Feminist Amnesia: The Wake of Women's Liberation

By Jean Curthoys | Go to book overview

7

A different divided subject1

What are the politics of the female split-subject?

(Rosi Braidotti)

Unless ye be born again, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

(John 3:3)

Julia Kristeva once remarked, in passing, that there are two ways in which the increasingly popular notion of the divided subject could be understood. 2 One way, her own, and also that of postmodern/poststructuralist thought derives from Lacan’s account of Freud and refers first of all to the idea that human beings are divided between their conscious and their unconscious aspects. Since, further, the conscious is identified with the use of language (more generally the symbolic) and the unconscious with what is a precondition for this use, something which is allegedly necessary for language but which cannot in principle be represented within it, then the division is also effectively understood as being between that which represents and that (aspect of the subject) which cannot be represented. 3

This division is an interesting division for psychoanalysis (rather than, say, for philosophy) when it is understood to bear upon, not only the essential nature of consciousness and representation, but also upon the constitution of the subject as such. The further (presumably contingent) thesis then becomes that the subject is actually formed, both chronologically and structurally, by way of this division. There is said to be a dynamic relation between the two poles of the division consisting, first of all, in the fact that the conscious, representing pole is formed not only by way of distinguishing itself from, but also by way of repressing, the unrepresentable, unconscious pole; and, second, in the fact that the latter pole does, nevertheless, appear—‘it speaks’—although it cannot be spoken about. The former notion implies a subject necessarily deluded as to its own nature—aware of only one side of the division through which it is constituted since the other side is repressed. (This is a different division, it should be noted, than that which is thought by poststructuralists to be subsequently posited by this conscious representing subject between self and other, mind and body, etc. This posited division, the

-138-

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Feminist Amnesia: The Wake of Women's Liberation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Liberation Theory 13
  • 1 - The Psychology of Power 15
  • 2 - The Getting of Wisdom 30
  • Postscript to Part I 56
  • Part II - Dualisms and Confusions 59
  • Flashback 61
  • 3 - Feminist Theory as ‘power/Knowledge’ 68
  • 4 - Radical Pretensions 100
  • 5 - The Mystery of Speculative Feminist Deconstruction 109
  • Part III - Feminism, Deconstruction and the Divided Self 119
  • 6 - Deconstruction 121
  • 7 - A Different Divided Subject 138
  • Conclusion 157
  • Notes 161
  • Bibliography 188
  • Index 195
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