Changing Our Minds: Feminist Transformations of Knowledge

By Susan Hardy Aiken; Karen Anderson et al. | Go to book overview
Save to active project


2. Becoming Discourse:
Eudora Welty's "Petrified Man"

The problem, from the beginning, is language; or rather, more properly, the problem is what happens to language when it becomes "discourse": when it is, in the words of Thomas Pynchon, "taken out of the course flow—shaped, cleaned, rectified, [and] redeemed . . . from the lawless, mortal streaming of human speech." 1 This is a becoming illusion, for who is to say which came first? Was "lawless" speech there, in the beginning, prior to its redemption under the law of discourse and its conversion into a linguistic system of signs which reveal the pressures of cultural refinement? Or did "language," uttered or inscribed, arise from these very pressures as the signature of our being under the law? What compels us to speak as we do, and what is the source of this compulsion?

The ontological questions posed by looking for the origins of language, while finally unanswerable in any absolute sense, are at least approachable when language as ruled into discourse is considered in light of a feminist critique. Another way of putting this is to remark that one of the crucial functions of some feminist theory is to question the relation of language to culture in several ways. 2 To what extent, for example, is the language we use to speak, write with, and articulate our readings of texts constricted by a repressive cultural order that authorizes patriarchy, materialism, competition without restraint, and unbounded egotism? How much do given political or social realities affect language itself, down to its etymologies and grammatical structures? Does language have the ability, as Bakhtin claims it does when shaped into narrative, to parody the authorized discourse of the day? 3 Or can language be made to work against itself


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Changing Our Minds: Feminist Transformations of Knowledge


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 171

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?