Nothing Mat(t)ers: A Feminist Critique of Postmodernism // Review

By Brodribb, Somer; Travis, Ellen | Herizons, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview

Nothing Mat(t)ers: A Feminist Critique of Postmodernism // Review


Brodribb, Somer, Travis, Ellen, Herizons


NOTHING MAT(T)ERS: A FEMINIST CRITIQUE OF POSTMODERNISM.

If you are a feminist working or studying in an academic setting, and find postmodernism and poststructuralism unavoidable objects in your environment, reading Nothing Mat(t)ers will be a satisfying experience. Omnipresent yet mysterious, these European imports resist critique. It's gauche to name them, impossible to understand them without a background in Freud, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Levi-Strauss, and in spite of this last point, they are widely believed to make a radical departure from the Englishtenment thinking that feminists also critique. It seems we are to be intimidated, overwhelmed, or absorbed. Somer Brodrib has decided instead, "to reject postmodernism for feminism" (ix) by showing the continuity of postmodernist and poststructuralist thought with the tradition of Western European philosophy. WHITE, EUROPEAN, MALE VOICE

Postmodernism and poststructuralism are terms that North American academics made up to describe the work of Jean Francois Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan, to name a few of the most famous. It was necessary, apparently, for North Americans to name the new French work because the writers themselves were unwilling to stage their position in a succinct way. Foucault's comment was "What is postmodernism? I'm not up to date" (ix). Derrida and Lacan, at least, seem to share Foucault's reluctance to define himself. This has made it difficult to say with confidence what their work has in common. What comes up often is the idea that the subject of the modern (Enlightenment) epoch exists no longer. This subject possessed an identity, a coherent, enduring self. He spoke with one voice: the voice of a white European man. Here then might originate the desire to merge academic feminism with postmodernism: perhaps both types of thinking are engaged in a critique of this man's historical claim to speak for humanity in genera.

But Brodribb shows very clearly that the male postmodernist/poststructuralist does not actually intend to stop speaking for humanity, rather he will stop speaking with one voice and speak instead with many, or at least with one other, with the voice of a woman, or at least the traditional European idea of a woman. This solution to the male monopoly on truth does satisfy some feminists. Brodribb argues that, in the same way that Hilda Doolittle credited Freud with a feminine understanding, postmodern feminists accept that women's experience can be spoken by men. …

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