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Preface T HIS ISSUE IS DEVOTED TO WOMAN as textual object and to texts by women writers. Questions are raised about their status, social, political, historical, and linguistic. Women, gender, genre, there are many directions in which an issue assembling these three words can go according to their interrelations. The first two essays could have provided a suitable model for the rest of the volume, for Brisson in analyzing reflections of male writers on the nature of women has addressed a key problem inviting further development. And the assess­ ment of woman’s spiritual and physical reality, the advocacy of radical changes in her place in society, the focus on difference, the acknowledge­ ment of the relation of body to text by female writers, introduced in Lindsay’sarticle, could in turn have provided more than enough material for the volume. The majority of the articles are devoted to female writers whose texts, implicitly or explicitly, make a statement about women. These essays provide unexpected readings of texts generally regarded as subservient to the establishment. Neglected texts, unread texts, misread texts actually dominate the issue. Although fiction by French women authors clearly outweighs other genres, the lack of women poets, dramatists or franco­ phone authors has by no means been deliberate. It would obviously require dozens of articles to be representative on all fronts. But ten essays should suffice to raise a number of problems and to stimulate further reading or research. Diderot, essayist, polemicist and reformer has addressed the problem of gender differences. Although feminine and feminist writings flour­ ished in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, inquiry on the subject of women by women, so frequent since the nineteen-sixties, was almost unacknowledged (as far as we know) before Diderot. In replying to Thomas’Essaisur le caractère, les mœurs et l’esprit desfemmes dans les différents siècles, which claims to be impartial and scientific, Diderot, a believer in progress, Diderot without even attempting to surpass this philosophically grounded document or proposing reforms capable of reducing women’sweaknesses or foibles, advocates a different discourse, passionate rather than impartial, in approaching the subject. Here as elsewhere, he stands in opposition to the classical rules of rhetoric; he Vo l . XXIX, No. 3 3 L ’E sprit C réateur pleads for a discourse of difference, adapted to its referent and recogniz­ ing the nature or rather the condition of women. He thus succeeds in for­ mulating a theory striking in its modernity. He believes, as Marie Brisson explains, in “le texte sexué,” in the impossibility of a strictly neutral type of writing. He recognizes himself as a male who has become aware of his own difference and, indirectly, of the difference of women. Moreover, the necessary encounter of male and female brought up in “Sur les femmes” may have anticipated some recent discussions on androgeneity, e.g., by Annie Le Brun, Gilbert and Gubar, Heilbrun. Discussion of the body itselfhas given rise to a host of studies includ­ ing Susan Suleiman’s The Female Body in Western Culture. According to Lindsay, the body, considered either in mythical or scientific terms, provides controversial issues in the writings of Badinter and Irigaray. The former in her L ’Un est l’autredwells on the problematization of dif­ ference, though hardly in Derridean terms. The confrontation of Irigaray and Badinter, voicing divergent points of view, points to the absence of a dominant feminist ideology at the present time while paradoxically revealing that feminist texts with a strong theoretical bent have practical­ ly established a new genre. Far from merely reiterating sex and gender differences, Badinter and Irigaray have shown how greater knowledge of this subject might effect meaningful changes. Badinter and Irigaray, who, to varying degrees, take into account evolutionary and historical perspectives, propose safeguards against exploitatory practices in any domain and for any group. They warn against the perpetuation of repressive metaphors resulting from a patriarchical past. Since matriar­ chy and patriarchy are both inevitably linked to hierarchical principles, extreme separatism must be overcome and resemblance acknowledged. Although both writers propose conciliatory moves and structures, e.g., the terms “mutuality” (Irigaray) and “equilibrium” (Badinter), never­ theless in neither text can...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 3-9
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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