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After one month...

jrizzo's picture

When I stepped into this class one month ago, the only thoughts that I initially had time to form were those that sprung from an insecurity about my ignorance in the field of feminist thought.  On day one, we quickly ran through the three waves of feminism with a speed that suggested that I ought to be able to take them for granted.  I had heard of “waves” of feminism, but thought of them as distinctions that described different time periods, rather than separate ideological movements.  Since third wave feminism seems to be based largely on repudiating the work of first and second wave feminism, it is a difficult point for me to begin becoming acquainted with topic.  I am still uncertain about what it means to read as a feminist, write as a feminist.  My original working definition of a feminist can be summarized very simply as “someone who believes in equality between the sexes.”  In a broad sense, what has interested me most in this course has been discovering just how complicated a process establishing that equality is, and also the myriad ways in which we can or ought to seek equality.  I never thought about how many areas of life seem to need a feminist overhauling if equality is to be achieved, and I am fascinated by the notion of power we first encountered in Virginia Woolf.  Such a huge outsider’s contingent, like all of womankind, possesses a marvelous power to see the society as it cannot see itself from within, and create change as it integrates.  Still, I always maintained the view that legislation was, if not the final solution, at least the most important element of social change, from which the rest of the evolution would follow. 

                As a writer, and a potential English major, I am chiefly fascinated by the relationships between feminism and literature.  This fascination has not yet crystallized into a more specific category of interest.  I have very much enjoyed the course work we have done on “feminist readings,” or “feminist texts.  I am curious, and I hope the remainder of the course will allow me to fine tune my knowledge in these areas, which are important to both me, the writer, and me, the reader.  Writers like Sosnoski, Allen, and Cixous have, in wildly different ways, alerted me to the ways in which our cultural and individual definitions of “female” can and have been constructed, manipulated by those in power.  The literature question seems to me the most pressing because from what we have read so far, it appears to me that women are held back, held captive, mainly by their own distorted concepts of identity.  If this is a learned identity, one must inquire as to who is doing the teaching.  The obvious response comes back, “not free women.” 

                So the question comes down to one of education for me.  Women must learn about themselves as they truly are in order to be free, but first they must learn that it is a safe and worthwhile process to learn about themselves, to explore “the dark continent” as Cixous describes it.  Where do we learn?  I believe that we learn from literature, but I tend to think, or hope, that there is no such thing as a feminist text, only feminist readings.  It would interest me to look at texts that have been called feminist, from Woolf to Lessing to Wendy Wasserstein, and try to understand what the label means.  I would also be interested in learning about feminist theory by reading something like Henry James from a feminist perspective.  I do not think it matters what text one works with, if the goal is to understand feminist theory.  I hope to take away from this class a knowledge that will allow me to develop a relationship with any text as a feminist, able to read and write critically from this new perspective. 

-Jessica Rizzo


Mary Clurman '63's picture

politics vs. pshychology

Jessy -- Just a note. I read recently in the editor's preface to the final (3rd) version of Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (published in the late '50's?), that Lawrence had realized that the psychological IS the political, or something similar. What I understood him to mean was that there are no Freudian complexes, no irrational fears that spring simply from within, that all come from our relations with other people.

That's a liberating insight not just for us as women but for everyone who is wrapped up in recriminations, rehearsals or any kind of psycho-baggage.


Anne Dalke's picture

the relationship between the political and the psychological

Last, week, jrizzo, I asked the whole class to think about the relationship between the political and the psychological, between philosophical and psychoanalytic analyses of feminist issues. You might remember the following discussion in class, in which we posed kwheeler08's notion of psychology as a subset of politics--I couldn't help but think that by using the "Dark Continent" as an analogy for the repression of women, Cixous is victim to the same imperialist ideas and forces that Spivak criticize--over and against your claim
that politics might better be understood as a subset of psychology:
if the exploration process Cixous proposes were to take place on a large scale, I believe it would effectively wipe out Spivak's imperialism issue....Free a woman from the fear of her own "dark" unconcious, and...she will never again consent to be oppressed.

So, in that context: talk to me a little more about how you now understand that relation. Here, for instance, you start by saying that "legislation was...the most important element of social change, from which the rest of the evolution would follow." But you end by flipping the dynamic, claiming that "the literature question seems...the most pressing because...women are held back...mainly by their own distorted concepts of identity...women must...first...learn that it is a safe and worthwhile process to learn about themselves." Meaning...let's start with self-analysis, with psychology?

My other big question is about your saying that you HOPE "that there is not such thing as a feminist text." Why is that your hope?