Derrida relates this trace to what is at center of Levinas's critique of ontology, that is a relationship between the knowing subject and the illeity alterity of the past that "can never be lived in the originary or modified form of presence" Derrida, Of Grammatology As a trace of this alienated other, the witch in the feminist project becomes a trace of alterity, suggesting an ethical possibility that "begins" in the articulation of that trace. To locate this trace as a feminist strategy, I am specifically turning to Irigaray, Kristeva, Butler, and Braidotti, whose concepts provide central navigating tools from the start.
The lack of agreement between these theoreticians on the issue of "sexual difference" is significant and constitutes an important element of my discussion. However, the employed method of thinking is that of convergence of feminist thought, which, in disabling fixed references, shifts our attention towards interconnectedness, from the concept of difference towards a process of differentiation. My theoretical approach focuses on the feminist practice of overthrowing the notion of "difference" as a negative sign of presence permanently inscribed within the dialectics of Self and Other.
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Irigaray's and Braidotti's poststructuralist philosophies of sexual difference represent these deeply anti-Hegelian positions translated philosophically into the critique of phallogocentric normativity of humanism. Kristeva's "different legality" associated with a provisional, dialogical but strategically political project also belongs to this line of thought, which, in the context of Anglo-American feminism, culminates in Butler's and Haraway's postulates of the subversion of Western cultural foundations by undermining gender distinctions. I enlarge this debate by introducing a post-communist perspective which builds on the feminist rejection of the illusionary hegemonic Western identity and its opposition to a "substandard" East European identity.
In order to elucidate this convergence, the witch, in my analysis, goes through the stages that feminism went through: from positing feminist practice as a process developing along with liberal feminist demands of equal access to the symbolic order, towards radical feminist rejection of phallogocentric sameness, and culminating more recently in a critique of the metaphysical dichotomy between masculine and feminine constructs. Advocating a deconstructive approach to sexual difference, the third transgender wave necessarily challenges the very concept of identity; however, its political significance remains in reference to the earlier feminist positions.
In this sense, as Butler concludes, there is "no story to be told about how one moves from feminist to queer to trans. The reason there is no story to be told is that none of these stories are the past: these stories are continuing to happen in simultaneous and overlapping ways as we tell them" Undoing Gender 4. These reformulations converge with a number of theoretical concepts, such as resistance, parody, and subversion, and finally an emergence of a subculture as a political form of expression.
Relevant to my comparative cultural studies analysis of these positions is the conceptual confusion of femininity and femaleness. The theoretical use of "feminine," understood as a socio-cultural construction of woman's biological body, is differentiated from both "female" and "feminist" Moi, "Feminist, Female, Feminine" Seen through this constructionist lens, it is in the logocentric interest that "femininity" and "femaleness" stay thoroughly confused, labeling a non-conforming "woman" unfeminine and unnatural Moi, "Feminist, Female, Feminine" Patriarchy, although increasingly difficult to define, operates in this perspective as a paradigm of institutionalized authority.
It is best understood as a socio- political structure interwoven with complex cultural framework of kinship that rewards the conforming and stigmatizes undesired forms of sexuality. Irigaray's position, central to my readings of the "feminine," undercuts the use of feminine persistently defined as the masculine other, the "other of the same" "Questions to Emmanuel Levinas" Although sympathetic to Levinas's ethical position, Irigaray reads Levinasian "feminine" "as the underside or reverse side of man's aspiration," as its negative counterbalance The apprehension of the "feminine" is "not in relation to itself" but "through a purely erotic strategy dictated by masculine pleasure" that underscores this ethical gesture Consequently, what Irigaray suspects "the philosopher" is seeking is "neither the qualities of the other's flesh nor of his own," but the very same phallogocentric play with cartographies of "elusiveness": "with something other, always inaccessible, always in the future" "Questions to Emmanuel Levinas" In this aesthetic play, Irigaray asserts, "the only function of the feminine other is to satisfy the hungers of the philosopher," to "nourish the intentionality of his pleasure" To make up to this pleasure, the "feminine" needs to remain marginal, available, at service of the philosophical inquiry.
More recent feminist interpretations of Levinas allude extensively to Irigaray's standpoint. The Levinasian "feminine," to follow Tina Chanter, is "a condition of 'slipping away from the light' that interrupts the economy of being, whereby a subject who seeks to know the world ends up negating the otherness of objects and reducing the world to itself" Chanter Even with most sensible metaphysics of difference, this economy remains intact In an addendum to Irigaray's readings, my standpoint with respect to femininity adopts Kristeva's, Butler's and Braidotti's perspectives, which equally question the philosophical marginality of the feminine subject.
The symbolic repression of "femininity," according to these thinkers, is to be viewed in terms of positionality and relationship rather than of essence. Like any other cultural construct, femininity and masculinity are shifting positions see Kristeva , fantasies, parodies Butler or metamorphoses Braidotti. If there is anything right in Beauvoir's claim that one is not born, but rather becomes a woman, it is that woman itself is a term in process, a becoming, an ongoing construction. This positional perspective offers an escape from biology on this, see Moi; Fraser , but it does not resolve the complexity of "sexual difference.
In this sense, feminist positions, past or contemporary, must be simultaneous. Advocating the "postfeminist" or third-wave position as "exclusive of the first two is to lose touch with the political reality of feminism," but more importantly perhaps it is to realize that "labels," such as "femininity," "masculinity," "feminism," or "sexuality," are categories operated for specific political reasons Moi, "Feminist, Female, Feminine" An employment of a positional simultaneity is thus a necessary intellectual strategy for any of the feminist futures.
What it offers is a perception of sexuality as a physio-social fantasy combining nature and culture into a form of repressed supplementation. As defined by Irmtraud Morgner one of the authors selected for this study , "sexuality is a precious state of unrest that makes erotic relations possible, not only towards people, but also toward landscapes, sounds, colors, smells -- phenomena of this world in general.
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Without sexuality, there would be no enthusiasm, no intellectual passion, no esprit" "Making Use of Sexuality" Definitions proposed here are thus intended for debate, although they also delineate the ground on which the debate might effectively be staged: identity, marginality and cultural transgression are the issues of this exploration.
The narratives, written in the English, German, and Polish, have been selected from numerous contemporary stories about witch-like characters that I have come across or that were suggested to me at different stages of my project. This rather transitory research pattern has allowed me to introduce several less-known continental women authors into the widely discussed North American feminist context.
Their narratives, mostly untranslated, and therefore unknown to English-language readers, provide a striking literary parallel to the contemporary continental and North American feminist voices. They demonstrate clearly that feminist representations of witches are not exclusive to Anglo-American or French- language literatures; however, their relation to second-wave feminism is different because of their culturally distinct contexts. My selection creates space for discussion on what these heterogeneous narratives have in common, what their references to witches convey, and whether they are attributable to different cultural traditions, political systems, and feminist ideologies.
While writers' biographies are not central to my analysis, the particular contexts in which they write is relevant, and thus their culturally specific agenda as well as their relationship to West European and North-American feminist frameworks will be addressed. Within this relational context, I examine the ways in which the selected authors as it happens, all having academic backgrounds interact with feminist knowledge.
The literary works serve as equilibrium in a field of theoretical representational type of writing. Neither is this "coming together" to be confused with globalized methods of sisterhood that invokes internationality at best ambiguously, but it is set to draw our attention to boundaries delineating similarities among the various embodied subjectivities precisely through their claims of difference. In all these senses, my work follows one of the main principles of comparative cultural studies, namely the non-essentialist, that is, non-national approach to literature and culture.
In these formulations, the witch or woman's alterity becomes a central strategic signifier, a crucial metaphor for herstorically transmitted "female" values. The body contours, metaphors, and parodies providing reference for these formulations are the Middle Ages and Renaissance projections of the witch either as an evil crone who impersonates the mother, kidnaps and devours children, or as a powerful and dangerous seductress, the mythical vagina dentata. The identity principle, in a fierce opposition to the dominant discourse, is crucial to this early political practice. Brought into a dialogue with Alice Walker's Afro-American fantasies of gender and Irmtraud Morgner's East German publication from the same period, they are conveyed as narratives of cultural healing and therapies in process.
In this identification with the loss of the mother, rather than the loss of the phallus, the "witch" is re-designated as an "archaic" mother, the fantasy of the semiotic chora, and the feminist revision of the Freudian unconscious, in my subsequent text this psychoanalytical reference appears in italics.https://granvacincordginn.tk
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The archaic maternal body is no longer marked by "symbolic castration" but by "the real incision" evoked by the cutting of the umbilical cord, deferred and perpetuated by the presence of the scar, the navel. This psychoanalytical context allows me to compare contemporary Polish texts with such narratives as Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, or short stories by Sara Maitland and Angela Carter, who likewise emphasize the crucial importance of sexuality in the formation of subjectivity.
The Polish novels represent a so-called "postcommunist" feminism, formulated as a decisive counter-reaction to "socialist emancipation" as represented by Morgner's text, produced in the secular atmosphere of East German culture. There are few such literary examples from Poland, since this type of socialist fiction was believed to fall into the category of communist propaganda. Although Krystyna Kofta, one of the Polish authors discussed, began her literary career at the height of communism in Poland, she published without a feminist label.
In the "postcommunist" discourse, two distinct socio-cultural developments are present. On one hand, an increasing masculinization of the power structures political and scientific arenas impacts the management of the social and the most private aspects of women's lives: abortion is illegal, contraception and divorce are discouraged by Catholic dogmas.
There is a return to social policies based on marriage and the family as primary to women's identities. On the other hand, the growing popularity of "intellectual" feminism, borrowed from US-American and French second-wave feminist positions, encourages a local "digging into" a collective "feminist" past. The texts selected for discussion belong to a category which visibly draws on Irigaray's theories, and displays preoccupations with the failure of the sexual revolution, theorizing women's difference as a source of cultural possibility rather than a source of oppression.
Equally these texts reflect on the Western feminist formulations of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis as a discourse normalizing patriarchy, as well as on re-evaluations of hysteria as the unheard voice of the woman whose language is reduced to psychosomatic symptoms as in Tokarczuk's novels. What hinders my analysis is the relatively limited theory related to Polish feminist history, or its resistance to Western feminism perceived as a monolithic anti-male stance. Indeed, the few politically active women wear the stigma of being elected on the basis of quotas and the majority view them as political tokens.
Also, a tradition of refusal as part of the Central and East European psyche, "refusal of propaganda, ideology, political messianism, big liberatory ideas" Busheikin 14 , is certainly felt in Polish feminist context, and more generally in Central Europe.
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Discussions often become frustrated by the theoretical imperialism of Western discourse on this, see Nash; Busheikin; Einhorn , and the exclusion of untranslated opinions and voices. In this sense, it is more accurate to describe "postcommunist" women's contribution or attitudes to gender debates as "different" rather than non collaborative with those in the West. An interesting parallel can be made to Afro-American feminist attempts to define their own culturally specific place within the debates and, hence, preoccupied by two closely related questions: what is the relationship between Black feminist criticism and rather Eurocentric forms of poststructuralism, and how should this criticism proceed with a cultural translation of African fantasies and myths?
Both questions refer to issues of essentialism and difference, demonstrating an attempt to widen the discipline for the actual voice of the differentiated. However, the problem of elucidating "different" gender sensitivity and perhaps even consciousness is itself problematic, because it is measured in relation to the "same," more established or familiar, Western scenarios that in themselves are far from monolithic.
In fact, Western feminism has split into "a large collection of single-issue organizations that press for feminist aims in many different accents" Walter British feminism, for example, for which the postcolonial question is of central importance, and is relevant in the context of Carter's and Maitland's texts, "grew rapidly as a mass movement [from the late s], peaking in the mids before dissolving as a coherent organization by the end of that decade" Segal 9.
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According to prevailing European convictions, "explanations of cultural difference do not produce a greater understanding or make differences any less real" Strathern 29 , while many women seem to return to and value their roles as mothers and wives, and do not want to be involved in political decision- making see Nash; Sempruch. Precisely in this light of "dissolving" feminist tradition, I discuss the most recent Western German narratives Korte's and Finckenstein's that contribute to recognition of the "inadequacies" of the US-American sexual revolution, raising acute questions to present-day third-wave feminists.
Ethnicity, clearly intersecting with nationality and race, refers to a cultural orientation shaped by specific traditions and historical experiences: "Just as the usage of 'gender' has, until recently, implied a focus on women while masculinity remained the invisible norm, the usage of 'race' and 'ethnicity' has connoted a focus on people of color, as if persons in the white mainstream had no race" Warhol and Herndl To take any of these constructs for granted implies a retreat to the principle of self-sameness, into futile attempts to return to an origin: "Where and how does it begin…?
But a meditation upon the trace should undoubtedly teach us that there is no origin, that is to say simple origin; that the questions of origin carry with them a metaphysics of presence" Derrida, Of Grammatology In this metaphysical framework, feminism involves the constitution and organization of collective memories and desires as well as resistance and consciousness of becoming-a-subject.
The trace of the "witch," as discussed in the final chapter, becomes a complex interplay of social and symbolic forces: the "witch" is no longer an essence, let alone a biological substance, but a play of constructs within a complex web of social obligations. Finally, texts written out of or representing particular cultures, such as Morrison's Paradise bringing up issues of race and oppression in relation to gender, or nationalist and sexist agenda addressed in Polish texts, intertwine spaces of gender fantasy with age, ethnicity and religion.
Postcolonial and psychoanalytic theories of "othering" are relevant in both cases.
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A comparative perspective, juxtaposing Morrison's novel with Carter's "Impressions: The Wrightsman Magdalene" and "Black Venus" , emphasizes the ambiguity or interchangeability of racial roles. Interestingly, these roles go beyond cultural stereotyping of the gendered body to posit women's collective crossing of boundaries and territorial borders as modes of delineating identities which are not exclusively national, gendered or racial.
Rather, their differential positions need to be acknowledged in terms of ideologies of locations, i. Consequently, the feminist theory discussed in the final chapter of the book occupies a noncompliant but vulnerable position of negotiating between patriarchy and resistance to it, between the social order and the "unspoken" semiotic territories of the maternal and the sacred.
The identity transgressions, or borderline status, as emerging from these negotiating spaces offer the most convincing elements of the discussion, and build theoretical meeting points between Kristeva's, Irigaray's, Butler's, and Braidotti's stances that all seek to destabilize specific codes of logocentric culture. In the end, the question that reoccurs throughout the book is that of how to maintain the complexity of the models proposed while approaching them comparatively.
What emerges as central to each of the considered views is that feminist actions do not need to be instituted from some stable, unified gender identity, since every category has in itself a definitional incompleteness. Indeed, the positions represented here are upheld by a split divided subject, even a pluralized subject that occupies politically mobile places. The "witch" figure represents such a divided subject, a fantasy deployed to convey the transgressive status of the category of "woman," and gender in general.
I close this introduction with positively transgressive readings of difference, addressed most prominently by Irigaray and Braidotti. Most certainly, there is an imprint of history on that "embodied subject": her traveling through centuries of subordination, silence, and negativity. This historical dimension of difference has left a permanent scar on the present feminist posture.
The ultimate inquiry thus, pertaining to the political meaning of the scar, is how to read it today, without losing its complex relationship with history and its multiple potentials for the "embodied subject. This particular identity construction derives from mythic stories of the "Burning Times" and beliefs in the "Craft of the Wise," both drawing on the historically documented medieval and postmedieval European witch-craze.
Following Diane Purkiss, most of these "mythic" sources were invented and invention is one of the key words here at the point when the second wave feminist movement "began to turn away from rights-centred public-sphere issues towards crime-centred, private-sphere issues" 15 : "Sexuality was to be identified as the site of women's oppression in the sense that property was for Marx the site of class oppression.
Rape, sexual violence, pornography, wife-battering and eventually child sexual abuse became the central signifiers of patriarchy, replacing signifiers such as legal asymmetries and pay differentials" This formulation of sexuality, traced back to the so-called sexual revolution of the late s and forming an important aspect of second- wave feminist identity politics in the s, carried in itself the somehow troublesome "freedom of sexual expression.
Through this simplified binary lens of sexual relations, radical feminism see Millett, Rowbotham, Oakley encouraged women to reclaim their sexuality that has been suppressed and denied to them. To begin with, this universal subject performs "a sort of tetralogy, tackling the problem of the four elements: water, air, fire, earth, applied to philosophers nearer our time," and simultaneously, it interrogates the philosophical tradition Irigaray, "The Bodily Encounter with the Mother" Irigaray's focus on the "double syntax" in philosophical debates on desire, that is to say, on a possible articulation of the in-between processes of the conscious and subconscious, masculine and feminine significations of desire, is of crucial importance in this context.
It somewhat futuristically delineates what is still out of sight in s: the strategy of a self-conscious mimesis that will highlight the mechanisms which maintain sexual indifference rather than difference in place. The very concept of "desire," dense with intertextual connotations, is understood here as used by Lacan in correlation with the exteriority of linguistic experience, that is as the "split" that occurred when we entered language, and a "hole" in the "self" that the subject attempts to "close" through an endless metonymic chain of supplements.
This definition of "desire" becomes a point of contention for French and Anglophone second-wave feminists because of the phallogocentric model of "woman," who is said "to be desirable to man" owing to a belief that she will be able to complete him, that she is his Other all that he is not " Warhol and Herndl Or, in Butler's understanding, the symbolic constitutes "the sphere that regulates the assumption of sex, where sex is understood as a differential set of positions, masculine and feminine Undoing Gender In this fantasmatic system of "topological order" of phallus as a signifier of fullness of being, "woman" and as a result, women has been made into a "fantasy" of the "speculum" providing a material support of male narcissism.
Projected as "being the phallus," "woman" does neither exist nor belong; she is "in exile," Irigaray, "Women's Exile" 76 in cultural diaspora. The exilic narratives, especially the Anglo-American radical feminist texts, revalorize the unbelonging roles of midwives, healers, herbalists, and crones, reflecting Cixous's "women" who return from the Dark Continent of desire "from always: from 'without,' from the heath where the witches are kept alive; from below, from beyond 'culture'" "The Laugh of the Medusa" These texts need to be viewed as attempts to remove witches' history problematically identified with women's history from the entrapment of their physiological bodies stigmatized by "symbolical castration": the "little girls and their 'ill-mannered' bodies immured, well-preserved, intact unto themselves, in the mirror.
Frigidified" Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa" They are mostly so-called herstorical in contrast to historical narratives, and their objective is to escape the stereotypical link between fascination and revulsion as inscribed onto the castrated and melancholic female body. More recently, this and similar radical objectives have come under challenge see Butler; Purkiss; Pusch , while the subject of a feminist identity, assumed to be shared, obvious, and crucial to the understanding of the radical feminist texts, has since been recognized as far from monolithic.
Indeed, the arguments developed by Diane Purkiss, Luise Pusch, and Butler that will frame my discussion emphasize the fragmentation of feminist identity and "the paradoxical opposition to feminism from 'women' whom feminism claims to represent" Butler, Gender Trouble 4. This opposition, as a type of adversative reaction, suggests in itself "the necessary limits of identity politics" 4. In Purkiss's view of this inadequacy, the radical narratives of the witch-craze are particularly troublesome, because the myth of the "Burning Times" has become "such a key part of many feminists' identities that to point to its limitations is bound to be painful and divisive" As a radical feminist identity, the "witch" strategically represents both the historical abject figure subjected to torture and death, and a radical fantasy of renewal in the form of a female figure who desires and articulates a cultural transformation "that has not happened yet," and also the one who already marks that transformation.
Although the feminist witch succeeds in subverting her abject identity by converting it into a political fantasy of gender, the "category of women for merely 'strategic' purposes" Butler, Gender Trouble 4 remains problematic.
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