Earth Muse: Feminism, Nature, and Art

Earth Muse: Feminism, Nature, and Art

Earth Muse: Feminism, Nature, and Art

Earth Muse: Feminism, Nature, and Art


In Earth Muse, Carol Bigwood describes what she sees as a suppression of the feminine in Western culture, technology, and philosophy and opens a feminist postmodern space from which new differences may emerge. Drawing on the work of the later Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, and significant alternative feminist thought (such as French feminism, maternal philosophy, and ecofeminism), she explores underdeveloped themes in American and Canadian feminism. Bigwood's style is self-questioning and descriptive; she (writes) plays on the margins between philosophy and literature, between serious analysis and humor.The author offers a deconstruction of the phallocentric dichotomies of nature and culture, self and other, and the concepts of power, action, and making. Affirming the deep relations between the oppression of women, the exploitation of the earth, and the oppression of people of color, Bigwood cautiously attempts to reconceptualize the natural cultural situation of human begins in a way that is not built on domination or essentialist structures. Between the chapters she describes and illustrates four monumental artworks that are "written with the body and are pregnant with poetic-philosophic depths." Author note: Carol Bigwood is Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Toronto.


"Could it be Possible?" thought Sarathustra, "This old witch in the forest has not yet heard that woman is dead?"

--freely adapted from Nietzsche (1954) 1978, 12

Gender-Skepticism and a "Philosophy in the Feminine"

Many feminists today rightly balk at the very idea of a "philosophy in the feminine" because it would appear to necessitate a reinforcement of traditional gender models and a privileging of specific female values, characteristics, and experience as an alternative to male-stream ontologies that have exiled the feminine. To simply and unproblematically affirm female values that have been devalued and marginalized in western phallocentric thought has come to be viewed by many feminist theorists as a theoretically disastrous move because of the dangers of conservatism, essentialism, and biologism and, in general, the danger of perpetuating hierarchical binary, gender relations. The feminist ontology that I am introducing here is, indeed, one that lets in female experience and perspectives and thus affirms to some degree something specifically female. The very cultivating of a philosophy of the feminine, as I see it, however, is, necessarily and most importantly, precisely a project of working out on a metaphysical level the deep problem of how certain qualities came to be associated with the feminine and others with the masculine and, moreover, working out what a historicized female specificity might look like.

The philosophy I am cultivating in this book takes as a key principle the stepping back from and reconceptualization of dualistic oppositions that dominate western thought, such as culture/nature, active/passive, mind/body, subject/object, and masculine/feminine. I particularly work to construct the culture/nature dichotomy, which I understand to be stubbornly lodged in feminist discussions of crucial issues such as reproduction, gender difference, and essentialism and to be central to the constitution of western Being itself. Because I attempt to step back from and deconstruct dualistic thought, I do not valorize a universal feminine . . .

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