“Essentially Speaking”: Luce Irigaray's Language of Essence

Hypatia 3 (3):62 - 80 (1988)
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Luce Irigaray's fearlessness towards speaking the body has earned for her work the dismissive label "essentialist." But Irigaray's Speculum de l'autre femme and Ce Sexe qui n'en est pas un suggest that essence may not be the unitary, monolithic, in short, essentialist category that anti-essentialists so often presume it to be. Irigaray strategically deploys essentialism for at least two reasons: first, to reverse and to displace Jacques Lacan's phallomorphism; and second, to expose the contradiction at the heart of Aristotelian metaphysics which denies women access to "Essence" while at the same time positing the essence of "Woman" precisely as non-essential (as matter).



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