The female body in question : a study of Monique Wittig's writings, with particular reference to L'Opoponax
This thesis is a comprehensive study of Monique Wittig's fiction, in which I explore the links between womanhood, sisterhood and writing. Particular attention is paid to L'Opoponax (1964), in which I argue that Wittig suggests a way out of the impasse of Freudian theories of femininity. This is achieved at all levels: stylistic, formal and thematic. I begin by defining my psychoanalytic and literary contexts (Freud, Klein and Irigaray for the former, contemporary French, English and American women's writing for the latter), in order to introduce the major debates connected with the concept of the female body and its representation in Western culture. I then show how the Freudian drama of sexual difference - namely, castration anxiety as it affects the little girl - is both powerfully evoked and systematically sidestepped in L'Opoponax, with its focus on relationships between women. Using Klein and Irigaray, I describe the problems arising within the mother/daughter dyad. I suggest that L'Opoponax hints at a healed relationship but also leaves much unsorted; this is seen to pull against the radical innovations of later texts, particularly Le Corps lesbien, accounting for some of the violence to be found there. The question of the mother versus the woman is thus not fully closed, but creates a space within which the amantes, female lovers, can begin to live and move. I end by replacing this question within its wider context as it is a crucial one for the future development of feminist writing.