INTRODUCTION : EMBODIED THOUGHT AND THE 'FEMININE' .
This is a feminist study of the work of psychoanalyst Melanie Klein. It particularly focuses on how Klein's recognition and representation of those aspects of communication that exist anterior to language may aid our comprehension of the 'crisis' of rationality, l the feminist critique of Western philosophical constructions of the 'feminine' as irrational, 2 and the possible reconstruction of the 'feminine' as the site of embodied thought.3 I shall attempt to explain why I have chosen to use Kleinian theory to tackle these questions further on in this chapter.
The Psychoanalytic Problematisation of Knowledge.
As a body of thought, psychoanalysis pays special attention to those aspects of communication anterior to language, which are said to evoke 'transference' and 'countertransference' phenomena between persons.4 Within the psychoanalytic encounter, these phenomena are intersubjective events comprised of an exchange of phantasies and feelings between the psychoanalyst and her analysand that may exist before, behind or beyond what is said. What differentiates the psychodynamic construction of psychic reality from more empirical, ocularcentric5 models of psychic reality like behaviourism, is that the psychoanalyst or psychodynamic therapist understands psychic reality as intersubjective and intrapsychic. In other words, both inner and outer worlds, both intrapsychic unconscious phantasies and conscious interactions, are intentiona16 components of the intersubjective psychic realities that constitute the relational vehicle of the psychoanalytic encounter.
Wilfred Bion (1967) gives factual status to both emotions and thoughts because they both present themselves as psychic objects to consciousness. For Bion psychic objects are the only facts to which human beings have access. Our senses, dependent on the a-priori existence of our bodies (Strawson, 1959) , are our link between consciousness and external or internal reality. The only facts one can purport to know are intuitively apprehended 7 by our consciousness as psychic objects .
The phenomenological concept of intentionality has the similar effect of dissolving the boundary between inner and outer worlds, so that both phantasy and conscious activity become components of an intersubjective reality accessible to intuitive analysis.8 Bion also recognises the intersubjective reality of the affective sphere as accessible to analysis, though in this case via the psychoanalyst 's rather than the phenomenologist's faculty of intuition. 1 suggest that the acceptance of the affective sphere as an objectively real component of the intersubjective relationship underpins the whole understanding and utilisation of the transference<->countertransference relationship in object-relations psychoanalysis. Donald Meltzer raises major epistemological and ontological questions, especially, can there ever be a truly objective study/observation/interpretation of anything? Meltzer thinks not. Psychoanalysis demonstrates the omniscient, unconscious nature of desire, the phantastic foundations of thinking and how both are always invested in what we intersubjectively evaluate as 'reality', 'myth', 'fact' or 'truth'.9 Fact and phantasy are revealed to be mutually dependent and phenomenologically interrelated, yet when felt within human experience, potentially existentially conflictual.
During the actual therapeutic process of psychoanalysis the psychoanalyst accesses unconscious aspects of psychic reality via the analysand' s free associations or by interpreting her dreams. When listening to the analysand, the psychoanalyst also pays wordless attention to their own 'countertransference' evocations, which are registered as phantasies or affective events in the analyst' s internal world. These aid an 'interpretation' of the analysand' s transference, as countertransference phenomena are a result of repression in the analysand. Attention to countertransference phenomena leads the analyst to the psychodynamic source of the repressed, split-off, projected aspects of the analysand's internal world, that have evoked the countertransference phenomena in the psychoanalyst in the first place. These split-off aspects of the analysand' s inner world are either acted-out or contained by neurotic or psychotic symptom(s) before entering psychoanalysis, and must be processed via the transference relationship to be psychically re-integrated to progress towards a 'cure'.
During the course of this study, I would like to argue that psychoanalysis is the only discipline that involves the art of interpretation of unconscious psychic reality, and therefore it yields a particular sort of knowledge whose efficacy may be assessed only in its own terms. As Bion has said,
I will be providing an exposition of Bion 's psychoanalytic theory of thinking later in this chapter. However, whatever the analytic perspective, I believe it is fair to say that during the process of psychoanalysis unconscious psychic reality is accessed hermeneutically,10 via theoretical reflections upon the evocative exchanges of transferential phenomena which lead up to the psychoanalyst making interpretations. These are intended to evoke increased self awareness plus an opportunity for growth and increased psychic integration in the analysand. I suggest that this particular form of knowledge, comprised as it is of an investigation into the analysand 's intersubjective and intrapsychic constructions of psychic reality, may also be a helpful complement to the contemporary cultural dominance of social scientific and scholarly methodologies that are derived from models adhering to various forms of neo-positivism.ll 1 am not opposed to such models per-se, nor am I interested in undermining the efficacy of research which employs an empirical approach to acquiring information in appropriate contexts;12 rather, I suggest that such approaches may benefit from a psychodynamic model of interpretation of the information that such methodologies may yield in the final instance. I suggest that this final act of intersubjective contextualisation of data and analysis of the psychodynamic processes at work in the events and relations that have lead to its accumulation, may provide less unconsciously partial conclusions, than would 'purely' empirical analysis.
It has been argued by many philosophers and critical theorists that empirical, positivist, theories disavow both the reality and the relevance of the intersubjective affective constructs of reality that exist within intellectual/scientific communities.13 Such communities are always interpersonal at the same time as they are driven by the 'abstract' quest for knowledge. The denial of the relevance of the interpersonal dimensions of reality involved in empirical observation and interpretation may mean that there is a greater risk of subjective feelings and value systems guiding the final interpretation of empirical data at an unconscious level.
This means that the disavowal of affective investments in the acquisition of knowledge may distort final interpretations of data and notions of the 'truth' far more than if such investments were recognised as an inevitable consequence of any human endeavour.
The feminist critique of the mind/body problem and psychoanalytic theories of knowledge.
The particular focus of this study situates the psychoanalytic problematising of knowledge within the context of feminist debates concerning the mind/body split of Western dualism. These debates offer various explanations of how the ontological mind/body split informs the sexual politics of knowledge. Feminists of different persuasions have argued that the polarisation of mind and body in Western philosophical and religious traditions have been mirrored over the course of centuries by the gendered polarisation of human qualities into masculine and feminine.
Feminist studies of the history of Western philosophy reveal how the acquisition of knowledge has been construed as an activity involving a disembodied, symbolically masculine mind, which has defined Reason as everything other to that which is symbolically deemed 'feminine' (Grosz, 1988, Lloyd, 1984).
To start with I shall offer a brief survey of these arguments, which now form an ever expanding body of feminist philosophical literature. My survey intends to outline the debates only and will therefore be necessarily introductory and limited. Next I shall go on to contextualise the writings of Melanie Klein within psychoanalysis in some detail. My contextualisation will follow the main trajectories of the feminist mind/body problem, but with regard to psychoanalysis. Next I want to show how Kleinian psychoanalytic theory and observations suggest that all knowledge is carnal, and that all thought originates in the intersubjective affective exchanges between embodied persons.
Feminist Critiques of Western Philosophical Solutions to the Mind/ Body Problem.
Susan Bordo (1993) traces the legacy of the 'disembodied rational mind' of Western dualism back to the Greeks. She says
However, although in the Symposium love of the body motivates the quest for knowledge, the 'body' is explicitly gendered. In his speech Pausanias says '... Love' s inspiration makes people feel affection for what is inherently stronger and more intelligent - which is to say that it makes people incline towards the male' (416 BC, p. 14).
Later, Diotima addresses Socrates about 'the ways of love' and celebrates the mental creativity spawned by homoeroticism between man and boy. Socrates reiterates what she had to say as follows :
Diotima clearly exposes what Brennan (1993) calls the 'foundational fantasy'14 of phallocentric theories of knowledge. Truth can only be the offspring of homoerotic masculine narcissism. Mental pregnancies ( ideas, truth) may only be conceived in a man to man relationship. This phallocentric fantasy makes explicit the historical roots of masculinist philosophical metaphors within the academy that continue to inform dominant notions of reason, truth and reality in the West today. In her book The Man of Reason (1984) Genevieve Lloyd also begins her study of the philosophical polarisation of mind and body, Reason and femininity with a similar criticism of the Greeks.
Both Bordo and Lloyd point out that during Plato's early work, the dualism he construed in terms of intellect versus matter was explained as the result of a simple dichotomy between the higher soul and lower body. Later he proposed that a relationship of dominance and subordination existed within the soul itself which was divided. The struggle of the knower no longer involved subordinating the irrational appetites of the body to the intellectual demands of the soul. Instead, the attainment of knowledge involved a struggle within the soul itself, between its rational/intellectual and non-rational/sensual parts which were in conflict with each other. Lloyd says,
The Early Greek foundations of Western dualism 'split off ' the pursuit of intellectual creativity, which was associated with the mind' s contemplation of the abstract Eternal, from the pursuit of sensual creativity, which remained associated with the body 's engagement with contingencies of Nature. In this way the domination of the life of the flesh by the mental life of the soul in Plato can be understood as the forerunner of the ultimate scientific dualist ambition to advance knowledge in order to conquer Nature, bodily suffering and ultimately mortality. This later development has been linked explicitly by feminists to ethical arguments supporting the 'natural' subordination of woman to man in Judao-Christian cultures on the basis of the story of Genesis. Lloyd says, 'Later Judaic and Christian thinkers elaborated this Platonic theme in ways that connected it explicitly with the theme of man's rightful domination over woman' (p. 7).
Feminist philosophers such as Bordo, Lloyd, Irigaray and Grosz have been engaged for some time in varying critiques of phallocentric dualism, with the common aim of exposing the masculinist metaphors that underpin the politics of knowledge, which have implicitly marginalised all nonwhite/male/middle-class claims to access truth and reality since the dawn of Western thought. In their different ways, each of these feminist philosophers exposes and undermines the ancient phallocentric fantasy that the symbolically 'masculine' mind can exist apart from and conquer, the symbolically 'feminine' body.
I have shown how the element of Platonic thought that did celebrate sensuality and the body only celebrated the male body, which alone was capable of a higher, 'mental pregnancy' , in contrast to the more lowly physical pregnancies of women. Susan Bordo continues her description of the development of this Platonic fantasy as follows:
For Christian thought, on the other hand, the sexual body becomes much more unequivocally the gross, the instinctual... the animal, appetitive side of our nature... For Augustine, the animal side of human nature - symbolised for him by the rebelliously tumescent penis, insisting on its "law of lust" against the attempts of the spiritual will to gain control - inclines us toward sin and needs to be tamed (p. 4).
Augustine argues in Moral Behaviour of the Catholic Church that the 'chief good of the body' is the soul. He says, '... that part of us which inquires and learns... are the prerogatives of the soul; so, when we speak of attaining to virtue the question does not regard the body' (A.D.388, p.155).
For Augustine the acquisition of knowledge, which consists of spiritual virtue and wisdom, involves the soul following 'either a wise man or God' (pp. 155-156). The soul is the Christian organ of virtue and wisdom which channels inspiration, the motivational force of learning. A spiritually inspired mind is compelled towards the acquisition of knowledge, whereas the body has no role in the higher pursuits of the mind and soul. However, as Lloyd points out, Augustine took great pains to ‘upgrade’ the status of femininity with regard to Reason, concerned as he was with Christian principles of spiritual equality. She says,
Augustine located Reason in a sexless spirit or mind. Thus women's symbolic subordination to man in the corporeal realm in the story of Genesis did not exclude her from higher forms of contemplation. Her physical subordination to man symbolised the rightful subordination of the mind’s earthly, practical functions, such as managing daily affairs over time, to its higher contemplative functions in eternity. Augustine said of woman
However, despite his apparent good intentions with respect to securing spiritual equality for men and women, Genevieve Lloyd comments ‘Augustine 's symbolism leaves femininity close to... the sensory entanglements with which Reason must contend in its diversion from superior contemplation.’(p. 32)
Augustine 's interpretation of the Fall fused Platonic thought with Christian belief. It involved the rational mind becoming overwhelmed by a passionate engagement with some corporeal object of the senses. Lloyd detects woman's symbolic responsibility for the Fall in this interpretation, and her implicit inferiority for Augustine, as woman exists in greater continuity with the sensual, corporeal world and is the igniter of male sexual passions. Augustine understood the mind' s subordination to excessive passions ignited by the senses as a defect of the will. Lloyd argues ,
The next radical revision of the philosophical concept of Reason happened during the seventeenth century with Rene Descartes’ famous ‘method’ . Here Reason became radically separated from Augustine' s concept of Reason as a quality of human nature, available to everybody to deal with the practical matters of everyday life, and was instead seen as a unique skill, an achievement, a particular method of thinking sharply differentiated from other kinds of thought. Descartes’ method involved developing a particularly rigorous and systematic mental attitude in order to distinguish truth from falsity through the exercise of radical doubt. Everything that could be doubted was and yet there was something he found he could not doubt, that he existed because he was a thinking being. ‘I think therefore I am’ became the guiding principle of the method which he believed demonstrated that the mind was distinct from the body, whose existence could be thrown into doubt. He wrote,
Susan Bordo summarises the main aim of the 'method' as follows: 'Descartes believed that with the right philosophical method we could transcend the limitations of the body’ (1993, p.5).
Genevieve Lloyd argued that Descartes replaced the medieval Platonic philosopher's divided soul with the divide between mind and body. He also held the exercise of Reason to be an exalted, rarefied activity. She says,
Lloyd explains how Descartes intended his method to be accessible to all. He wrote The Discourse On Method in the vernacular French rather than scholarly Latin, and flouted the social conventions enshrined in public pedagogy by demonstrating that truth could be accessed by private meditation, without formal tuition. However, Descartes’ egalitarian intentions still reproduced philosophical metaphors dependent on what Lloyd calls ‘the sexual division of mental labour’(p. 50) . She points out that the differing social constraints on women's lives had excluded them from being able to participate in the public life of universities and the sciences, and Descartes’ ‘method’, though a private practice, was quickly overtaken by developments in these collective endeavours. However, the only kind of thought that Descartes considered ‘rational’ was the highly abstract form of Reason accessible via this ‘method’ . This was radically separate from all other thought, which was too entangled with the emotional concerns of practical everyday life. Lloyd writes,
Thus, woman, although capable of exercising the 'method' in theory, was socially required to take on responsibility for nurturing fleshy bodies, which had no place in the exercise of Reason. Lloyd’s study demonstrates how the dualist legacy of the symbolically masculine mind versus the symbolically feminine body pervades all Western philosophy up to the present. She critically examines the thought of Hume, Rousseau, Hegel, Sartre and de Beauvior15 to substantiate her claim, while Susan Bordo widens her field of analysis to argue that Cartesian metaphors inform all Western thought and systems of representation up to and including the present day. She deconstructs a variety of media representations of minds and bodies including adverts and journalistic narratives to reveal the insidious encoding practices that connote woman as at one with, yet struggling to transcend, the lower nature of the fleshy body.
Feminist philosophers including Luce Irigaray ( 1974) and Elizabeth Grosz (1988, 1994, 1995) have argued that the ontological mind/body split mirrors the polarised definition of the sexes, and that dominant theories of knowledge, or of thinking, depend on psychosexual systems of representation that are phallocentric. These are the kind of ideas I will turn to in the next section of this chapter. However, to summarise the feminist critique of Western philosophical representations of the mind/body problem so far I will quote from Lloyd's conclusive remarks in The Man Of Reason. She says,
An autonomous feminist critique of phallocentric theories of knowledge.
This study will eventually examine the theory of knowledge implicit in Kleinian thought, with the aim of demonstrating that Kleinian epistemology is potentially subversive of dualist mind/body ontological splits and concomittant theories of knowledge. I suggest that Kleinian theories of learning and development challenge dominant patriarchal epistemologies, because they rely on a theory of embodied, affective sexuate16 knowledge, which is acquired intersubjectively, originating in the infant’s pre-symbolic affective relationship with the mother’s body. However, first I would like to develop the feminist critical perspective on the mind/body problem outlined above by turning to feminist critical perspectives on theories of knowledge. This is necessary to clarify my critical perspective when reading Klein.
There is a growing current of feminist thought which is seeking to establish affective, intersubjective communication as a source of embodied knowledge, including the work of Luce Irigaray (1974; 1977, 1991a; 1991b), Susan Bordo (1993), Moira Gatens (1988), Natalie Goldenberg (1990), Teresa Brennan (1992, 1993) and Elizabeth Grosz (1988, 1994; 1995). I would agree with them, that patriarchal ideology has retained its (often insidious) grip on the hearts and minds of men and women in the West by gendering culturally dominant ways of thinking about ourselves which are variously modeled on an ocularcentric, phallocentric forms of neo-positivism. This epistemology seeks to imitate the research methods of the natural sciences, so defining itself as methodologically opposed to the recognition of intersubjectivity and affect as an important component of scientific observation and/or scholarship. I will elaborate more on this further on. Juliet Mitchell has said that Klein offers us a descriptive phenomenology of interpersonal relations and of knowledge ( as opposed to Freud 's ambitions to achieve stable, linear, structural theories). I shall argue that Klein's work has a more radical potential than that because its theory of knowledge and being partake of and arise from the sexed body. This means that feminists reading Klein can position themselves within a phenomenology which does not deny, but explains, the intellectual significance of sex and gender as other Western phenomenologies have not done.
My reading of Klein from a feminist epistemological perspective aims to complement the contributions other feminist thinkers have made to reformulating theories of knowledge by re-rooting them in the intersubjectively sexed emotional body.
Natalie Goldenberg's ( 1990) recent book Returning Words to Flesh argues that the talking cures of feminist consciousness raising groups and the therapeutic work of object-relations psychoanalysis have a parallel purpose, which is they enable us to return to the source of all theory building, that is our embodied, sexuate and affectively remembered knowledge about the world.
Like Goldenberg , I want to understand why mechanistic models of human development, reality and knowledge continue to retain their cultural dominance. In the established tradition of critical theory, I suggest that these ideas are reproduced and sustained ideologically17 and thus their cultural dominance requires a political analysis. Feminist philosopher Elizabeth Grosz suggests that all claims to knowledge in a patriarchal society (by which I mean a social formation that is organised according to ideologies of sex and gender) are wielded politically to disavow and repudiate women’s ontological specificity. She would argue that certain perceptions called facts have more ‘truth-status’ than other human events because they are useful devices of political power and control. I would like to present an exposition of her work which argues, very powerfully, that dominant theories of knowledge in our Western contemporary cultural milieu (especially those which may pose as a "common-sense" view of the world), are reproduced and sanctioned according to the gendered interests and remits of patriarchal ideology and phallocentric systems of representation.
Grosz wrote an important essay called ‘On the In(ter)vention of Feminist Theories of Knowledge’ , in an anthology of essays on feminist epistemology called Crossing Boundaries. I will be using her autonomous feminist perspective as a tool to aid my critical reading of the work of Melanie Klein and other object relations theorists.
In this book, Grosz and other feminist contributors argue that it is necessary for contemporary feminist theorists to begin to define and describe women’s autonomous experiences of being and knowing rooted in the specificity of the sexed female body. Grosz criticises those feminists who are content with a 1960 I s feminism which criticised the presence of sexism in society, using the thought of established masters like Marx and Freud but which didn’t question the sexual politics of their philosophical assumptions. She says that feminists should be taking such theories themselves as objects of political investigation, using the perspective of women’s experiences. The point can be stated thus : if one admits that one cannot separate fact from value,18 then any theoretical or philosophical position which does not avow its (often implicit) value system (even though those ideas/positions have emerged from and partake of a social formation and psychic economy which always embodies conflicting sets of values), then such a position is ideological in the sense that all knowledge is value-laden. In particular, all philosophical positions at present emerge from a patriarchal social formation and a phallocentric psychic economy. Yet most, even if they do admit of the inseparability of fact and value, deny the intellectual significance of sex and gender. This has the effect of silencing and repudiating radically positioned challenges to the dominant value-systems underpinning dominant theories of knowledge, which threaten to dethrone the masters in the academy by exposing the covert partiality of their ideas. Grosz argues, that by different women avowing their specific socio-cultural positions, the contingent claims of different knowledges will then be able to de-centre phallocentric universalising claims to truth which seek to disguise their specificity and thereby silence all radically positioned others, including feminists.
Grosz acknowledges her debt to Luce Irigaray in this essay and argues for an autonomous feminist perspective which
She uses Irigaray’s critique of patriarchal ontologies and epistemologies and argues following on from her that patriarchal philosophy claims access to perspectiveless truth, which is phallocentric in that it homogenises experiences of being and knowing by colonising differences, whether they are differences of sex, race, ethnicity, class, age or ability etc. Instead of being considered autonomously, differences are considered only in terms that apply to a specifically Western white heterosexual masculine experience. The specific socio-cultural position of Western white academic men is then universalised (via a process of incorporation and homogenisation) as the One objective and perspectiveless truth, in that it alone claims an ability to escape its own historicity and subjectivity. At the same time the phallocentric position defines all avowedly positioned challenges to its established tradition as merely subjective, value-ridden ‘political’ strategies and therefore without epistemological ‘truth status’. This attempts to disguise the politics of especially the politics of theory at every level, especially the politics of theories of knowledge. This means that other claims to truth which expose the phallocentrist's norms, methods and standards as ideology, risk expulsion from the academy for adhering to ‘non-truth’. (Luce Irigaray was expelled from her University for just such an 'offense', thereby proving the reality of her critique and confirming her status as a dissident intellectual and threat to the establishment.)
Grosz outlines what she means when she says that Western philosophy is patriarchal by exposing the phallocentric agenda systematically in a series of numbered points. Here I wish to present a summary of her argument because I will be using her insights into the philosophical premises of the dominant (patriarchal, positivist) theory of knowledge when I go on critically to evaluate Klein's theory of knowledge.
Luce Irigaray has to be given credit for being the first to expose those ideas deemed perspectiveless and above reproach by the male establishment as a) sexually positioned, b) phallocentric and c) misogynistic (Irigaray, 1974),19 and this argument resulted in her expulsion from both her University Department and Lacan' s training school. Her method of developing a feminist philosophy that emphasises women’s specificity has since been honed down and developed by philosopher Elizabeth Grosz (1988).
Before I summarise her argument I want to be clear about what feminists mean when they argue that dominant epistemologies in a patriarchal society are phallocentric. Phallocentric theory is characterised by a male theorist's
‘... disavowal or denial of the specificities of their position as a member of the male sex, the male body or a masculine subjectivity’ (1988, p. 97 ).
Phallocentrism does not involve the conscious imposition of clearly masculine values upon women. Phallocentrism is more subtle than that because it is characterised by a disavowal of sexual difference and a denial of the intellectual significance of sex and gender. Further on in this chapter I will refer to the patriarchal social formation as, on one level a ‘social fantasy system' in the Laingian sense. I will explain what this means in detail further on. It seems necessary to present an exposition of how pervasive phallocentric thought and systems of representation are in our apparent ‘age of equality’ initially, before attempting such a revisioning of the ideas of Laing. Elizabeth Grosz's essay provides a particularly clear exposition of phallocentric paradigms before countering them with a feminist response in a series of numbered points as follows.
1. The phallocentric commitment to perspectiveless, static truth... results in , ‘... a truth that evades its own conditions of production including the cost by which a statement is considered true’ (Grosz, 1988, p. 97).
In other words, phallocentric truth is defined by invalidating, silencing and excluding positioned challenges to its claims to access a uniquely objective and perspectiveless truth. This is because patriarchal knowledges aspire to truth beyond the unpredictable events of history, power and desire, whereas a feminism of autonomy, ‘... admits to its own position as context, and observer dependent, that is as historically, politically and sexually motivated’ (p. 100).
This means that by feminists avowing our particular points of view, our aims and our values, feminist theory accepts its own historicity and the fact that theory is created by desiring bodies. Feminist theory can thus acknowledge its own interests as those of women quite openly, whereas phallocentric theory cannot admit of a sexed, desiring position without risking its entire status and rationale.
2. The phallocentric commitment to objectivist neutral concepts of knowledge are considered, fundamental interchangeability ‘... on a scientistic model which postulates thefundamental interchangeability or substitutability of scientific observers and thus a repeatability of experimental or "objective" hypotheses’ (p. 98).
This perspective assumes that epistemological results are independent from their historical and bodily origins in the labours of particular individuals in particular cultural positions. Thus, ‘ How a theory is produced is considered irrelevant to truth status’ (p. 98). However, as Grosz also says,
Whereas a ‘Feminist theory is neither subjective nor objective, neither relativist or absolutist: it occupies a middle ground of intersubjectivity which is excluded by oppositional categories’ (p. 100).
Feminist theory should be relational rather than relativist as it occupies the position of the sexed subject and is connected to other practices. Theories that are relational occupy a position involved in constructing connective relational strategies with other practices. Feminist theory is based on intersubjective, interdisciplinary understandings evoking a shared collective relational response to new material, In this way, ‘Feminist theory accepts its own criteria of validity rather than accepting those inherited from patriarchal tradition’ (p. 100).
3. Phallocentric theory ignores the constitutive political activity of linguistic, discursive or representational systems, which enables patriarchal knowledges, (which are discursive and representational systems) to evade their dependence on sexist and/or phallocentric images, metaphors and tropes. Language is ‘... the labour of discursive production which is constitutive and not just expressive of concepts’ (p, 98) . However, ‘feminist theory is engaged with language and representation and their material and political effects’ (p. 100).
Feminism is interested what language is available for theoretical purposes and what words may not be used, as phallocentric theory places constraints on what may be and how it may be said, Feminists wish to experiment with language that articulates women' s specificity rather than promoting ‘... the strategic deafness hitherto common to male paradigms’ ( p. 101) .
As a material entity language is understood as a borderline practice that hovers between theory and practice, a form of ‘... theoretical practice, involving labour and risk in analogous form to the production of other material objects’ (p. l0l).
4. Phallocentric theory is committed to the separation of the subject and the object of knowledge and assumes that the subject of knowledge can separate themselves from ‘... social political historical and psychic networks within which each individual knower functions and produces theory... The subject is assumed to be unimplicated in and distinct from objects of analysis’ (p. 99).
Whereas a feminist theory is intersubjective because the subject/object distinction is meaningless in the humanities and social sciences which must accept their historicity, intersubjective continuity and interrelatedness.
5. Phallocentric theory is characterised by a commitment to an intellectual system of concepts whose validity and identity ‘...relies on its opposition to other terms... instead of describing reason, substantively, phallocentric discourses define themselves in terms of what they are not...by their opposites or others’ (p. 99).
A binary oppositional relation to otherness involves reason being described not in positive or substantive terms, but as what it is not, e.g., not corporeal, not passion, not madness, not emotion.
Indeed, phallocentric methods of distinction are so pervasive, as Grosz demonstrates, it is difficult to imagine how any concept could be understood other than by reference to what it is not. However, in order to establish the subtle resonances of meaning of any term, e.g., ‘reason’ it is possible to establish its meaning as a concept similar to, though different from, other concepts. Binary oppositional thinking obscures this possible and actual process from consciousness. Instead, a shorthand of either/or distinctions dominates. This is understood by feminists to be the consequence of phallocentric discourse, which distinguishes first the sexes on an oppositional basis and (albeit unconsciously) attributes connotations to apparently gender-neutral terms thereafter. This obscures any possible or actual existence of alternatives subversive to the binary opposition mode of thinking from consciousness. Grosz says, ‘ The binary oppositional grid establishes a privileged model of theoretical inquiry where the identity of a privileged term is guaranteed only by the elaboration and expulsion of its opposite or other’ (p. 99).
The phallocentric theorists’ colonisation and/or expulsion of otherness enables them to then declare their ideas as the One truth. Feminists must
However, feminist theory recognises the implicit hierarchical structure in binary oppositions and the attribution of a positive value to the primary term and negative value to the secondary term. Grosz says, ‘Feminist theory recognises the collusion of these dichotomies with the fundamental dichotomy : masculine<-->feminine’ (p. 101).
Feminists must attempt to occupy a ‘paradoxical’ position between binary oppositions, being intersubjectively constituted of both and yet neither mind/body, subject/object, self/other.
Autonomous feminist theories attempt to supersede patriarchal traditions ultimately by presenting different kinds of knowledge. ‘Feminists of autonomy are not interested in developing a more universal or overarchingly human perspective, but are content with a narrower scope and aspirations: these do not aim to aim to produce neutral, general, positionless theory’ (p. 102).
For feminists then, intellectual labour is recognised as one practice amid and in relation to others, not, as in patriarchal thought, as a privileged reflection on all other practices. Grosz is saying that eliminating the symptoms and manifestations of sexism in knowledges does not then mean that those knowledges include women, that is not enough. Until the operative causes of sexism are confronted by an autonomous feminist position -meaning by those feminists attempting to establish an openly sexed body of knowledges, whose enuciative political positions are capable of being directly articulated and heard -- the symptoms of misogyny in intellectual life may be removed but the non-recognition of sexual difference and women's specificity remains.
Feminist knowledges are not competing with patriarchal knowledges, they are different and make contrary claims about truth, objectivity, confirmation and neutrality. Grosz says that the attempt to constitute truth, autonomy and political effectivity is one of ‘...the most dramatic revolutions in Western knowledges’ (p.103).
She is interested in developing an ethics of sexual exchange in knowledges. I suggest that a feminist appraisal of Klein’s work on the origins of thought in pre-verbal feelings and phantasies may aid the deconstruction of dominant epistemologies and I would like to argue that a feminist appropriation of Kleinian epistemology may offer feminists a way of working with the open avowal of feelings and values in the transmission of knowledges.
Now that I have outlined what I mean by an autonomous feminist perspective I want to go on to contextualise my critical reading of Klein’s work within the discipline of psychoanalysis from a pragmatic feminist critical perspective. I will use any tools of critical analysis that I consider useful, especially those offered by the work of other feminists whose work has been discussed above, including Susan Bordo, Genevieve Lloyd, and the Irigarayan deconstructive strategies usefully deployed in the work of Elizabeth Grosz.
The above outlined philosophical assumptions also constructed dominant epistemologies of gender in classical Freudian psychoanalysis which Melanie Klein followed and developed. I wish to begin my contextualisation of Klein’s thought by examining the ocularcentric, phallocentric assumptions that form the basis of Freudian theories of human intellectual and emotional development, which by his own admission, appear to operate to the detriment of those who aim to develop along ‘feminine’ lines in particular.
Process Press Ltd.
The Human Nature Review © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM