Ideology and Culture: Towards Feminist Cultural History

By Paddle, Sarah | Hecate, May 31, 1991 | Go to article overview

Ideology and Culture: Towards Feminist Cultural History


Paddle, Sarah, Hecate


The relationship between culture and history, between text and experience, is of particular concern for feminists as a way of making meaning about the role of gender in cultural construction. Feminist cultural historians focus on the specificity of women's experience, authorship, language and understanding but, in so doing, privilege historical experience in the analysis of culture. We cannot be satisfied with an understanding of reality or culture as a web of overlapping discourses, but must include the historical experience of a particular time that develops or encodes contemporary culture.

In this context, the work of the French philosopher Michèle Le Doeuff provides us with a rereading of the relation between discourses and social practices - as I describe it, one of the key relationships in analyzing culture and history. Le Doeuff's view is that the analysis of culture must be linked with the operations of historically determined institutions. Le Doeuff also links the analysis of texts as culture with socio-economic movements, and socio-economic transformations, in what she calls sociological end political relations. The language she uses to describe these links refers to relationships which "condition" and "provide the context for philosophies." But the interest of what Le Doeuff is arguing, for me, is that she also goes on to analyse the inscription of sociological and political relations in the discourses of philosophy that have excluded women, so the very constitution of philosophic discourse "expresses, expels, represses end overcomes" that which has been aligned with the feminine in discourse (1987, 192).

I would like to suggest that Le Doeuff provides a useful position from which to advance feminist readings of Australian culture. For example, we need further work on the sexual division in education and instruction, as a way of understanding how women's access to philosophy and other public discourses was framed as a "break from the feminine condition." As Le Doeuff has described how women can only gain access to formal discourse through a man, often through approaching a philosopher or thinker as a "love-object," as disciple or vestal, in order to gain theory through "eroticotransference," so we might review our understanding of those women in Australian culture who did enter into the public world of writing about philosophy, history, politics end theology.

Michèle Le Doeuff's comments on women and philosophy may also make accessible for us a position for reading the gander ideology of early nineteenth century society. It is not new to see the construction of gender at that time as aligned with the affirmation of bourgeois ideology and as, at times, framed against the relative permissiveness of the aristocracy. But Le Doeuff also locates the bourgeois view of gender against an increasing polarization of the ideology of sexual difference, whereby women were increasingly confined to the sphere of feelings and emotions. The contemporary ideal of Romantic love was constructed as "an episode in a man's life, end the whole story of a women's."

Le Doeuff also provides us with a useful theorizing of the exclusion of women from public discourse. Women were constructed as incapable of philosophizing; the nature of woman's desire was to be subsumed in the domestic:

In fact it is women's desire that has always been minimized, since it is often thought that baby rattles are enough for them. What, is a man not sufficient to make them feel complete? Is there still a lack, the recognition of which creates the desire to philosophize? (Grosz 1989, 209)

Le Doeuff also forces us to problematize our speaking position in writing women's history. She includes a description of the roles taken by those women in the past who have been allowed to philosophize. I find uncomfortable parallels with current mainstream writers of women's history. Women historians, in her terms, may be: the nurse of dismembered texts; the healer of works battered by false editions; the housewife given the task of the upkeep of important edifices and monuments; the vestal of true discourse that time threatens to eclipse; or finally, a god's priestess, dedicated to a great dead man.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

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.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

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

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ideology and Culture: Towards Feminist Cultural History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

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?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

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

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

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.