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Luce Irigaray (1930 - )


Luce Irigaray (born 1930) is a French feminist and psychoanalytic & cultural theorist. She is best known for her works Speculum of the Other Woman (1974) and This Sex Which Is Not One (1977). Luce Irigaray is inspired by the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan and the deconstructionism of Jacques Derrida. She has two intentions with her work, to expose the male ideology underlying our whole system of meaning and thus also our language and to create a feminine countersystem to provide a positive sexual identity for women. One of her key thoughts is ‘the logic of the same’ or phallogocentrism, a concept expressing how society’s two gender categories, man and woman, are in fact just one, man, as he is made the universal referent. The aim would then be to create two autonomous terms, both equally positive and to acknowledge two sexes, not one . Following this line of thought, with Lacan’s mirror stage and Derrida’s theory of logocentrism in the background, Irigaray also criticises the favouring of unitary truth within patriarchal society. In her theory for creating a new disruptive form of feminine writing (Écriture féminine), she focuses on the child’s pre-Oedipal phase when experience and knowledge is based on bodily contact, primarily with the mother and here lies one major interest, the mother-daughter relationship which she considers devalued in patriarchal society. Luce Irigaray is often associated with Hélène Cixous.

Irigaray was criticised by Alan Sokal in Intellectual Impostures for arguing that E=mc2 is a "sexed equation" (because it privileges the speed of light) and arguing that fluid mechanics has been neglected by "masculine" science because it prefers to deal with "masculine" rigid objects rather than "feminine" fluids [1] (http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/dawkins.html). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luce_Irigaray [Mar 2005]


Luce Irigaray was born in Belgium in the 1930s. She received a Master's Degree from the University of Louvain in 1955. She taught high school in Brussells from 1956-1959. Irigaray moved to France in the early 1960s. In 1961 she received a Master's Degree in psychology from the University of Paris. In 1962 she received a Diploma in Psychopathology. From 1962-1964 she worked for the Fondation Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique in Belgium. After this she began work as a research assistant at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris where she is currently Director of Research.

In the 1960s Irigaray participated in Jacques Lacan's psychoanalytic seminars. She trained as and became an analyst. In 1968 she received a Doctorate in Linguistics. From 1970-1974 she taught at the University of Vincennes. At this time Irigaray was a member of the EFP (Ecole Freudienne de Paris), a school directed by Lacan. In 1969 she analysed Antionette Fouque, a feminist leader of the time (MLF).

Irigaray's second Doctorate thesis, "Speculum of the Other Woman," was closely followed by the cessation of her employment at the University of Vincennes. This damage to her career was cruelly ironic -- the phallocentric economy she condemned for excluding women swiftly silenced her. This illustrated her main point -- the machinery of phallocentrism can't accept sexual difference and the existence of a different female subjectivity.

Irigaray was able to find an audience in feminist circles. The Women's Movement (MLF) in Paris is very factional, but since 1970 Irigaray has refused to belong to any one group. She was involved in demonstrations for contraception and abortion rights. She was invited to give seminars and speak at conferences throughout Europe. Dozens of these lectures have been published. In the second semester of 1982, Irigaray held the chair in Philosophy at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Research here resulted in the publication of An Ethics of Sexual Difference, establishing Irigaray as a major Continental philosopher.

Irigaray's work has influenced the feminist movement in France and Italy for several decades. Since the 1980s she has spoken in support of the Italian Communist Movement, touring and lecturing in Italy. Irigaray has conducted research over the last decade at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in Paris on the difference bewteen the language of women and the language of men. This research takes place with speakers of many different languages and is discussed in her recent writings. In 1986 she transferred from the Psychology Commission to the Philosophy Commission as the latter is her preferred discipline.

Early receptions of Irigaray in the English-speaking world often mistakenly labeled her an 'essentialist.' this view is now generally considered false, as a better understanding of the complex linguistic, philosophical and psychoanalytic precepts Irigaray writes from is gained. --unidentified


  1. Speculum of the Other Woman (1974) - Luce Irigaray [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Those unfamiliar with Plato, Descartes, Freud and Lacan will find great challenges in understanding this rather poetic book. Irigary examines these figures in light of the "symbolic order" to detail phallocentricism in the development of Western thought in general as well as psychoanalysis, revealing what is, according to the author, the nature of feminine sexuality and gender identity. Reading this text, written by a former student of Lacan's expelled over ideological differences, was transforming and has left a permanent perspective from which to percieve and critique philosophical arguments as well as science, medicine, and psychotherapy. --jheidos@cs.com for amazon.com

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