Luce Irigaray

Luce Irigaray

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Luce Irigaray is a Belgian feminist
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

, philosopher, linguist, psychoanalyst
Psychoanalytic theory
Psychoanalytic theory refers to the definition and dynamics of personality development which underlie and guide psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapy. First laid out by Sigmund Freud, psychoanalytic theory has undergone many refinements since his work...

, sociologist and cultural theorist
Culture theory
Culture theory is the branch of anthropology and semiotics that seeks to define the heuristic concept of culture in operational and/or scientific terms....

. She is best known for her works Speculum of the Other Woman (1974) and This Sex Which Is Not One (1977).


Irigaray received a Master's Degree
Master's degree
A master's is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice...

 in Philosophy and Arts from the University of Louvain
Catholic University of Leuven
The Catholic University of Leuven, or of Louvain, was the largest, oldest and most prominent university in Belgium. The university was founded in 1425 as the University of Leuven by John IV, Duke of Brabant and approved by a Papal bull by Pope Martin V.During France's occupation of Belgium in the...

 (Leuven) in 1955. She taught in a Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 school from 1956 to 1959, then moved to France in the early 1960s. In 1961 she received a Master's Degree in psychology from the University of Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

. In 1962 she received a Diploma in Psychopathology. From 1962 to 1964 she worked for the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) in Belgium. She then began work as a research assistant at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Centre national de la recherche scientifique
The National Center of Scientific Research is the largest governmental research organization in France and the largest fundamental science agency in Europe....

(CNRS) in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...


In the 1960s Irigaray participated in Jacques Lacan
Jacques Lacan
Jacques Marie Émile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made prominent contributions to psychoanalysis and philosophy, and has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud". Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced France's...

's psychoanalytic seminars. She trained as and became an analyst. In 1968 she received a Doctorate in Linguistics. In 1969 she analyzed Antoinette Fouque
Antoinette Fouque
Antoinette Fouque , is a psychoanalyst and one of the leading figures of the French women's liberation movement....

, a leader of the French women's movement. From 1970 to 1974 she taught at the University of Vincennes. At this time Irigaray belonged to the École Freudienne de Paris
École Freudienne de Paris
The École Freudienne de Paris was a French psychoanalytic professional body formed in 1964, of which Jacques Lacan was a founding member....

(EFP), a school directed by Lacan.

Irigaray's second doctoral thesis was "Speculum, de l'autre femme."

In the second semester of 1982, Irigaray held the chair in Philosophy at the Erasmus University
Erasmus University
Erasmus University Rotterdam is a university in the Netherlands, located in Rotterdam. The university is named after Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, a 15th century humanist and theologian...

 in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. Starting as a dam on the Rotte river, Rotterdam has grown into a major international commercial centre...

. Her research here resulted in the publication of An Ethics of Sexual Difference.

Irigaray has conducted research since the 1980s at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in Paris on the differences between the language of women and the language of men. In 1986 she transferred from the Psychology Commission to the Philosophy Commission as the latter is her preferred discipline.

In December 2003 the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 conferred on Luce Irigaray the degree of Doctor of Literature honoris causa. From 2004 to 2006 Irigaray held a position as a visiting professor in the department of Modern Languages at the University of Nottingham. she will be affiliated with the University of Liverpool.

In 2008, Luce Irigaray was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by University College, London.

Contributions to philosophy

In an interview conducted in 1995 Luce Irigaray defined the three phases of her work:
  1. the critique of the masculine subject (as in "Speculum", "This Sex Which Is Not One", and to some extent "An Ethics of Sexual Difference")
  2. the creation of a feminine subject
  3. the exploration of intersubjectivity (in "J’aime a toi" and in "Essere due")

Of the first she said, "It was the phase in which I showed how a single subject, traditionally the masculine subject, had constructed the world according to a single perspective." In the second phase she defined "those mediations that could permit the existence of a feminine subjectivity - that is to say, another subject". And the third she sees as "trying to define a new model of possible relations between man and woman, without submission of either one to the other". In this interview she also discusses the problems of translation of her texts, most notably in reference to the title and subtile of "Speculum".

Luce Irigaray wishes to create two equally positive and autonomous terms, and to acknowledge two (at least, she sometimes adds) sexes, not one. Following this line of thought, with the theories of Lacan
Lacan is surname of:* Jacques Lacan , French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist** The Seminars of Jacques Lacan** From Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-Authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power, a book on political philosophy by Saul Newman** Lacan at the Scene* Judith Miller, née Lacan...

 (mirror stage
Mirror stage
The mirror stage is a concept in the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan. Philosopher Raymond Tallis describes the mirror stage as "the cornerstone of Lacan’s oeuvre."...

, forms of "sexuation") and of Derrida (logocentrism
Logocentrism is a term coined by German philosopher Ludwig Klages in the 1920s. It refers to the tradition of "Western" science and philosophy that situates the logos, ‘the word’ or the ‘act of speech’, as epistemologically superior in a system, or structure, in which we may only know, or be...

) in the background, Luce 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
Écriture féminine
Écriture féminine, literally "women's writing," more closely, the inscription of the female body and female difference in language and text, is a strain of feminist literary theory that originated in France in the early 1970s and included foundational theorists such as Hélène Cixous, Monique...

), she focuses on the child’s pre-Oedipal
Otto Rank
Otto Rank was an Austrian psychoanalyst, writer, teacher and therapist. Born in Vienna as Otto Rosenfeld, he was one of Sigmund Freud's closest colleagues for 20 years, a prolific writer on psychoanalytic themes, an editor of the two most important analytic journals, managing director of Freud's...

 phase when experience and knowledge depends on bodily contact, primarily with the mother. Here lies one major interest of Luce Irigaray's: the mother-daughter relationship, which she considers devalued in patriarchal society.

Women, she writes, must recast discourse in a form that does not preserve an implied masculine subject, harmonizing the machine of language in order to rethink the relations that make possible meaning, knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

 and presence
Metaphysics of presence
The concept of the metaphysics of presence is an important consideration within the area of deconstruction. The deconstructive interpretation holds that the entire history of Western philosophy and its language and traditions has emphasized the desire for immediate access to meaning, and thus built...

. Accordingly, Luce Irigaray's oeuvre challenges phallogocentrism
In critical theory and deconstruction, phallogocentrism or phallocentrism is a neologism coined by Jacques Derrida to refer to the privileging of the masculine in the construction of meaning....

. She notes that society's two gender
categories (genre), man and woman, are in fact only one, man, as he is made the universal
referent. She works towards a theory of difference, that involves the creation of an other, woman, who is a feminine subject equal to the masculine subject in worth and dignity, yet radically different.


Many feminists criticize the essentialist position of Luce Irigaray.

The phallogocentric argument as defended by Luce Irigaray has been criticised by W. A. Borody as misrepresenting the history of philosophies of "indeterminateness" in the West. Luce Irigaray's "black and white" claims that the masculine=determinateness and that the feminine=indeterminateness contain a degree of cultural and historical validity, but not when it is deployed to self-replicate a similar form of the gender-othering it originally sought to overcome.

Alan Sokal
Alan Sokal
Alan David Sokal is a professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University. He works in statistical mechanics and combinatorics. To the general public he is best known for his criticism of postmodernism, resulting in the Sokal affair in...

 and Jean Bricmont
Jean Bricmont
Jean Bricmont is a Belgian theoretical physicist, philosopher of science and a professor at the Université catholique de Louvain. He works on renormalization group and nonlinear differential equations....

, in their book critiquing postmodern thought (Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science
Fashionable Nonsense
Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science is a book by professors Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont...

), criticize Luce Irigaray on several grounds. In their view, Luce Irigaray wrongly regards E=mc2
Mass-energy equivalence
In physics, mass–energy equivalence is the concept that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. In this concept, mass is a property of all energy, and energy is a property of all mass, and the two properties are connected by a constant...

 as a "sexed equation" because she argues that "it privileges the speed of light
Speed of light
The speed of light in vacuum, usually denoted by c, is a physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is 299,792,458 metres per second, a figure that is exact since the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time...

 over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us". They also take issue with the assertion that fluid mechanics
Fluid mechanics
Fluid mechanics is the study of fluids and the forces on them. Fluid mechanics can be divided into fluid statics, the study of fluids at rest; fluid kinematics, the study of fluids in motion; and fluid dynamics, the study of the effect of forces on fluid motion...

 is unfairly neglected because it deals with "feminine" fluid
In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually deforms under an applied shear stress. Fluids are a subset of the phases of matter and include liquids, gases, plasmas and, to some extent, plastic solids....

s in contrast to "masculine" rigid mechanics
Solid mechanics
Solid mechanics is the branch of mechanics, physics, and mathematics that concerns the behavior of solid matter under external actions . It is part of a broader study known as continuum mechanics. One of the most common practical applications of solid mechanics is the Euler-Bernoulli beam equation...


See also

  • Feminism and the Oedipus complex
    Feminism and the Oedipus complex
    In Freudian Psychoanalysis, gender development is due to issues related to castration in the Oedipus Complex, and is controversial in Feminism because of the nature of Freudian castration...

  • Hélène Cixous
    Hélène Cixous
    Hélène Cixous is a professor, French feminist writer, poet, playwright, philosopher, literary critic and rhetorician. She holds honorary degrees from Queen's University and the University of Alberta in Canada; University College Dublin in Ireland; the University of York and University College...

  • Julia Kristeva
    Julia Kristeva
    Julia Kristeva is a Bulgarian-French philosopher, literary critic, psychoanalyst, sociologist, feminist, and, most recently, novelist, who has lived in France since the mid-1960s. She is now a Professor at the University Paris Diderot...

  • List of deconstructionists
  • Strategic essentialism
    Strategic essentialism
    Strategic essentialism is a major concept in postcolonial theory. The term was coined by the Indian literary critic and theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. It refers to a strategy that nationalities, ethnic groups or minority groups can use to present themselves...