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Anne Dalke's picture

Week 4--The Dark Continent

At Gail's suggestion, I'm trying this week for a slightly more directed question, seeing if we can "thread" our thoughts in relation to one another, rather than as stand-alone essays. I take our keynote from Cixous's saying that "The Dark Continent is neither dark nor unexplorable."

The 19th century explorer Stanley described Africa as "the dark continent." Freud evidently borrowed that description of a hostile, impenetrable place to evoke his understanding of the inner world of women's sexual experience. This week we are reading the work of two very complicated and sophisticated contemporary theorists, who use the figure of the "dark continent" to highlight two very different aspects of women's lives. Gayati Spivak describes the narrative work of orientalism, the "worlding" of the third world, while Helen Cixous explores the dark continent of women's unconscious.

Which of these analyses speaks more compellingly to you? Which do you think might contribute more productively to a current feminist praxis? And how might we understand their intersection(s)?


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