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432Philosophy and Literature albeit none ofhis sources are women. Some readers may stiU appreciate Frank's condave of Wittgenstein, Husserl, Tugendhat, and Derrida in an analysis of die problem of reference in language. This analysis considers the constraints of rule-governed discourse as well as the "insurmountable" disruption of otherness (p. 239). Husserl's solution was the "Idea in the Kantian sense," which would have die strange effect of a controUed havoc in which everything is stylized and infinitized, as in poetry or the mind of Geoffrey Firmin in Under tL· Volcano. Have any better solutions or enabling fictions been suggested in recent debates in theory? Pennsylvania State UniversityChristopher S. Schreiner "Am I That Name?": Feminism and tL· Category ofWomen in History, by Denise RUey; vi & 126 pp. Minneapolis: University ofMinnesota, 1988, $29.95 doth, $12.95 paper. How, by whom, and for what purpose is die category of "women" invoked? Has that category always had the same content? Denise RUey sets about reactivating the buried significances of the word "women." She demonstrates compellingly that the word marks the place where diverse constructions, reactionary and progressive, compete. RUey takes the connection between the signifier "women" and its signifieds to be unstable, a matter ofchanging convention and uncertain consensus. Not only is the meaning of"women" mobile, but the word derives its value from whatever terms are opposed or related to it in a specific context. What needs tobe done, then, is to reconstruct meticulously the different discursive contexts of this "name." Accordingly, RUey's text can be read as an "archaeology," in die Foucaultian sense, of a single word. It is only from die seventeenth century onwards, RUey argues, that "women" has been understood as a category that absolutely defines tiiose contained by it. Women have become overdetermined as "women." Positive interventions on behalf of women, the suffrage movement, and contemporary feminism have inherited the ambivalence of any appeal to "women": to reiterate the separate category of "women," for whatever purpose, is inevitably to confirm the apartness of "women." "If feminism is the voicing of 'women' from the side of 'women,' " states RUey, "then it cannot but act out the full ambiguities of that category" (p. 1 12). But she stresses that such uncertainty can enable rather than paralyze feminism. To unravel "women," indeed, to deny their existence as anydiing other than a discursive network (p. 112), is not to pull die rug out Reviews433 from under feminism. A skeptical awareness of die historicity of "women" can prevent feminism from repeating, inadvertently, repressive definitions of that term. RUey gives us a timely reminder diat categories are notiiing more than diat: no-one is ever a name. Any experience ofbeing a gender as distinct from having a gender can only be intermittent. In her view such intermittence is merciful: if an aU-pervasive awareness of gender were possible, it would be unendurably daustrophobic. (Here RUey parts company with certain feminist celebrations of "being" a woman.) Yet RUey is nothing if not pragmatic, and she does not propose giving up strategic uses of die term "women": "I'd argue diat it is compatible to suggest that 'women' don't exist—whUe maintaining a politics of 'as if they existed'—since die world behaves as if they unambiguously did" (p. 1 12). RUey caUs for "speed, foxiness, versatUity" (p. 1 14) as feminist tactics. The wUy anti-essentialism RUey proposes can enliven not only feminism, but also critiques of masculinity and gay and lesbian studies—the entire field of gender dieories. Indeed, RUey's view ofgenderas necessarily fluctuatingand incoherent is the most valuable insight in her book. WhUe the first and final chapters, in which RUey oudines and consolidates her position, are effective, the three chapters that provide an historical survey do little more tiian iUustrate what the opening and closing chapters say. To have been more than mere exemplification, diose central chapters would have had to draw on a much wider range of discourses on "women." Nevertheless, "Am I That Name?" makes it impossible to take the term "women" for granted again. And diat alone is a remarkable feat of defamUiarization. University of Southern CaliforniaMichael du Plessis Chernyshevsky and tL· Age ofRealism: A...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 432-433
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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