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Friday, February 28, 2014

"This sex which is not one"


In her article, "This sex which is not one", Luce Irigaray defies Freud's and Lacan's analyses of sexual relations and proposes a female sexuality which is self-referential and disconnected from "masculine parameters" of sexual conceptualization.

Irigaray's definition of female sexuality and sexual pleasure is centered exclusively on the female body, which is conceived not as one sexual organ, but as a plurality of them. The female body, she argues, cannot be reduces to one sexual organ, because this would only reaffirm the male logic of the "primacy of the phallus". Important in this regard is Irigaray's concept of the 'other', meant as the capacity to create an alternative definition of the feminine, which defies the one created by patriarchy. It is in the realm of this 'otherness', situated sexually in the female body, that the alternative has to be found. In Irigaray's conceptions, the appropriation of a real female space requires the exclusion of man. Thus, heterosexuality as well as motherhood are rejected as a "masochistic prostitute:” but she does not seem to exclude completely the male cultural tradition, since she refers to a Marxist analysis in her interpretation of women oppression.

Given the very differences in male sexuality and female sexuality, then, leads Irigaray to importantly conclude that, “Women’s desire would not be expected to speak the same language as man’s”. Irigaray’s  conclusion here seems to align nicely with that of Helen Cixous, whose “Laugh of the Medusa”, in which she posits “Ecriture feminine” as a women’s way of writing. For her, because the Female Imaginary cannot be pinned down- as Woman’s sexuality is not one, is not even two, but it is plural- so Woman’s language can be similarly be pinned down.

Throughout Irigaray seeks to dispute and displace male-centered structures of language and thought through a challenging writing practice that takes a first step toward a woman's discourse, a discourse that would put an end to Western culture's enduring phallocentrism. She further talks about ‘penis envy’. She says that the very absence of the penis in a woman leads to the ‘penis envy’. A woman realizes that she is different from man because of the lack of a penis. And for this reason, to get over it, she tends to become closer to the male members in the family especially the father or husband to cover up for the lack by serving them. After a course of time, she gets over the electra complex stage and starts for looking outside family relations.

Irigaray further says that, by virtue of the biological constitution of her genitals, in other words, woman has a radically different pleasure/sexuality from man, one characterized by self-sufficient, immediate touching—of each other. Finally, Luce Irigaray's formulation for an alternative female society, while presenting a very insightful critique of the traditional sexual relations, it is by definition one of narrow scope, both rhetorically and politically. It ultimately appeals only to a specific segment of a specific gender. It does not speak to those women, and for that matter to those men as well, concerned with inequality and who happen to be heterosexual.

[Notes of the lecture delivered by Shyam Nair on 24 February, 2014 at Christ University, prepared by Prathibha Sebastian Vellanikaran - I M.A. (ENG) -1324144]


  • Nair , Shyam. "The Sex Which is Not One ." 24 02 2014. Address.
  • Irigaray, Luce. This Sex Which Is Not One. Trans. Catherine Porter with Carolyn Burke. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. Print.

Institutionalising women's body in a social context as seen in Deepa Mehta's Water

Steve R Mathew


1st MA English with Communication Studies

Contemporary critical theory

Mr Anil Pinto

28th February 2104


Institutionalising women’s body in a social context as seen in Deepa Mehta’s Water


This study discusses Mehta’s film Water as a complex social document that in a way confronts and uncovers a malaise that prevails in Hindu society. The film grapples with the evil custom of sending Hindu widows away to pilgrimage centres where, forgotten by the acquisitive world, they live abrogated lives in miserable penury. The body which is, as it is seen as a site of degradation and sin by the Hindu society comes forth in a visual form where Deepa Mehta explores the binaries of presence/absence, sin/sinner, male/female and right/wrong. The movie binds the elemental with the feminine and probes the way women are preyed upon and shackled by social institutions pulverized and bartered by patriarchy. The movie represents in its totality a powerful and significant cultural challenge to the dominating masculine values and practices of oppression, subjugation and exploitation of women. Since Mehta happens to be a woman director, her courage in the face of intimidation by the largely patriarchal forces must be acknowledged as the immensely relevant preface to her film Water. The film documents, perhaps a little melodramatically, the marginalized life of forgotten Hindu widows battling to survive the harsh realities of neglect and poverty.


The film is set in the year 1938, when India was still under British rule. Child marriage was common practice back then. Widows had a diminished position in society, and were expected to spend their lives in poverty and worship of God. Widow re-marriages were legalized by the colonial laws, but in practice, they were largely considered taboo. The movie deals with such notions and challenges the predefined concepts, very much believed in the Hindu society. In a society where a woman’s identity is governed by her male relative–whether father, husband, or son–and eventual patrilocality, it would appear that after the death of the husband, she “ceases” as a person and passes into a state of social death.” Since a woman is regarded primarily as a vessel of reproduction, her “social death” also signals her “sexual death.” As a widow she is pushed to the margins of the functioning social unit of the family and is alienated from reproduction sexuality. She begins to be regarded as a disrupter of the social order and the society is not at ease about other categories because a woman is not regarded as an independent being.


 Like its predecessors “Fire” (1996), which explored gender and lesbianism in India and “Earth” (1998), which looked at the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, “Water” digs deep into issues that many in India are reluctant to discuss. Now that it has finally been released, it is easy to see why defenders of tradition would want to thwart it. Set in the late 1930s against a backdrop of social upheaval and the quest for national independence, the movie explores the lives and the changing expectations of India’s ultimate outcasts:widows.

The film is packed with emotional scenes, bordered by breaks of comical moments. Much of the levity comes from the spirited lead character, Chuyia (Sarala), a feisty eight-year-old child widow who is brought by her father to a widow’s ashram in the holy city of Varanasi shortly after her husband dies. Chuyia rejects her new life, in which she is forbidden to see her family again, to remarry, to eat hot food or grow long hair and is expected instead to embrace a life of chastity and begging on street corners, while being draped in white for the rest of her life.  Living at the ashram, Chuyia meets the young and naive Kalyani (Lisa Ray). Kalyani is pimped in order to pay the ashram’s expenses by the bitter and vulgar-tongued Madhumati (Manorama), an elderly widow who rules the house with an iron hand.

John Abraham, star of action-packed Bollywood films, such as Karam, (2005) Paap, (2004) and Jism (2002) steps out of those song and dance numbers to play a more serious role as Narayan, a  radicalized, upper caste law student and follower of Mahatma Ghandi, who pushes to change India’s feudal traditions and ultimately falls in love with Kalyani.
The humble and faithful Shakuntala (Seema Biswas) who is known for Bollywood films like Pinjar (2003) and Bandit Queen (1994) becomes a mother figure for the young Chuyia. Shakuntala is a devout follower of Hindu scriptures, who only gradually begins to question the cruel conditions that her faith requires widows to endure.

Deepa Mehta’s film Water contributes to this filmic discourse on widowhood and makes commendable attempts to embed the cinematic images in the dialectical force-field of social practice and the urgent need for change.

Analysis of Luce Irigaray's This Sex Which is Not One & Speculum of the Other Woman

                                                                                          Thekkekara Livea Paul
                                                                             Reg. No. - 1324153
            According to Luce Irigaray, the woman has been constructed as the specular Other of man in all Western discourses. Combining psychoanalysis, philosophy and linguistics, Irigaray's works has been largely influential in poststructuralist feminist thought. her rejection of the male symbolic order in order to highlight difference has been regarded as the "radical feminist" phase of the feminist movement.
                 (1) Speculum as the curved mirror - 
                                                              is of feminine self-examination. this is opposed to the flat mirror which privileges the relation of man with other men but excludes the feminine. Psychoanalysis has always inscribed masculine ideology. Irigaray seeks to uncover a feminine order of meaning so that a sexual identity of the woman may be constructed.
                 (2) Arguement against the "logic of sameness"-
                                                              operates within all discourse. this logic means that two specificities of man and woman are consistently merged into one : "man is the measure of all things". Turning of Freud, Irigaray how his theory of sexuality is basically premised on one sex - the male. There is the male and there is the absence or lack - the female. The male is the paradigm of all sexuality - physical changes and sexual pleasure - and sexuality is a priori male for Freud. Irigaray notes : "female sexuality has always been conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters".
                 (3) Suggestion of a specifically feminine writing practice -
                                                               Proceeding from the assumption that a different order of meaning is necessary to construct a positive representation of the feminine, Irigaray searches out new linguistic modes of expressing the feminine self. The Lacanian idea that language is phallic, she argues, implies a dangerous situation. For the woman to speak, she must speak like a man, or else to break away from the social/symbolic. If women are to have their own identity they must subvert the phallic version of the symbolic. She sees writing as going through the looking glass into a world of woman's self-representation.
                  (4) Adoption of a slippery kind of writing herself - 
                                                               Puns, word plays, syntactic experiments and new arrangements, fragmentation becomes the modes of feminine writing that breaks the stranglehold of masculine rigidified and rule bound language. Reading and writing then must favour the images and metaphors of fluidity, dynamism, polysemy and plurality rather than those of unity, monologism, stability and fixity.
                 (5) Association of the metaphor of the specular mirror with the feminine representation -
                                                               The curved surface of the speculum produces a deform image which reverses the reflection of masculine discourse. She writes: then "the specular surface found not the void of nothingness but the dazzle of multifaceted speleology. A scintillating and incandescent concavity". This curved surface represents the inner specificity of the female body. Women need to first represent themselves to themselves in order to constitute themselves as social beings who can form positive relationships with one another.
               (6) Rejecting the primacy of sight in psychoanalysis -
                                                               She returns to the pre-Oedipal stage where the sense of touch rules the mother-child relation. In addition, she rejects the focus on genitals as the erogenous zone in classical psychoanalysis. Arguing that the woman's body is multiplicity itself, she suggests that female sexuality is also multiple in its erogenous zones. It is now necessary to see female sexuality as not a lack but as "two lips" which are evidently different from the unitariness of the male organ. The lips are "continually interchanging" and touching, they are "neither identifiable nor separable from one another... these two are always joined in an embrace". Fluidity, multiplicity and the primacy of touch inform her writing. 
              (7) Foregrounding the mother - daughter relationship -
                                                               Irigaray argues that the woman's inability to represent herself is due to the undermining of the mother - daughter bond in the Symbolic Order. Motherhood is allowed only a small space, denied economic or social status and separated from the very aspect of sexuality. Creativity is male domain, motherhood is restricted to the nurture and care of the child. The daughter in the patriarchal system must separate from the mother in order to gain her own identity. The daughter is thus "exiled" from her first identity and history. 
          ( the above notes is prepared after referring the lecture given by Shyam, extra reading on Speculum of the Other and analyzing the common grounds between the two.)

    * References -
      “Luce Irigaray” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. 18 February 2014.
         Nair, Shyam. “This Sex Which is Not One by Luce Irigaray.” Christ University. Bangalore. 24 February 2014. Lecture.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Class notes for 18/2/2014 by Catherine Maria Andrade

“The Female Tradition” by Elaine Showalter


Elaine Showalter is an American feminist critic who helped develop the concept of gynocriticism. It involves the historic study of women writers as a distinct literary tradition, and the term was first coined by Showalter in her essay “Toward a Feminist Poetics.”

In “The Female Tradition”, Showalter begins by saying that English women writers have never suffered from the lack of an audience, yet they have never been sure about what unites them as women. In his essay “The Subjection of Women”, J.S. Mill said that women would find it difficult to overcome the influence of male literary tradition, and to “create and original, primary, and independent art.” He felt that women would always be imitators and never innovators. Showalter says that Mill would have never raised this point if women had claimed an important literary place. To many of his contemporaries, the 19th century seemed to be the Age of the Female Novelist, with stellar examples such as Jane Austen, George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte.

There is a clear difference between books that are written by women and “female literature”. The latter was defined by Henry Lewes as that which “purposefully and collectively concerns itself with the articulation of women’s experience”, and which guides itself towards autonomous expression.  Women writers have never considered the fact that their experiences can transcend the personal and assume a collective form in art, revealing a history. Thus, they have always been self-conscious, but only rarely self-defining.

In “The History of the English Novel”, Ernest Baker devotes a chapter to women novelists, and says that “the woman of letters has peculiarities that mark her off from the other sex as distinctly as peculiarities of race or of ancestral tradition.” Showalter says that most critics who have tried to elaborate on these “peculiarities” have found themselves expressing their own cultural biases. The woman novelist is a composite of many stereotypes: to critics of the 20th century, for example, she is childless, and by implication, neurotic.

There are many reasons why the discussion of women writers has been inaccurate and fragmented. Firstly, it has been subjected to what John Gross calls ‘residual Great Traditionalism’. In simple terms, this means that the vast range of English female novelists has been reduced to a tiny band of the ‘great’ – four or five writers such as Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters, and Virginia Woolf. Losing sight of the minor novelists, who have acted as links from one generation to the next, has resulted in an unclear understanding of the continuities in women’s writing.

Secondly, critics have found it difficult to look at women novelists and women’s literature theoretically because of their tendency to expand their own culture-bound stereotypes of femininity. Thus, because it is difficult to accurately describe female writers, academic criticism often compensates by de-sexing them.

However, since the 1960s, there has been a renewed enthusiasm for the idea that ‘a special female self-awareness emerges through literature in every period.’ This interest in establishing a more systematic and accurate literary history for women writers is part of a larger interdisciplinary effort by psychologists, sociologists, social historians and art historians to reconstruct a political, social and cultural experience of women. Scholarship generated through this movement has increased the sensitivity to the problems of sexual bias and projection in literary history, while providing the information needed to understand the evolution of a female literary tradition.

Talking about the phases of women’s writing, Showalter says that it goes through three of these stages which can be loosely defined: the first is a prolonged phase of imitation followed by internalization of the prevailing modes of the dominant tradition. Second, there is a phase of protest against this and an advocacy of minority rights and values, as well as a demand for autonomy. Finally, there is a phase of self-discovery, where there is a search for identity. An appropriate terminology for these stages would be to call them Feminine, Feminist and Female. These phases overlap, and one can also find them in the career of a single novelist. 

class note based on 24 February 2014

Sneha Susan John


Luce Irigaray is a well-known writer in contemporary French feminism and philosophy. Her writing usually deals between philosophy, psychoanalysis, and linguistics. She critiques the rejection of women from both philosophy and psychoanalytic theory and projects women sexuality which is not one. She speaks of language and science that are built by a phallocentric society and thereby critiques their notions.

“The sex which is not one” is a text dealing with violation of the woman’s body but it can also be looked at as describing the woman’s body in a way in which most women have not understood. She has given a critical approach to the traditional ideas of sexuality. According to the patriarchal society’s perception, the women’s sexual organs are considered a lack of the penis and the vagaina in no way over power the male organs. Women’s sexuality according to norms has been that which receives a man’s desires.

Irigaray projects the idea of female sexuality that contradicts general patriarchal ideas. She discusses autoeroticism, where a woman derives satisfaction through natural means where she does not need external objects to do so.

This autoeroticism is disrupted by a violent break-in: the brutal separation of the two lips by a violating penis, an intrusion that that distracts and deflects the woman ….

Irigaray points out that when there is a sexual act through penetration of the male into female vagaina, there is a destruction of female sexuality. The idea here seems to provoke lesbianism as the separation of the vagaina by a penis is considered a violent break-in, something that exploits the sexuality of women.

 The essay contradicts the idea that female sexuality is one that complements the male desires. She critiques the thought of Freud and Lacan who discusses womanhood as the significance of the difference between male and female sex organs and also the experience of erotic desire in men and women. She also discusses the linguistic character of sexual difference like Lacan and intensely disagrees with his depiction of the Symbolic order as historical and static.

A part of the title, not one brings out the plurality of sexuality in a woman. She deals with Freud’s understanding of the female sexuality which is considered a lack or none. She brings out the plurality of sexuality saying that the women have sex organs almost everywhere and breaks down the general notion of the lack. Irigaray makes it a point to bring out the feminine sexuality by presenting the body and eliminating the phallocentric perceptions of sexuality.


Pearl Pallavi Sahu


Literary Criticism and Contemporary Theory

MEL 232

I MA English

24 February, 2014


Class Notes

The Sex which is Not One

The essay, ‘The Sex which is Not One’, was written by Luce Irigaray where she tries eliminating the notion of female sexuality always being conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters.

A person’s sexuality has always been an important aspect and the gender or sexuality has been dependent on the phallus of a person. It has always been considered that the penis is definite because it is visual and has a form while the vagina has no specific form and is indefinite. This causes the concept ‘lack’ for the women. This ‘lack’ causes the ‘penis envy’.

The very absence of the penis in a woman leads to the ‘penis envy’ which shows that the absence of the penis makes the woman realize that she is different from man and that is the reason she tends to long for it.  She tends to get closer to the male members in the family especially the father or husband to cover up for the lack by serving them. She lives with the desire of the male organ in some way or the other. It is after some time that she gets out of the so called Electra complex stage and starts looking outside family relations.

The concept of autoeroticism is the stage when the woman herself ‘touches herself’. The man to derive sexual pleasure from his own body needs external help such as hands or the woman’s body or anything else, while for a woman it just happens consciously but soon becomes an unconscious effort from the woman’s side. According to Irigaray, a woman can derive the pleasure from her own body because of what she calls the lips that are formed by her genitals. Their constant contact gives her a sexual pleasure which she cannot avoid. This is what autoeroticism is. She says that this autoeroticism is disrupted only by the violent break in of the penis into the vagina parting the lips from each other.

She says that in this world, a woman, more than being self-obliging, obliges man. In fact proving the ‘lack’, she accepts to the man giving herself totally in his hands for him to act upon her as he likes. With his presence she gets what is not hers. There is a sense of dependency on him to give him what he desire. But she will never tell him what she wants or in easier terms, she does not know what she wants. The woman longs for the missing organ. Hence, she is considered to be the imperfect man. Man identifies the pleasure with a woman to maternal relations. He associates it with the womb to establish his lost maternal connections and get the secrets of his origin.

The writer says that because she does not have a sexual form, even her language is different from that of man. Her language also is not definite and what she says cannot be made out clearly. Unlike that of man who speaks out straight like his definite sexuality. The sexual imaginary in a woman is more a less the obliging props of a man’s fantasies. Since she does not have a specific sexual organ, she is considered to have none. This puts her as not one nor two but as the other. She is also categorized as the plural because she really does not have to derive pleasure from just her vagina but every part of a woman’s body could let her derive sexual pleasure.

Hence, through the essay, the writer tries to show the other aspects of woman sexuality showing that she is not dependent on masculine norms.



·   Nair, Shyam. "The Sex Which is Not One." 24 02 2014. Lecture.





Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Piyali Sarkar 1324143 (class notes)

Piyali Sarkar


MEL 232

Contemporary Critical Theory

Anil Pinto




The Sex Which is Not One


Associated with feminism and psychoanalysis, Luce Irigaray is a remarkable cultural theorist best known for her work published in France through the 1970s. Psychoanalyst, linguist, and philosopher, Irigaray is concerned, particularly in Speculum of the Other Woman (1974, trans., 1985) and This Sex Which Is Not One (1977,trans., 1987), with exposing how Western discourse has effaced woman as the specular image of man. By contrast,

Irigaray carefully avoids enfolding her own ideas as "theory" to avoid an essentialism that will support patriarchalism. Irigaray was convinced that identity, if not fully then at least partly, was enacted in "self positioning in language".


Thus, she began to look for differences between the regular speech of men and hat of women: "it is not a question of biology determining speech, but of identity assumed in language within a particular symbolic system known as patriarchy, and as described by Jacques Lacan, in which the only possible subject position is masculine. Within this system, the only feminine identity available to a woman is that of a "defective" or "castrated" men; women are not symbolically

self-defined." Irigaray's thesis, put together in This Sex Which Is Not One, is that there might be a possibility of a different and non-masculine discourse. The following are the arguments presented by her:

1. Men are more likely to take up a subject position in language, to designate themselves as subjects of the discourse or action; women are more likely to efface themselves, to give precedence to men or to the world.

2. The use of the first person pronoun, I, by women, does not necessarily indicate a feminine identity.

3. Women are accustomed to being the vehicles of men's self-representation; their own self-representation in language is more or less absent.

4. Women are more likely to engage in dialogue; while men privilege the relation with the world and the object, women privilege interpersonal relations.

5. Women are not, as is sometimes thought, more emotional and subjective than men when they speak; their speech is likely to efface the expression of their subjectivity.

6. Women are less abstract than men, and are more likely to take account of context, they are also more likely to collaborate with the researcher and take research seriously.


Irigaray argues that the complexity of female sexuality and eroticism does not fit into male notions of sexuality. Irigray discovered women’s autoeroticism. In her autoeroticism, a woman is not “pleasure-giving” to men but “self-embracing” (This Sex Which is Not One 24). The autoeroticism could be a clue to overcome the logic of sameness in phallogocentric understanding of sexuality and its male God. The language she uses to describe this God comes from her account of morphology of women’s continual self-touching in the carelessness of two lips. God’s identity in trinity honors both self-love and relational wonder. Irigaray’s description of women’s autoeroticism helps to expand the conceptual horizons of Trinitarian thought. This God does not need an external other in order for there to be self-knowledge, for such knowledge is eternally generated through the relations of the Trinity. Such a God can relate to that which is truly ‘other’ than God, without reducing the other to a function of divine, narcissistic desire, as is the case in phallocetric conceptions of the Divine-human relation like the caress of two lips – always touching yet half open.




·         Irigaray, Luce. This Sex Which is Not One. Cornell University Press, 1985. Print.

·         Nair , Shyam. "The Sex Which is Not One ." 24 02 2014. Address.


[Notes of the lecture delivered on 24 February, 2014 at Christ University, prepared by Piyali Sarkar - I M.A. (ENG) -1324143]









Piyali Sarkar 1324143 (Class notes)

This Sex Which Is Not One

                                                                                                       This Sex Which Is Not One


       In her essay ‘This Sex Which Is Not One’, Luce Irigaray critiques the masculine notion of a woman’s sexuality and proposes a female sexuality which is self-referential and disconnected from "masculine parameters".

         From the early ages, a person’s sexuality has been defined by the presence of the phallus.  The penis is a visual object and the vagina is not. Hence it is considered as a ‘lack’, which gives birth to the concept of an imperfect man. The lack of penis in a woman creates an envy known as the ‘penis envy’. A woman’s affection towards her mother declines because she blames her for the lack of a penis.  To full fill her ‘lack’, she searches outside herself. This envy is the result of her affection towards her husband and father.  Her desire for the penis is later achieved by giving birth to a boy child.

        Talking about autoeroticism, Irigaray says that for a man to pleasure himself, he “needs an instrument: his hand, a woman’s body, language.” But for woman, “she touches herself in and of herself without any need for mediation.” “Woman ‘touches herself’ all the time,” Irigaray writes, “and moreover no one can forbid her to do so, for her genitals are formed of two lips in continuous contact”. By virtue of the biological constitution of her genitals, in other words, woman has a radically different pleasure/sexuality from man. Her autoeroticism according to Irigaray, “is disrupted by a violent break-in: the brutal separation of the two lips by a violating penis”. This, Irigaray continues, “distracts and deflects the woman from self-caressing from her “own pleasure,” which disappears in this intrusion, “the encounter with the totally other.”

        Next she talks about Western sexuality that has been laid down by man. It is based on the erection of the penis, the “thickness” of that “form,” the layering of its volume, its expansion and contraction and even the spacing of the moments in which it produces itself as form. She condemns man’s sexual imagery of woman as just a sexual object. A man’s desire of penetration into a woman’s vagina has two main reasons: to relive thoughts of his past about the mystery of the womb from where he entered this world; and also to establish his lost maternal connection. The penetration makes a woman submissive towards man. Also, she finds pleasure in being used as an object for sex.

         Unlike Laura Mulvey, Luce Irigaray does not believe that "we can begin to make a break for examining patriarchy with the tools it provides," but she does not seem to exclude completely the male cultural tradition.

Notes created by Reginald Valsalan (1324108)

Notes taken on 24-2-1014

Submitted 25-2-2014


Class Notes (1324127)

D. Hepzibah


MEL 232

Contemporary Critical Theory

Anil Pinto


                       Luce Irigaray’s essay called “This Sex Which Is Not One” (1977) was summarized by Shyam Nair of I MA English. The title of the piece has two meanings. First, it refers to women’s sex as “lacking,” which she doesn’t believe, but in fact uses this piece to refute Freud’s analysis of women’s sex as missing the only desirable component. Second, it refers to her position that women do not have one sex; they have multiple sex organs all over their bodies, not to mention two lips that encompass our pleasure.

Perhaps the most crucial part of this essay is its first line: “Female sexuality has always been conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters” (23).  If, as Irigaray claims, the penis is “the only sexual organ of recognized value” (23), then Woman is conceptualized in terms of her lack (as she references in both Freudian and Lacanian schemas).  To counter this, Irigaray instead posits a different understanding of female sexuality, one outside of a phallic economy: 


In order to touch himself, man needs an instrument: his hand, a woman’s body, language…And this self-caressing requires at least a minimum of activity.  As for woman, she touches herself in and of herself in and of herself without any need for mediation, and before there is any way to distinguish activity from passivity….Thus, within herself, she is already two—but no divisible into one(s)—that caress each other. (24).


Within this schema, then, Irigaray characterizes penetration as “a violent break-in” (24).  Given the very differences in male sexuality and female sexuality, then, leads Iragaray to importantly conclude that, “Woman’s desire would not be expected to speak the same language as man’s” (25).  Irigaray’s conclusion here seems to align nicely with that of Hélène Cixous, whose “Laugh of the Medusa,” in which she posits “écriture feminine” as a women’s way of writing.  For Irigaray, because the Female Imaginary cannot be pinned down—as Woman’s sexuality is not one, is not even two, but is plural—so Woman’s language can

similarly be pinned down: “What she says is never identical with anything, moreover; rather, it is contiguous.  It touches (upon)” (29).


Critics of Irigaray accuse her of essentialism, and certainly, quite a few of her claims about female sexuality—such as, “Woman takes pleasure more from touching than from looking, and her entry into a dominant scopic economy signifies, again, her consignment to passivity” (26).  Certainly, her recognition that “her sexual organ represents the horror of nothing to see” (26) within this dominant scopic economy is crucial.  Still, I have trouble accepting such a not only essentialist but heteronormative claim.  Further, while I have great appreciation for her recognition of female genitalia as being understood and defined in terms of lack, at times it seems as though she’s accepting this characterization as truth.  I also take issue with the essentialist position she seems to be taking in terms of the scopic economy, when she claims that, “Ownership and property are doubtless quite foreign to the feminine.  At lease sexually.  But not nearness….Woman derives pleasure from what is so near that she cannot have it, nor have herself” (31).  However, this is a very narrow view of ownership.  What about a schema of property and ownership that relies upon consumption, rather than penetration?  


What is important in this claim, though, is her correct observation that Woman is always already placed within this scopic economy, and it is this subjectivity as a commodity which Irigaray interrupts female pleasure: “How can this object of transaction claim a right to pleasure without removing her/itself from established commerce?” (32).  Irigaray, despite her tendency to veer towards an essentialist position, does acknowledge the fact that “women do not constitute, strictly speaking, a class, and their dispersion among several classes makes their political struggle complex, their demands sometimes contradictory” (32).  Irigaray seems dubious that any sort of equality is possible with men, as she sees any interactions as ultimately reverting to phallocratism.


Nair, Shyam. Class Lecture. Twentieth Century Critical Traditions. 
Christ University. Bangalore, 
India. 24 Feb. 2013.

Irigaray, Luce. This Sex Which Is Not One. Trans. Catherine Porter with Carolyn Burke. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. Print.

A magazine of woman’s creative art and activism, Her Circle, <>

[Notes of the lecture delivered on 24 February, 2014 at Christ University, prepared by D. Hepzibah- I M.A. (ENG) -1324127]


Class Notes of 24 Feb 2014 (1324155)

Shyam Nair of I MA gave a summary of the essay The Sex Which Is Not One by Luce Irigaray. In her essay she constructs female and male sexuality and desire. He began by attempting to familiarise the class with the terms sex, penis and vagina.

The first topic was "construction of female through male language". Here, he talked about how male and female are seen by the society according to Irigaray. Since the earliest of times, presence of something has always been given more importance compared to the "absence" of something. Presence meant something positive, while absence was considered a bad thing. Penis, according to Irigaray has a proper defined visual form - hence it is "present". Vagina on the other hand does not have a clear form, hence it is "absent". Vagina becomes the passive entity, where the active penis is inserted. Therefore men assume the superior role when it comes to both the sexes. The woman becomes the lack, or the inferior one.

Then he spoke about the "penis envy". It refers to the theory of the female during her development when she realises she does not have a penis. Irigaray says that maybe it is at this point where the female begins distancing from her mother and gets closer to her father. She also attempts to get over the penis envy by conceiving a penis, or a male child.

Then the concept of autoeroticism was discussed. Woman are autoerotic since she does not require an external tool to pleasure herself, unlike man. The lips of the vagina are indefinitely in contact with each other, constantly rubbing against each other, pleasuring the woman. This according to Irigaray is the female sexuality.

He also spoke about the western sexual imaginary. The highly sexual is seen as the one with the hardest and largest erection, which is nothing but the male sexuality. Woman sexuality is absent or not seen by the society, and becomes a mere prop for the male genitals. When woman fulfils male desire, we are negating the womans desire, hence her sex is "none".

Monday, February 24, 2014

Class Notes

Nalini Narayani.S




In her essay ‘A Sex Which is Not One’, Irigaray interestingly expounds on the sexuality of a woman , that she considers as plural,( “but woman has sex organs more or less everywhere”), having more than one or two pleasure centres, .”The lips” are constantly in contact with each other (nearness of the other) and therefore there is perpetual pleasure, yet she is not able to feel it for the nearness is too much to distinguish. The penis, by penetrating only violates this auto-eroticism and makes ‘her’ dependent on a man for pleasure, not of her own .


Men need an external object to masturbate, but woman needs nothing extraneous, is celebrated as her triumph as a sexual being. The violation of her womb is seen as being done ,as a means for the man to excavate into that space that gave birth to him ;the womb. He seems to be trying to get back to the origin of his existence that has been a mystery to him since discretion .

 It has also been said that she is the recipient of his pleasure and an abode to the phallus, as a substitute to the hand. There is anger at the general feeling that the woman’s sexuality is brought to nought during intercourse and seen as a passive receiver of male domination.

Penis envy, the woman’s lookout for a representing penis in her father, husband and as a last resort in her son were also discussed in class. As has been said in the essay the woman learns to caress herself by fondling the ‘Baby-Penis-Clitoris.’ The child becomes the medium through which the couple fondle and care, as if a part of them is there and the mother enjoys a free rein of touch in compensation to repressed female sexuality.

Irigaray sees only revolution as the solution to the problems of the woman in the exchange market of men. The need is to find herself and her kind !!!



The Feminist Tradition (1324137) Maya

What is realism ? Realism emerged as a movement in the late 1950s . In classical era common man not represented. They wanted to represent middle class society. The stories revolved around middle class families. There was a shift from previous writing. The claim was that a work of art was a representation of life, reality and nature. The idea of realism was introduced in India. Earlier this concept did not exist in India. They believed that through realistic mode you can represent life. Unified mode of representation. There was a coherent way in which setting , characters and language. One could not think beyond certain categories. Women writing autobiographical wanted to explore and express themselves. They wanted a place to represent their female consciousness. They believed in the concept of essence. They used realistic mode of representation.

There was a shift in the 20th century in terms of women understanding their essence. Writers after 1950s did not want a realistic mode of representation. This is because you cannot go beyond certain categories. There was a subversion of traditional forms. They began to problematise gender construction. There was the experimentation with the form.

The Feminist Tradition.

Many women novelists were writing in the language of men during the 19th century. There was the lack of a strong tradition. There were only a few women who wrote. These women came to represent all women. The minor writers were neglected. Another thing was that women writers did not bring sex to define their identity. Desexing in women's writing. They did not want to look at the role of gender. Experiences of only elite women were represented and not the ordinary women.

There are three phases. The first one being imitation and internalisation. How women adopt the values of the patriarchy system. The second phase was the protest phase. Women began to protest the standards set by the society. Third phase was called the female phase wherein they discovered their identity.

Women characters in women's writing do not enjoy the sense of freedom.they create male characters who are strong . This is so because the writer longs for

freedom. Woman characters portrayed as men . This was how women's writing was in the initial stages. They could not go beyond domestic space. They could not create female characters explicitly. In this phase they imitated the male writers. The protest phase was when feminism evolved. At this phase they moved to the next level. They moved on to fantasy. There was the emergence of group. Women were emotionally attached to other women. This gave rise to lesbianism . And this can be reflected in their writing. In the last phase they produced literature of their own during the 20th century.

The Feminist Tradition

Fwd: Psychoanalysis- Lecture Notes

Psychoanalysis- Lecture Notes

(Introduction to the Reading of Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams)

Accordingly to Freud, one converts their repressed desires unconsciously.

These come in forms of:

  1. Dreams

  2. Slips of the tongue/parapraxis (Also known as the Freudian slip)

  3. Jokes

    • Links between the literary devices and the human psychic life must be established.

    • One must be a critic of the self and not the other (Foucault-What is an Author) and therefore Sigmund Freud analysis one’s self to interpret the Dream Content and even one’s behaviour.

    • Freud believed that there are specific stages in which an individual has a specific need, and gratification during each stage is important to prevent an individual from becoming fixated in any particular level.

    • Fixation, as Freud described it, is attaching oneself in an unreasonable or exaggerated way to another individual or one particular stage of development. Freud claimed that such a fixation at one particular stage can cause bad habits or problems in an individual’s adult life.

  1. Essays on Theory of Sexuality

    1. The Sexual Aberrations

    2. Infantile Sexuality

    3. The Transformation of Puberty

Freud’s understanding –Human being grow to become normal from being a child through three stages- The Polymorphoulsy perverse Stage

A child is considered unconscious- not suppressing the sexual desires- therefore it does not gender.

The stages in detail:

Oral Stage (Birth to 18 months).

  • The child identifies itself with the mother.

  • Pleasure is self-directed and towards the mother.

  • It considers no boundaries of self and the other.

 During the oral stage, the child if focused on oral pleasures (sucking). Too much or too little gratification can result in an Oral Fixation or Oral Personality which is evidenced by a preoccupation with oral activities. This type of personality may have a stronger tendency to smoke, drink alcohol, over eat, or bite his or her nails. Personality wise, these individuals may become overly dependent upon others, gullible, and perpetual followers. On the other hand, they may also fight these urges and develop pessimism and aggression toward others.

Anal Stage (18 months to three years).

  • Derives pleasure in expelling

  • Parental care on the anal region

The child’s focus of pleasure in this stage is on eliminating and retaining feces. Through society’s pressure, mainly via parents, the child has to learn to control anal stimulation. In terms of personality, after effects of an anal fixation during this stage can result in an obsession with cleanliness, perfection, and control (anal retentive). On the opposite end of the spectrum, they may become messy and disorganized (anal expulsive).

Phallic Stage (ages three to six).

  • Pleasure is derived from their own sexual region.

  • Fallace: Clitoris::Male: Female

The pleasure zone switches to the genitals. Freud believed that during this stage boy develop unconscious sexual desires for their mother. Because of this, he becomes rivals with his father and sees him as competition for the mother’s affection. During this time, boys also develop a fear that their father will punish them for these feelings, such as by castrating them. This group of feelings is known as Oedipus Complex ( after the Greek Mythology figure who accidentally killed his father and married his mother).

Example of the Oedipus Complex:

Both boy and the girl identify with the mother.

  • Boy suffers—Due to the mother been taken away by the father—Castration Anxiety-Castration fear-therefore desires other (outside)

  • Girl-angry with her Mother-as she is in the way of getting to the father-therefore looks outside for a Father figure.

Neurosis and Perversion.—A great part of the opposition to my assertion is explained by the fact that the sexuality from which I deduce the psychoneurotic symptoms is thought of as coincident with the normal sexual impulse. But psychoanalysis teaches us better than this. It shows that the symptoms do not by any means result at the expense only of the so called normal sexual impulse (at least not exclusively or preponderantly), but they represent the converted expression of impulses which in a broader sense might be designated as perverse if they could manifest themselves directly in phantasies and acts without deviating from consciousness. The symptoms are therefore partially formed at the cost of abnormal sexuality. (Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality)

Accordingly to Foucault, Freud and Marx are within the Christian Tradition.

  • Marx and Freud are the founders of discrusivity.

  • “The latter contains characteristic signs, figures, relationships, and structures that could be reused by others.”-Referring to the philosophies and theories given by them, that are used by others in regards to other fields/areas of study as well.

Why is it necessary to locate Freud within the larger Cultural Context?


  • Girindrasekhar-Medical Professional from the Calcutta University-First President of the India Psychoanalytic Society.---He approached Sigmund Freud with his opposition to the Oedipus Complex theory.

            “How would Freud respond to the dent in the theory of the Oedipus that Bose was trying to institute? Was Bose trying to think the question of the ‘subject’ of psychoanalysis, think “the Subject Who Is Finally in Question” (Lacan), think its specificity in our context? Was Bose trying to think the historical-cultural-social particularities of the ‘subject’ of analysis? Was he trying to move out of the particularities of the subject of analysis in the West, in its Judeo-Christian moorings? Was he trying to extricate his version of psychoanalysis from its particularly white bourgeoisie moorings, from its western moorings? But how would Freud respond to this critique and obeisance, critique masked in obeisance; or is it obeisance that drowns the critique; but then, this obeisance to whom; to which Freud; to a particular Freud; to Freud’s Anglo-American invocation?”

  • Therefore, we must engage in the context in which we exist.

  • Psyche is not necessarily repressive but also reflective.

            The topic and content of Girindrashekar’s doctorate was in no way related to experimental psychology. ‘The Concept of Repression’ was related more to psychoanalysis than psychology. On the whole, Girindrasekhar was not too enthusiastic about the application of western experimental psychological techniques in the Bengali context. In fact, Girindrasekhar left nearly no doubt about this view that the most important psychological method of the Hindus was ‘introspection’: India’s ancient learned men had a genius for introspective meditation and the Indian psychologist has that heritage. In this respect he enjoys an advantage over his colleagues in the west. (Girindrasekhar, as quoted by Hartnack, 2001)


Dhar, Anup. "“Whither the (Post)colonial: Freud and the Savage Freud”." N.p.. Web. 23 Jan 2014.

"" Catatan ku, seorang doktor . N.p., 07 09 2011. Web. 23 Jan 2014. <>.

Sigmund , Freud. "The Project Gutenberg." Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex. N.p., 08 02 2005. Web. 23 Jan 2014. <>.

Foucault, Michel. "Wiki.Brown.Edu." What is an Author. N.p.. Web. 23 Jan 2014. <>.

Pinto, Anil. Class Lecture. Twentieth Century Critical Traditions.
Christ University. Bangalore,
India. 21 Jan. 2013.
[Notes of the lecture delivered on 21 January, 2014 at Christ University, as prepared by Esther Priyanka- I M.A. (ENG) -1324129]