The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 14.4 (2001) 311-313
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Irigaray and Deleuze: Experiments in Visceral Philosophy
Irigaray and Deleuze: Experiments in Visceral Philosophy. Tamsin Lorraine. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1999. Pp. xiv + 272. $45.00 h.c. 0-8014-3623-0; $19.95 pbk. 0-8014-8586-X.
Gilles Deleuze as a partner to Luce Irigaray, or Irigaray as a partner to Deleuze? Tamsin Lorraine's book might not intend to present us with a choice, but I do find myself reading this work as a book on Irigaray rather than Deleuze. If there is an intrinsic reason for writing an extended comparison between two philosophers, it should bring something out that was not there to begin with. In this case, it brings out the contours of a new Irigaray. While most commentators have focused on Irigaray's mimicry of the male, philosophical tradition, Lorraine works with her philosophy, not only as a transformative discourse, but also as an affirmative discourse. The connection to Deleuze makes such a reading possible and indicates a radical politics as the overriding aim of her discourse. While it may not be any news that Irigaray can be regarded as a "nomadic" thinker in the same vein as Deleuze, few have dared to venture the idea that a dispersive, discursive subject really is political dynamite. Personally, I am not convinced of the politics, but the idea that Irigaray is an affirmative thinker does help to unravel some of the contradictions and difficulties of her texts. Irigaray is a philosopher of extraordinary originality. Her work is still in the process of becoming understood. [End Page 311] While her eclectic method may be confusing and has been misinterpreted in many instances, it is effectively driven by a high critical astuteness. Its critical aspect is better understood now than at its original reception. What is still needed is a more thorough working through of Irigaray's political, ethical, and epistemological message. Lorraine's book, as clearly written as it is courageous, is a contribution to this process. Not only does it tell us what we can learn from Irigaray, but it encourages us to follow her message.
The message is that we have to find new philosophical personas, a mode of becoming rather than of being, to destabilize the corporeal and conceptual logics that we know and thus to force the subject to a "genuinely creative response" (182). According to Lorraine, the escape from oppressive discursive constructions lies in a coherent and thorough reconceptualizing. Irigaray's and Deleuze's innovative styles create a more "authentic" being in the world because they break down the traditional machinery of abstract conceptualization and create new ones and because they revert the dualistic distinction between thinking as a "mental" process and the world as its outside mirror. Concerning both philosophers, Lorraine's focus is on the elements transgressing the metaphysics of mind-body dualism. The transformative potential, the possibility of creating a new environment of thinking and speaking, lies here. It seems to me that Lorraine considers Irigaray's project to be the more successful one in this regard: While Deleuze is focused on writing and thinking, Irigaray is concerned with the transformation of perception as such. In Irigaray, the key to the transformative domain is the "sensible transcendental," connoting a chiasmic relation between concept and body. In Lorraine's reading, working with the domain of the "sensible transcendental" provides the ground for an alternative, cultural symbolism that will open up a new world through new experiences. Such an alternative requires new ways of codifying social structures and relations, as Lorraine points out.
In my own understanding, however, there is reason to wonder why there is no developed social theory in Irigaray. Even if she names alternative functions of mediation, such as the angelic or the divine, it is unclear what would constitute a sufficient ground for intersubjective dynamics, with all its conflicts and complications. There may be good reason for such a lack: it seems to me that Irigaray leaves these dimensions open in order to avoid the...