Unfolding fecundity: To Irigaray, hermeneutically, and ethically

Danielle Marie Poe, Fordham University


This dissertation treats the full range of Luce Irigaray's work in their critical, suspicious mode and their transformative arguments. The early works form part of a critical, suspicious movement in Irigaray's thought of sexual difference, yet to understand the totality of her philosophical project from a reading of those works alone will necessarily give an incomplete, hence, incorrect, account of that project. In later works, she turns to a project of transformation that both builds from and surpasses the scope of the earlier works. I begin with an explication of Irigaray's critique of Freud's views on femininity. Next, I turn to the philosophical concern for being over becoming that carries over into Irigaray's treatment of the history of philosophy, which she examines from her interest in the sexual difference. This account is a lengthy consideration of Plato. She shows that Plato's excesses are symptomatic of the history philosophy; she argues that philosophy built from a primordial exclusion of the feminine can only repeat those exclusions in its later articulations, innovations, and practices. From this theoretical account, I move to the practical domain of relations on the market. On the market, Irigaray discovers not only the masculine privilege over the feminine, but the exchange of the feminine by and among the masculine. It is in this practical domain where the transition between suspicion and transformation takes place. I show how the reconstructive, transformative project requires change in thought, language, law, and practice. I situate Irigaray's philosophy in relation to other feminist philosophy, my own work in relation to the larger field of Irigaray scholarship, and point to Irigaray's failure to explicitly articulate the concept of sexual difference and an adequate ground for her normative claims. The work that I offer on Irigaray's philosophy of sexual difference in its full intellectual contexts is unique in scope and serves as the groundwork for transformative work in which women and men can work together collaboratively.

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Recommended Citation

Poe, Danielle Marie, "Unfolding fecundity: To Irigaray, hermeneutically, and ethically" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3020239.