent of excluding the other half-
Slide 3:
*?ecause the penis and the phallus are /albeit illusory1 identiied! women are re,arded as
castrated# ?y its presence or absence! the penis becomes the defining characteristic of both
sexes# ;L< The phallus unctions to enable the penis to define all /socially reco,niAed1 forms of
human sexuality# The differences between ,enitals becomes e-pressed in terms o the presence
or absence o a single male' term#. /13E1 3rosA! li'e Kose! e-plains that women are
considered castrated! automatically lac'in,! simply because the penis has come to be identiied
with the phallus# +n actual act o course! the identiication between the phallus and the penis is
illusory 2it is an arbitrary relation! not an essential relation#
*+t represents what some >possess= and others ha"e lost! becomin, the term throu,h which the
child comes to reco,niAe se-ual dierence#. /1391 Gs the /misidentiied1 phallus! the penis
thereore comes to represent what some possess and what some lac' 2 the cru- here is the
presence o it! as oppose to the absence! the pri"ile,e o course accorded to presence 2 and
becomes the term /here the penis is no lon,er %ust an or,an! but a pri"ile,ed and thereore
constructed term1 throu,h which se-ual dierence is reco,niAed# Gnd so! ironically! while the
phallus is supposed to si,niy dierence between men and women! it in act erases dierence!
because both men and women are identiied only in relation to a single male term# So this ,oes
bac' to what + was sayin, beore: that men and women are not dierentiated positi"ely 2 that is!
dierent in and o themsel"es 2 rather! dierentiated in a ne,ati"e relation to the male term- G
woman is not man! a woman does not possess a phallus#
Slide 30
So why the choice o the penis! that anatomical or,an! to assume the unction o the phallus
/si,niier o an ob%ect o desire and thereore o lac'1O
*+ the penis assumes the unction o the phallus this is because emale se-uality is considered a
mutilation or castration# ?ecause o its erectile orm and >preerence= or penetration! the phallus
ser"es to >ill= the lac'#. /1391 4hat this means is that the assumption o the penis as phallus is
already determined by a patriarchal value system! and in this "alue system! women are
already considered lac'in,! castrated# 4hat this also means is that Freud=s theory! rather than
bein, an e-planation or emale se-uality! in fact begins with female sexuality already
assumed as a lac4- G,ain! the "alue placed on the penis here is symbolic /on the le"el o
si,niiers1 rather real /on the le"el o the si,niied1# +t is chosen to assume the unction o
phallus /the si,niier o an ob%ect o desire and also o lac'1 because the shape and orm o the
penis! as that which can fill a hole /"a,ina1 ma'es it the preerred >or,an= o choice#
+t is not so much the or,an itsel that is potent and thereore powerul! but the act o its presence
that is "alued! as oppose to there bein, nothing to see an absence' in the emale# + pointed out
%ust now that that there is no eCui"alent to the opposite o Phallus in 3ree' 2 an indication o the
absence! o the nothin, to see! as opposed to the presence! perhaps an o"erpresence! o that
which inlates or swells! that which can be seenL lar,er than lie sometimes# Gll else bein,
eCual! the presence o the appenda,e in the male child! and the absence o it in the emale is what
mar's se-ual dierence# So rather than harpin, on the penis itsel 2 its shape! its ability to
penetrate etc#! 3rosA points towards the act o its presence as a mar' o its authority#
Slide 40
The si,niicance o "isibility where the phallus is concerned was addressed by Luce +ri,aray! in
her boo'! #"eculum of the ther Woman:
*5ow the little ,irl! the woman! supposedly has nothing you can see# She e-poses! e-hibitis the
possibility o a nothing to see# $r at any rate she shows nothin, that is penisDshaped or could
substitute or a penis# This is the odd! the uncanny thin,! as ar as the eye can see! this nothin,
around which lin,ers in horror! now and ore"er! an o"ercathe-is o the eye! o appropriation by
the ,aAe! and o the "hallomor"hic se-ual metaphors! its reassurin, accomplices#. /491
*Nothing to $e seen is equivalent to having no thing% No $eing and no truth#. /4:1
This idea o woman! because she is lac'in, in the penis! which then comes to i,ure her as an
absence! a nothin,! will be important when we consider the male ,aAe ne-t wee'# ?ut or now!
we can also see how this idea o woman as absence is apparent in WW#! and how she is
appropriated by *the ,aAe.! speciically in the case o Gntoinette by Kochester=s loo'in, and
representin, o her# Gs a blan'! an absence! her ima,e is constructed by him 2 he literally draws
an ima,e o her as a stic' person! in an @n,lish loo'in, house# 4e=ll loo' at this in detail later#
Slide 41
5ow because! a ar,ued by Kose and 3rosA! the penis is somethin, that is meanin,ul only by
"irtue o the "alue is accrues! we thus conclude that it is throu,h the desire o the other /the
emale! the castrated bein,1! that the male comes to be airmed as possessin, or ha"in, the
phallus# +n other words! the woman must desire his phallus! she must desire to possess it! to want
it! and only then is the male airmed in his possession o the phallus# Gs she says! *The phallus
and the penis can only be ali,ned i there are those who lac' it#. /1421 Gnd o course! hal the
population lac's it# Jalue then is determined throu,h a relation: the woman wants what she
lac's! and what he possesses# +n her desire to own what he already has! he is assured that he has
somethin, o "alue# Thus! in order or men to en%oy the pri"ile,e o possessin, the phallus! one
condition must be ulilled:
*4omen! the mother! in particular! must thereore be construed as not having! that is! as lac&ing
the phallus in order or men to be re,arded as ha"in, it# 4omen desire the penis as castrated
sub%ects& men can oer them the se-ual or,an! ob%ect o desire! as a means o secondary access
to phallic status#. /1301 )en ,i"e women access to the phallus in secondary orm# Here we
start to see how desire! particularly emale desire! comes to be constructed# The emale! lac'in,
in a penis! can only receive what the male can give# Female desire is thus construed as passi"e!
and male desire as acti"e# Glso! this means that the woman must want to be the ob%ect o the
man=s desire! since it is only then that she can come to possess the phallus# This also ,i"es us a
psychoanalytic e-planation or M?=s obser"ations that women are happy to remain in their status
o *other. to man! because to ,i"e up that status means ha"in, to ,i"e up the material comorts
men can pro"ide! that is! to ,i"e up their secondary access to the phallus 2 power! money!
authority! status! pri"ile,e etc#
So this is the story o penisDen"y and some reormulations o it: we see that while some theorists
/Lacan and his ollowers1 ha"e tried to ta'e penisDen"y away rom biolo,ical determination! to
replace it with the term *phallus.! there are those who contend that the phallus itsel is not a
neutral term li'e other si,niiers 2 it is already imbued with a "alue that pri"ile,es the masculine#
+t can ne"er be a neutral term which can be used by! or with reerence to! women or the eminine#
Slide 42
MotherA Bou 3itchA Alien'
5ancy 7hodorow! Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory# 8ale Fni"ersity Press: 5ew Ha"en and
London! 10:0# Chapter C. 8*he Fantasy of the Perfect Mother:
Gs said beore! another ob%ection to Freudian psychoanalytic theory is the limited part the mother
plays in the de"elopment o the child! lar,ely construed in ne,ati"e terms /she depri"es the child&
she does not possess the phallus1# The i,ure o the mother is central to a lot o women=s writin,
2 e"en Jir,inia 4ool in"o'es the i,ure o the mother 2 she says we thin' bac' throu,h our
mothers i we are women# )ost! i not all o our te-ts in"ol"e relationships with mothers and
mother i,ures#
M?=s notion o the *othered. woman! woman as the second se-! see's to e-pose the act that
woman is seen! deined! always in relation to man# 4hat we need then! is a shit 2 to "iew
women in relation to other women# 4e need this in eminist literature! and we also need this in
eminist criticism# +t=s not simply to e-amine the relationship between men and women 2 in
doin, so we=re merely reproducin, the same old structures that tie women to men# 5ow! as we
,o throu,h the semester! + want you to pay attention to the representations o women in relation
to other women! especially to mother i,ures# 8ou=ll notice that where some te-ts are eminist
in its representation o the relationship between men and women! they are not necessarily so in
their representations o the relationship between women and mother i,ures 2 that is! the motherD
dau,hter relationship is oten cast in a somewhat ne,ati"e li,ht#
5ancy 7hodorow is interested in representations o motherhood in eminist writin,! and notes
that recent feminist wor' that e-amines the role o the mother /an impro"ement no doubt! but
still limited1 seems to either blame or idealise the mother 2 or rather! one can di"ide the attitude
towards mother broadly into: blame or idealiAation# She=s interested in eminist wor' on the
motherDdau,hter relationship! and addresses se"eral themes commonly ound across such wor'#
Slide 43
$n the side o blame! 7hodorow e-plores a ew "iews:
*Feminist writin, on motherhood assumes an allDpowerul mother who! because she is totally
responsible or how her children turn out! is blamed or e"erythin, rom her dau,hter=s
limitations to the crisis o human e-istence#. /:01
?ut (udith Grcana ar,ues that *maternal beha"iour is a product o mothers= entrapment within
patriarchy rather than a product o their e"il intentions#. /:11 Grcana basically implies that
motherin,! and whether it is ,ood or bad! is dependent on the situation mothers are placed in#
The mother is not an autonomous sub%ect whose intentions are solely responsible or her
motherin,# )ore oten than not! she is a product o her patriarchal en"ironment# ?ut to simply
say that maternal beha"iour is a product o mothers= within patriarchy! is also to ma'e a
statement that mi,ht as well be the eCui"alent o bad aith 2 that mothers are unable to choose to
be otherwise! to transcend patriarchy# This absol"es the mother i,ure o any need to be
responsible or accountable#

Slide 44
Morothy Minnerstein claims that *under the arran,ements that now pre"ail! a woman is the
parental person who is e"ery inant=s irst lo"e! irst witness! and irst boss! the person who
presides o"er the inant=s irst encounters with the natural surroundin,s and who e-ists or the
inant as the irst representati"e o the lesh#. /:11 ?ein, such a primary i,ure in the child=s lie!
it is no wonder that mother ,ets all the blameN
The psychoanalytic eCui"alent o this all-powerful mother is the phallic mother! the one who is!
in the child=s antasy! endowed with a phallus# This is o course prior to the castration threat!
ollowin, which the child realiAes that mother does not in act possess a phallus#
Slide 4B
+n Lacan=s terms:
*Lthe maternal body becomes the receptacle o the dri"es which the child pro%ects onto it!
dri"es moti"ated by a,,ression born o a undamental disappointment#. /cited in Kose 1301
Gccordin, to such a theory! blame appears intrinsic to the motherDchild relationship! since the
child is bound to be disappointed by the mother=s lac' o a phallus# Gnd so 7hodorow contends
that all these accounts o the allDpowerul mother who dominates the inant=s irst contact with
the world! tend to conuse *inantile fantasies with the actuality o maternal beha"iour#. /:11
4hat 7hodorow draws attention to! is the shortcomin,s o basin, an analysis o the motherDchild
relationship purely on psychose-ual antasies# Gnd the act the all powerul mother is
represented as a phallic mother 2 she has the phallus 2already means that she is only powerul
because she has the phallus! which is! o course! not entirely pro,ressi"e or eminism# For
7hodorow! the motherDchild relationship is also a social relation# + will come bac' to this a,ain
Slide 4E
Gs mentioned! some eminists see the bad mother as a product o patriarchy# The perect!
idealiAed mother is the one who 'nows how to mother *naturally.! and i only *current
limitations on mothers were eliminated! mothers would 'now naturally 'now how to be ,ood#.
/001 +n other words! i mothers were not conined or limited by the patriarchal institution o
motherhood! i she were allowed to mother *naturally.! then she would be the perect mother#
*)ost eminist writin, does not e-pect mothers to chan,e on their own# Gs eminists locate
blame! they also ocus on the conditions 2 those o patriarchy 2 in which bad motherin, ta'es
place! in which mothers are "ictims and powerless in the perpetuation o e"il#. /:21 So the
conclusion is that i patriarchy is remo"ed! mothers will be perectN
Slide 49
)otherin, *would be wonderul i women could reco,niAe and ta'e pleasure in their procreati"e
and maternal capacities and i these were not ta'en o"er by institutional constraints and
alienated understandings of mothering#. /:41 These are! presumably! imposed on the mother!
and do not come naturally to her#
5ow the shortcomin,s o such an ar,ument are clear: The word *natural. is problematic o
course# +t is simply deerrin, to biolo,ical essentialism to say that a woman would *naturally.
'now how to mother# This tends to remo"e motherin, rom the networ' o social orces in
which it ta'es place# Furthermore! as e"en the selDsame eminists ha"e noted! the *perect.
mother is someone who will ne"er e-ist! since we cannot li"e outside o society! o culture! and
thereore! as they claim! outside o patriarchy# 4e ha"e yet to see the *perect. mother 2 a
utopian notionN So i we come to accept that patriarchy is the condition we all li"e in today! a
mother! any mother is necessarily a product o that condition# There is no mother outside o
patriarchy! since there is no such thin, as an outside o patriarchy#
Slide 4:
?ut what does it mean to be a ,ood motherO $ne measure o ,ood motherin, is whether or not
the child=s needs are bein, met#
Gdrienne Kich ar,ues that a child has stron, and powerul eelin,s or the mother! in the orm o
an authentic need! e"o'ed by the uniCueness o the mother! by her sin,ularity# 4hat Kich
implies is that there is a *natural. relation that binds mother and child! a relation in which the
mother cannot be replaced by anyone else#
4e howe"er ha"e to Cuestion how these needs are arri"ed at 2 meanin,! in our assessment o
what the needs o the child are! and whether they are le,itimate 2 we don=t Cuestion the *needs.
o the child 2 are these really needs or are they desiresO 4e ha"e to as' i these *needs. in act
arise as a product o the institution o motherhood under patriarchy# So the way we e"aluate
motherin,! the 'inds o assumptions about what we ta'e to be ,ood motherin,! reCuire
e"aluation as well# +s the criteria we use to measure ,ood motherin,! itsel a product o a
patriarchal institution o motherin,O
+nterestin,ly! since we="e been ,oin, on about what it means to be somethin, D whether a
woman! or a ,ood mother 2 we ind that the word mother itsel also ta'es on positi"e and
ne,ati"e connotations in lan,ua,e# 4hen someone uses the phrase *to ather a child.! it simply
means to parta'e in the biolo,ical reproduction o the child# ?ut when we use the phrase *to
mother a child.! a whole host o associations come into play! includin,! and especially! ne,ati"e
ones# @,s#! *stop motherin, that boy.! you=re a *mommy=s boy. 2 as opposed to *daddy=s little
,irl. /G444441 2connotations are entirely dierentNN The point +=m ma'in, here is that
motherhood and motherin, cannot be thou,ht o as simply *natural.! but is part o a system o
Slide 40
G lot has also been written about the relationship between motherhood and se-uality# 7hodorow
identiies two basic strands where motherhood and se-uality are concerned:
$5@: that the two 2 motherhood and se-uality D are incompatible! and so!
/11 + women want to 'eep their se-uality! we need to eradicate women=s procreati"e
capacities alto,ether /this is the ar,ument put orward by Firestone1#
/21 To ha"e the choice to either e-ercise her procreati"e capacities $K to e-press her
se-uality /the ar,ument put orward by Friday1
$ both! Firestone=s is clearly the more radical and e-treme! althou,h both li'ewise "iew
motherhood and se-uality as bein, incompatible#
Slide B0
T4$: that the two are related
Kich and Kossi on the other hand put orward the "iew that women must irst o all reclaim and
repossess her body! her se-uality! that we ha"e to remo"e women rom oppressi"e patriarchal
structures that determine and deine her body& only then! will she be able to mother *naturally.#
So it is only when women ha"e control o their own bodies! their own se-uality! that they will be
able to be ,ood *natural. mothers#
*Kich and Kossi imply that patriarchal institutions ha"e distorted a natural maternal essence and
potential or the motherDchild bond# Kossi points to the inherent se-ual pleasures o the
motherin, e-perience! and Kich su,,ests a connection between the physical pleasures o the
motherDinant /especially motherDdau,hter1 relationship and se-ual bonds between women#. /:B1
The eroticiAation o motherin, is o course not somethin, Kossi and Kich in"ented& Freud
himsel describes the motherDchild relationship in erotic! incestuous terms! an e-perience cut
short by the threat o castration# Later! when we come to French Feminist criticism! this trope 2
the relationship between motherin, and emale eroticism 2 is in"o'ed once more#
Slide B1
G,,ression and Meath
Gnother recurrin, theme in eminist writin, about motherhood is the a,,ression between mother
and dau,hter: *7emented by maternal and inantile ra,e! motherhood becomes lin'ed to
destruction and death# ;L< +n this rendition! mother and child seem cau,ht in a antasied
e-clusi"e and e-clusionary dyad where a,,ression! rustration! and ra,e hold sway# These
writers mer,e antasies o maternal omnipotence into the totaliAin, Cuality o the e-perience o
the motherDchild relationship#. /:B! :91
There is certainly truth to this! e"en in the no"els we study:
+n Wide #argasso #ea! The Lover and ranges are Not the nly Fruit! mothers and dau,hters are
cau,ht in a destructi"e relationship# + we apply the 'inds o ar,uments made by 7hodorow! then
neither one o these no"els seem to present us with a pro,ressi"e! or useul! or positi"e way o
e"aluatin, the role o the mother in a child=s de"elopment# The mother appears to be the number
one enemy o the dau,hter# The centrality o the mother i,ure that is constructed in these
no"els! as the i,ure who most inluences the child=s psychose-ual de"elopment rom a
psychoanalytic perspecti"e! is rather limitin, or eminism#
Slide B2
The inal theme 7hodorow addresses is maternal isolation# /:91
)aternal isolation
The mother is ne"er seen as anythin, other than a mother 2 ne"er someone with her own lie!
wants! needs! history! other social relationships! wor' 2 she is deined solely as a person who did
or did not li"e up to her children=s e-pectations# The e-clusi"e way in which we deine mother 2
in relation only to child 2 limits and conines her to simply another institutional role: *4e deny
mothers the comple-ity o their li"es! their selhood! their a,ency in creatin, rom institutional
conte-t and e-perienced eelin,s# 4e deny them their place in a twoDway relationship with their
children! maniold relationships with the rest o the world! and we deny oursel"es as mothers#
;L< this in"ol"es a denial o all women as acti"e sub%ects and a denial and split in our selD
identities as childrenI dau,hters and people as well#. /031
So what 7hodorow is sayin,! is that in ,i"in, mother such primary role! in fixing mother in such
a deiniti"e relationship to the child! we in act deny mother o any sub%ecti"e autonomy 2 we
parado-ically deny her o sub%ecti"ity! o her a,ency# Gnd as + said beore! to say that she is
product o patriarchy and thereore beha"es the way she does 2 well! this eecti"ely casts here in
the role o the "ictim! o the sub%ect li"in, in bad aith#
Slide B3
)otherin, and +nantile antasy
7hodorow sees such attitudes towards mothers and motherin, 2 motherDbashin, or motherD
idealisation 2 as stemmin, rom our acceptance o infantile fantasies# This ta'es us bac' to
psychoanalysis a,ain 2 the theory that the mother is the irst contact the child has! and is the irst
one to ulill the child=s needs! and also the irst to deny the child# The assumptions that eminist
writin, on motherhood rest on depend on the idealiAation o early inancy! in which de"elopment
o the child is seen e-clusi"ely as a painul process 2 the child is denied! has to be separated rom
the mother! has to tame its impulses because o prohibition etc# +n such a model! mother and
child are i,ured as ad"ersaries 2 and o course! who comes to the rescueO MaddyN Such a
model! based on inantile antasies! is thus biased towards the masculine! and urther perpetuates
patriarchal ideas and ideals o motherin,#
Slide B4
7hodorow su,,ests an alternati"e:
*4e should loo' to theories that stress relational capacities and e-periences instead of
insatiable, insistent drives& to theories in which needs do not e/ual wants& in which
separation is not e/uivalent to deprivation! and in which autonomy is different from
abandonment& and in which the child is thou,ht to ha"e some interest in ,rowth and
de"elopment#. /0E1
Mother and mothering need to be located within the nexus of social and cultural networ4s
that reproduce the concept of 8mothering: and 8motherhood:- There is nothin, *natural.
about mother or motherin,! only the "alues placed on either by a system that already pri"ile,es
the masculine#
Slide BB: 3oslin, slide
Slide BE:
Shoshana Felman! *4omen and )adness.! Feminisms An Anthology of Literary theory and
criticism# @d# Kobyn K# 4arhol 6 Miane Price Herndl# Kut,ers Fni"ersity Press: 5ew
?runswic' 6 5ew (ersey! 1009#
The part o the essay rele"ant to us this wee' is Part 999. 8SheD 5hoD:# + will come bac' to
this essay a,ain when we loo' at women and writin,# G brie outline o her ar,ument: Felman=s
critiCue o the no"el be,ins with an e-amination o the preace! written by two /male1 scholars!
who praise ?alAac or his *realism. in terms o depictin, the war! and the suerin, o men in
war# They comment that madness in the no"el 2 Stephanie=s 2 is an element o the supernatural!
a *state o semiDunreality. /131! elements one would ind across ?alAac=s wor' in ,eneral# 5ow
what is crucial to Felman! is precisely the dichotomy set up here by the authors o the preace:
)an /and whate"er concerns them 2 war e,#1 4oman
Keal /and so treated in a realistic manner1 *state o semiDunreality.
5atural /and so treated in a naturalistic manner1 supernatural
The dichotomy erected by these authors! echoes the dichotomy set up in the no"el itsel!
speciically in ?alAac=s treatment o women and madness:
)an 4oman
Keason )adness
SpeechI discourse Silence /they don=t respond1
Presence /o mind1 Gbsence /o mind 2 she has lost her memory1
The idea o ha"in, *presence o mind. is o course tied to reason as well 2 and absence o mind
2 out o one=s mind 2 is tied to madness#
Felman lists only the irst three binary pairs# +="e added the last 2 or the "ery important reason
that the presence 2 absence binary is central to the way emale se-uality has been represented#
Kecall what + said pre"iously about penis en"y! the pri"ile,in, o the phallus etc# )en ha"e it!
women do not ha"e it# )en ha"e somethin, that can be seen! and are thereore associated with
presence& women ha"e somethin, that cannot be seen! an emptiness! and are associated with
absence# This binary comes to inorm the representation o the emale orm in "arious ways!
which we will e-plore o"er the ne-t ew wee's# +t is also important when we consider the
metaphysical tradition that inorms 4estern thin'in,: it is lo,ocentric 2 meanin, bein, centred
on the spo'en wordI speech# Speech assumes presence 2 one has to be present to spea' 2 which
implies authentication! and hence! bein, closer to the truth#
+ won=t ,o too much into it now! we=ll come bac' to this when we loo' more closely at writin,
and representation in the ne-t ew wee's# ?ut %ust pay attention to how the presenceDabsence
binary plays itsel out in "arious ways in the literary te-ts and ilms you study#
Slide B9
So! as ?alAac=s story ,oes! it appears that Stephanie! the madwoman was in act Phillipe=s
iancPe! who ,oes craAy ater losin, him in Kussia# The last word she spea's to him is *Gdieu.
and this is the only word she! in her current state o madness! utters o"er and o"er a,ain# So the
men embar' on a mission o sorts to cure her o her madness 2 ,oin, as ar as to create scenarios
to brin, her memory bac'# +n the end! she remembers him! but dies at that "ery moment#
There are a ew thin,s she says that are important or when we loo' at WW# and 'ertigo:
/11 The ob%ectiication o emale madness! in order to master it# 5ow! what she says
re,ardin, this issue! is directly related to M?=s notion o woman as other to man# Her
madness! is other to his reason# Thus! his attempt to master her madness! is precisely his
attempt to master that which is other 2 un'nown 2 to him# 5ow! "ery clearly! Felman=s
readin, o madness here! is "ery nonDessentialist# 4e all 'now that women were
identiied with madness in a "ery essential way! or a "ery lon, time# The word hysteria
or e,#! comes rom the 3ree' word *hystera. meanin, uterus# Felman=s readin, o
madness! is "ery much li'e Foucault=s readin, o madness 2 she reads madness! or the
namin, o the mad! as a process that in"ol"es power# The ones in power name the mad!
consi,n the mad to a mar,inal e-istence# Felman=s readin, o madness ta'es place alon,
,ender lines# So in her readin, o ?alAac here! the ones in power 2 the men /?alAac
included1 2 ,et to name the mad 2 the woman /Stephanie1#
Slide B:
/21 Gnd this is precisely why she says that madness *is precisely what ma'es a woman not a
woman. 2 e-actly so because woman! as a social construct! is deined in relation to man!
by man# 4oman has no autonomous subEective e-istence 2 she is deined as the other to
man# This is what Felman reers to when she tal's about woman bein, *the e-act
metaphorical measure o the narcissism o man. 2 as an other to himsel! she is created
always in his ima,e# Gnd so! madness /the other to reason1 comes to threaten what man
'nows o woman /what he 'nows o her based on his deinition o her1! and as such! the
madness has to be cured! to be ,otten rid o! so that woman can once more be 'nown by
man# So when Stephanie ,oes mad 2 she loses her *emininity.! a product o the
masculine ima,ination# So to restore a woman=s sanity! is to restore her emininity as he
imagines it#
Slide B0: 3oslin, Slide
Slide E0
Charting the 2mpty Spaces of Jean 7hys6 85ide Sargasso Sea:
?y )issy Mehn Hubitsche'
Source: Frontiers( A )ournal of Women #tudies! Jol# 0! 5o# 2 /10:91! pp# 23D2:
*;###< Gntoinette participates in her own destruction ;###< woman is ultimately the "ictim! not o
man! but o hersel#.
@"aluate the abo"e claim with close reerence to the te-t#
Slide E1
5omen and Schi<ophrenia. *he Fiction of Jean 7hys
?y @liAabeth Gbel
Source: Contem"orary Literature! Jol# 20! 5o# 2 /Sprin,! 10901! pp# 1BBD1991
*Power is distributed une"enly in Khys=s world# The si,niicant men in her no"els ha"e %obs!
money! and conseCuently the power to appropriate women and discard them# The women! by
contrast! are economically powerless! portrayed only as shop ,irls! chorus ,irls! or wi"es who
buy security with subser"ience# For Khys=s women indin, a man is a Cuestion o economic
sur"i"al as well as o emotional ulillment! and these interloc'in, needs reduce women to
children or whom dependence is an obstacle to selDassertion# )en! who in Khys=s iction are
in"ariably older than the women they beriend! become parental i,ures throu,h the authority
accompanyin, economic stren,th# They deine the "alues o their society! and women who
Cuestion these "alues can ind little support# The circle o women=s e-perience that Khys depicts
is a "icious one: economic dependence induces psycholo,ical dependence and a conseCuent loss
o conidence that reinorces the undamental economic dependency#.
Slide E2
Gbel=s analysis here reers to a readin, o two other no"els by Khys# 7an this obser"ation be
applied to WW#O How does the power imbalance /a result o economic relations! and the
subseCuent impact on ,ender relations1 WW# dier in terms o situation rom these other no"elsO
/note: Gnnette /the mother1 marries or money! Kochester marries or money 2 do loo' at both
these relationships1
Gnd how does this dierence then aect the way characters 2 speciically ,endered 2 treat each
otherO How does this power imbalance aect se-ualityO How does it aect ,ender identity 2
that is! what it means to be masculine or eminineO
Slide E2
Kepresentation o )adness:
*4ith respect to the woman=s madness! man=s reason reacts by tryin, to
a""ro"riate it: in the irst place! by claimin, to *understand. it! but with an
e-ternal understandin, which reduces the madwoman to a spectacle! to an o$*ect
which can be &nown and "ossessed#. /Felman! *4omen and )adness.! 1B1
*To *spy on. in order to *'now.& to *tame. in order to *cure.: such are the
methods used by masculine reason so as to o$*ectify eminine madness! thereby
masterin, it#. /Felman! *4omen and )adness.! 1B1
@-amine Kochester=s treatment o Gntoinette with reerence to Felman=s claims# 8ou
may reer to the rest o Felman=s essay#
Slide E3DE4
3eneral 7lass Miscussion
D Kepresentation o 7hristophine
D The relationship between this no"el and it=s *predecessor.! )ane +yre
D The si,niicance o the mirrorI loo'in, ,lass in the no"el& theme o mirrorin,