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Diacritics 33.1 (2003) 81-94

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Voices from the Depths

Reading "Love" in Luce Irigaray's Marine Lover

Yet, except for the case of the Hymn, which combines the dedication and the text itself, what follows the dedication (i.e., the work itself) has little relation to this dedication. The object I give is no longer tautological (I give you what I give you), it is interpretable; it has a meaning (meanings) greatly in excess of its address; though I write your name on my work, it is for "them" that it has been written (the others, the readers). Hence it is by a fatality of writing itself that we cannot say of a text that it is "amorous," but only, at best, that it has been created "amorously," like a cake or an embroidered slipper.
—Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments

If, as Barthes writes, it is "by a fatality of writing itself" that a text cannot be amorous, then Luce Irigaray's Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche—written for, about, and with Nietzsche—can be read precisely as a revitalization of writing. Suppose we were to read Marine Lover not only as a critique, but as an encounter with Nietzsche: an amorous encounter, which serves to bring to life Nietzsche's dedication of his work to the "philosophers of the future." In her interpretation of his work, Irigaray poses to Nietzsche the possibility that his "philosopher of the future" might be a woman, even though his various stylizations of "woman" (as a trope for "truth," "dissimulation," "shame," "prudishness," "seduction," and slavish dependency, among other things) seem to preclude actual women as readers of Nietzsche's work. Although he writes "woman's" name continually over his texts, women are not the ones to whom Nietzsche dedicates his work: the philosopher of the future to whom he beckons is presumed by him to share certain prejudices—philosophers' prejudices—about women. What does this mean for his women readers? Feminism's encounter with Nietzsche has been interesting and productive, but never easy.

A number of excellent accounts of Marine Lover have already been published that enumerate Irigaray's criticisms of Nietzsche, reading her elemental address to him in terms of his forgotten relation to certain women (his mother, his sister, and a postulated lover).1 I would like to contribute a new dimension to this conversation, by exploring the effects of the affective relation that Irigaray sets up between herself and Nietzsche in Marine Lover. In particular, I am interested in how her critique of Nietzsche's text quickens—or enlivens—his philosophy. Irigaray presents Marine Lover as an address directly to Nietzsche, writing from the perspective of the reader whom his philosophy [End Page 81] most excludes: she addresses him as his marine lover (l'amante marine: the fluid, active, woman lover rather than the passive—always feminine—beloved: l'aimée).2 Thus she addresses him as an equal and active participant in the love relation, resisting the images and ideals that Nietzsche projects upon "woman." In this paper, I will argue that it is through a relation of love with Nietzsche that Irigaray is able to initiate a conversation between them, opening his text to new possibilities; to new relations with women. I will first explore Nietzsche's understanding of friendship, as a privileged relation to the other, before turning to Irigaray's response to Nietzsche, in which love is understood as philosophy's origin and impetus.

Nietzsche's "Friend": The Philosopher of the Future

Let us . . . believe in our star friendship, even if we should be compelled to be earth enemies.
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Philosophy generally exhibits a curious "body language" to its reader. Arguments are constructed in order to demonstrate one way of thinking that excludes "rival" paths of thought. The reader is invited to think along the channel constructed by the philosopher, to inhabit his thought alone, and ultimately to become persuaded by it. The text is set up as a conduit that transports the reader to...