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Power, Desire, Difference - Essay Example

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There are four dormant issues between feminism and psychoanalysis, and how to move beyond them. The issues are: the prominence of Lacan's 'symbolic', sexual difference and knowledge, the bearing of essentialism on feminist politics, and the relation between psychical reality and the issues on women (Chodorow: 1998)…
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Power, Desire, Difference
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Download file to see previous pages The specific psychical concerns of the symbolic may have been played down in some feminist writing, political issues have been played down (and deeply confused with psychical ones) in recent critiques of essentialism. The thing is, the challenge to Lacan is often read as, or reduced to, the challenge to patriarchal structures of language and phallogocentrism, which of course in part it is. Lacan's theory also covers the psychical organization, the argument that the symbolic is the condition of sanity; it is not purely about the patriarchal order of language (Chodorow: 1998:167). It should become evident that this facet of Lacan's theory has also received attention in French difference feminisms, especially from Irigaray. Moreover, it is only when this aspect of Lacan's theory is taken into account that the British feminist defence of him makes any sense.
The symbolic's patriarchal nature relies on the interlocking functions of the symbolic father, and the notorious phallus. Lacan says the symbolic father intervenes in the imaginary ties between mother and child (Withford: 1986). For Lacan the actual father matters infinitely less than his structural, symbolic position as an intervening third party. In the imagination, the father's place is similar to the occupied by language, in that language intervenes in the imaginary dyad as the symbolic words that rupture the threads of phantasy that hold lack at bay and the illusion of union in place. To borrow the vocabulary of mainstream psychoanalysis for a moment, this intervention is critical to the process of psychical differentiation, to the subject's differentiating itself from others; and this is one reason why sanity relies on the symbolic (Withford:1988). How changing the sex of either the intervening third party or the primary care-giver, or the actual father's social spot, would affect the process of differentiation is another matter; but real changes in either parenting models or the social position of women and men must have consequences for the symbolic.
The phallus is the mark of need, and diversity in general and sexual difference in particular. As the mark of need, it pertains to the fact that the subject is not complete unto itself. It is here that the symbolic father and phallus connect; the former breaks up the illusion of unity, the latter represent that break (Withford: 1986:7). As the mark of difference in general, the phallus is allied with the logos, with the principle that the identification of difference is the condition of logic and language alike. That is to say, thinking as such requires difference. This brings to a critical Lacanian claim that sexual difference is the crucial one in being able to speak, thus think; and, mutatis mutandis, that speaking is critical to sexual difference. The visual recognition of sexual difference is a channel connecting the heterogeneous experience of the feeling, sensing body to something that is strange to it: the differential structure of language; in turn, that language allows it name the difference.
In short, Irigaray, like Mitchell, may have a clinical issue in mind: the idea that the phallus is represented by the penis implies, according ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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