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Title: Tracing the sensible transcendental : Luce Irigaray and the question of female subjectivity
Author: Green, Laura Katherine
ISNI:       0000 0004 2737 1880
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis traces the development of Luce Irigaray's philosophy of sexuate difference along the lines of her call for a 'sensible transcendental'. Specifically, I aim to arrive at a deeper understanding of the concept in the context of her early engagement with psychoanalytic theory and her critique of 'phallocentrism', as well as her struggle to define a specifically 'female' subjectivity which, I suggest, forg>,s a path beyond the Oedipal psychoanalytic model. The 'sensible transcendental' - the central category or 'hinge term' of this thesis - stands for a mode of experience which emphasises the corporeal origins and conditions of existence - particularly in relation to the body of the mother - which have been occluded by 'phallocentric' modes of representation (in philosophy, psychoanalysis, and religion). In her later thought, Irigaray will evoke the sensible transcendental as the condition of ethical relations with sexuate 'others', and it is in this context that the term is most commonly understood. However, I argue that a closer inspection of Irigaray's early writing directs us to the psychoanalytic origins of the term, and its crucial role in defining an autonomous 'female' Subjectivity. The question that concerns me in this thesis is the nature of the relationship between the sensible transcendental as a mode of experience (of 'becoming') which unites corporeal and conceptual logic, and Irigaray's project of defining a female subjectivity which moves beyond the constraints of phallocentric discourse and the Oedipal model at its core. In the first three chapters I adopt an analytical approach to Irigaray's early thought, focusing on the psychoanalytical and philosophical origins of the 'sensible transcendental'. I argue that the term must first be understood in the context of the 'psychoanalytic scene'. Irigaray claims that the 'transference' process remains irresolvable between a female analyst and female analysand because no symbolic processes exist that would mediate and 'contain' it; as such, the relationship dissolves into an imaginary corps-il-corps. The analytic scenario is, moreover, symptomatic of a wider problem: the often 'strained' relationship between mothers and daughters. Irigaray argues that, because of inadequate symbolisation, the maternal figure has become trapped in the realm of Imaginary phantasy, making it difficult for the mother to 'separate' herself fully from her daughter (and vice versa). Thus Irigaray initially evokes a 'sensible transcendental' as a form of mediation or 'dialogic space' that would permit the 'separation' of mother and daughter by creating a 'setting' for sublimation to take place. I then focus my attention on Irigaray's critique of Kant, arguing that the sensible transcendental must be viewed as a reaction to, and a revision of, the Kantian transcendental subject. Following this, I describe how Irigaray's notion of the sexuate subject is shaped by Heidegger's philosophy and, specifically, a 'Heideggerian' re-reading of Kant, especially on the topics of space and time and the 'transcendental'. Chapter 4 is pivotal in that I reject a 'theological' interpretation of Irigaray's writing on the mystical and the divine, arguing instead for a phenomenological approach to Irigaray's conception of the body as divine 'flesh'. In the final two chapters I adopt a more constructive approach to Irigaray's thought, showing in chapters 5 and 6 how the problem of psychical 'matricide' (the 'killing' or repudiation of the mother) is solved by positing a 'relational' model of subjectivity - what I call a 'fleshy' subjectivity - which begins in utero. This model assumes, contra Freudian-Lacanian orthodoxy - that there was never a mother-infant 'dyad' in the first place, and thus the requirement for violent separation from the mother (qua the Oedipal scenario) is diminished. This model of 'relationality' is constitutive of what I call the 'Irigarayan subject' - a heterogeneous, 'fleshy' subject - which defies phallic hierarchy and traverses the bounds of Oedipality.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available