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Luce Irigaray’s Speculum of the Other Woman

Lecturer: Eva Birch

Originally Taught: Winter School 2021

Speculum of the Other Woman is Luce Irigaray's second doctorate and the first book in her oeuvre. Along with Simone De Beauvoir's The Second Sex, it is considered a foundational text of second wave feminist theory. Following its publication in French in 1974 Irigaray was expelled from the Ecole Freudian, a school for psychoanalysis founded by Jacques Lacan, and her teaching post at the University of Vincennes in Paris. The book was and still is scandalous in its radical proposition that beyond the purely patriarchal construct of 'woman' there exists a feminine position. Irigaray comes to this idea via an idiosyncratic critique achieved by mimicking Freud and Plato, among others. In this seminar we will do a close reading of most of Speculum of the Other Woman to think about how Irigaray uses mimicry to imagine a feminine position—or what is more precisely described as sexual difference.

 

We will work through the book in three sections. In the first section, 'The Blind Spot of An Old Dream of Symmetry' Irigaray reads Freud, in the second section, 'Speculum,' Irigaray, presents a series of short, poetic essays, and in the third section, 'Plato's Hysteria,' Irigaray reads Plato. We will consider how each section engages with psychoanalysis, poetics, and philosophy to create different inflections of her central idea of sexual difference.


1. 'The Blind Spot of an Old Dream of Symmetry,' pages 11 – 55

Optional reading: 'The Future of Sexual Difference: An Interview with Judith Butler and Drucilla Cornell' by Pheng Cheah and Elizabeth Grosz

2. 'The Blind Spot of an Old Dream of Symmetry,' pages 56 – 129

Optional reading: Sigmund Freud, 'Femininity'

3. 'La mystérique,' pages 191 – 203

Optional reading: Luce Irigaray, Elemental Passions

4. 'Plato's Hysteria,' pages 243 – 302

Optional reading: Plato's Republic VII, 514a - 521d

5. 'Plato's Hysteria,' pages 303 - 352

Optional reading: Tina Chanter, 'Irigaray’s Challenge to the Fetishistic Hegemony'