Philosophy and the Maternal Body: Reading Silence

Philosophy and the Maternal Body: Reading Silence

Philosophy and the Maternal Body: Reading Silence

Philosophy and the Maternal Body: Reading Silence

Synopsis

Philosophy and the Maternal Body also draws upon the work of Althusser and Lyotard - figures often overlooked in feminist theory - clearly showing how their work bears importantly on the silence of the feminine. Throughout, Michelle Boulous Walker questions the assumptions that silence is simply the absence of language and presents highly significant new strategies for understanding how silence operates.

Excerpt

In the previous chapter I argued that Irigaray and Le Doeuff offer us insights into how complex the question of silencing actually is. Irigaray does this by drawing our attention to the repressed maternal body, while Le Doeuff opens the question of silencing through her examination of philosophy's metaphors and images. She shows how a certain reading can uncover things that philosophy says without actually saying them. In this chapter I shall continue this discussion. I shall use their work to read the silent spaces in philosophy. By silent spaces I mean the places where the discipline of philosophy actually covers over something. We have already learnt from Irigaray and Le Doeuff that silencing does not entail a simple sense of absence, that it actually involves something we might more appropriately refer to as a readable absence. If we think of this in terms of speech we could say that silence entails a spoken yet unheard voice. Now this readable absence or unheard voice is structured by a logic of repression. Repression is a process that is closely tied to denial, and it is this that I shall investigate (or read) here.

Le Doeuff argues that philosophy (because it is disciplinary) is structured by denial. Denial is central to my concerns for it opens the whole question of silencing out onto more complex terrain than the question of exclusion would allow. The processes of denial enact a silencing by attempting to cover over or repress troubling voices. Not surprisingly we find that what is repressed is often associated with woman-her voice, her body, her sexuality. Once again Le Doeuff makes this point clearly. If we are at all concerned to hear woman's voice in philosophy we need to be able to listen to or read this denial, this repression. In order to achieve this we need a practice that will help us to articulate the repressed moments that exist in tension with philosophy's more obvious statements. This methodology involves reading philosophy against itself, a strategy that makes it reveal what at least superficially seems hidden. Irigaray and Le Doeuff both practise their own styles of reading denial. In this chapter I shall say a little more about these as well as introduce Louis Althusser's strategy for teasing out these repressed moments. His symptomatic reading is another example of how we can give voice to the silences in a text. Now what Irigaray, Le Doeuff and Althusser

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