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Waving, not drowning: Personal narratives, feminist pedagogy, and the gesture in psychoanalysis.

The texture of women's experience is one where emotions are recollected very physically. Women are continually diving into emotional waters.

Maggie Humm, "Subjects in English: Autobiography, Women, and Education," in Teaching Women, ed. Ann Thompson and Helen Wilcox

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith, "Not Waving but Drowning," in Stevie Smith: A Selection

This article has its origins in an uncanny experience that inaugurated my teaching career. Appointed to a lecturing position in women's studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1994, I replaced an American who had failed to show, presumably lured by the promise of a job elsewhere. The earlier appointee had, however, left a trace, which it was one of my first tasks to decipher: in the program handbook a description of a course she would have taught, "Women's Narratives of Experience," awaited elaboration from me. What follows is an account of my experience teaching this course, articulated through a discussion of the autobiographical texts produced by several of its students. From initiation onwards, the work of teaching in this case was strangely doubled, and it is to further doublings in classroom space, generative and disturbing, that this article will endeavor to attend. The matrix at the base of these, both performative and informing, is the classroom's representational function, an awarenes s of the lucksome possibilities of which has been one of the course's legacies to me.

As Shoshana Felman has observed of teaching-and it is true elsewhere of course--a sense of possibility may often be preceded by a crisis. (1) I suppose that in 1994, at age twenty-seven, I was undergoing my own crisis experience, because my appointment was temporary and a permanent job offer, once arrived, made conditional on the completion (then in the near-final stages) of my doctoral dissertation. To say that my pedagogical energies were divided may be more of an understatement than I am qualified to assess, then or now, but it is certainly true that, from the outset, my engagement with "Texts of Women's Experience" was filtered through the demands of the institution. It was also, necessarily, filtered through the demands of students, which were bound in quite complex ways to diverse yet curiously intractable desires.

The description my near-predecessor had lodged in the handbook required that students make a "narrative of experience" of their own. The first thing I did was to rename the course "Texts of Women's Experience" to signal its interdisciplinary nature. My background being performative as well as academic, I wanted to encourage students to work in other media than the written; I also hoped to encourage artistic experiment of an order that I thought the term "narrative," with its linear connotations, might proscribe. On the other hand, I was uneasy about requiring personal revelations in the classroom (the slight but significant change of title is evidence of this, perhaps, "texts" coming quietly unstitched from "women") and so provided the option of making a biographical instead of an autobiographical main assignment. I also required a journal-type project intended to help students prepare for the life-text's making, in which they were asked to record personal responses to works studied through reflecting critica lly on their practices of reading. This was intended to serve as a hands-on entree to the idea that all experience, including that of reading, is textual or cultural production, and to awaken skills which, when the personal is the subject (or so I then thought), distinguish text from those confessions belonging, more properly, in therapeutic realms. (2)

What turned out to be a key site of representational contradiction in my classroom emerged quickly and persisted: each of the four years that I taught this course, about 80 to 90 percent of the students chose to produce an autobiographical project, a response that puzzled me initially because those who chose to represent their own experience as text were by far the most anxious about it. In a vain attempt to fend off the barrage of questions fueled by their mounting fears "What should I put in?" "What should I leave out?" "How do I know you won't be marking 'me' in this assignment?" (and the implied "and that you won't like me")--I suggested that these students might find it less daunting to center their project around the life of someone else. The response in each case was the same: "But I want to make a text of my own experience."

I believe that several dynamics unique to the situation of academic women's studies, and perhaps to my relation to my students, were operating here. My first reflections centered on the uneasy alliance between a feminist discourse of "sisterhood," of women empowering themselves through sharing privileged personal information with each other, and the competitive, hierarchical structure of the academy in which students submit work to be graded in preset terms according to which personal information is assumed to be irrelevant. (3) This disjunction registered in the number of students who showed a desire to research their own lives, where the personal exchange with me produced a corresponding anxiety about how I would treat this material as grader and academic. It is likely that my age and visibly pakeha or Caucasian identity in a predominantly young, white, and initially all-female (4) classroom (the average age was probably early twenties), not to mention the artistic background that led me to encourage textua l innovation, contributed to this. That I was often taken for a student at the time elsewhere in the university (I regularly had to produce my staff card as proof of professional status) suggests that my teacherly performance would have been open to more than one identificatory reading.

Although students seemed to fear their life-texts (bodies of work with a clearly felt if ambiguously defined relation to their own bodies), falling into an unchartable chasm between the faceless institution with its rebuke of the personal and the face of the feminist teacher, I tended, at least at first (as I see with hindsight), to regard these anxieties as metaphors of the unstable status of feminist narratives in the 1990s' academy. Paradoxically, I thus found myself (as newly qualified feminist) inhabiting the void of what, desperately seeking a framework for this feeling, I took to be the emotionally charged space of academic feminism's growing pains. (5) Now this seems more than a little precious, and in the face of a global downturn in feminism's value, perhaps unwarrantedly hopeful, too. But "growing pains" seems apt, still, to figure processes of classroom interaction, not least when the subject is reflection on one's life. At that time, anxiety about my own institutionally allied future doubtless co lored how I read the anxieties of my students, but the dynamic energy and range of their work gave a strong sense (which cannot, in my view, be overvalued) of the rich subterranean itineraries whose workings sustain an institution.

Feminism and the academy are each, in essence, institutional, which is to say that, like a teacher, each wears a public face that masks, but depends upon, productive yet more secretly articulated tensions. My students' doubled feelings were put to work, at my urging, in their texts, yielding some wry, incisive commentary on the uncertain conditions of their making. It took me quite some time, however, to recognize what happened as something more than a tussle between opposites--feminism and the academy, say, or teacher and student, life and text--indeed, as what that struggle's pace engendered, or gave life to, through occlusion. The "feminism" I am invoking here is itself, of course, a fiction, (6) or masquerade, whose universal cast is testament to the cultural narrowness of its concerns, there being no universalism that is not highly selective. However, as I hope to show, feminism can only benefit from a renewed understanding of its representational nature insofar as its mission to enable different women's participation in, and shaping of, the public sphere requires a doubling that, ideally, yields the possibility of something more than two, yields, in fact, a vision of the world re-formed through the recognition of at least two sexes'--and by extension other, more expansive identificatory groupings'--roles in its production.

As I hope this article also shows, a kind of crisis is intrinsic to all learning (I like to think of learning as being taken by surprise, which is by no means always pleasant) where the dynamic play of opposites gives rise to a third term, eventually knowledge. Teacher and student are oppositionally positioned, however much teachers tend to forget this, although students seldom do; so, still, are the academy and feminism (the academy has more consolidation), and not least for being largest: life and text. The former has a richness that threatened to overwhelm some of my students when faced with the task of representing it as text, but the latter are created out of crisis. As such, they offer more than the sum of their parts and more, certainly, than I can discern in them. But I am going to attempt a discussion of some of these texts in order to pursue some thoughts about feminism and institutions as they bear on my experience of teaching, and to consider how those thoughts have altered over time. I describe t his experience and the thought which shapes it through ideas elaborated in psychoanalysis, because psychoanalysis is, above all, a practice of the conflicts in and of representation.

It is also a theory of the unconscious, which naturally means different things to different people; weird doubling is its essence, and there is not much weirder-seeming than the irreducible alterity of the lives of others. Yet the classroom, as representational space, survives through the work of such strange doublings. Invisible herald and envoy of performance, its imperious frame--re-presentation, the call to be oneself again--itself can shift, gesturing toward the self-estrangement that is learning. Given this, it should perhaps be unsurprising that the classroom, where ideas become embodied in support of reason, is an unpredictable environment. That a key strand of feminist educational theory has sought to resolve the tension between individual specificity (embodiment, or difference) and the hegemony of knowledge is, for me, a sign of unease with what persists immune to reason. But as I argue here, the tension in this case is precisely representational-- performative--and should always be analyzed as such . Embodiment, the mobile space where information becomes knowledge, where ideas "sink in," and one's orientation in the world is given form, is a relation to as much as it is a ground for insight. Thus "difference" (sexual, cultural, individual) is, as I argue these texts show, best revealed not as something to be incorporated into the classroom--as though the work of learning could proceed without it--but as the vibrant, if reticent and so often undervalued, means of its production.


The silences, here, are part of the sound.

Muriel Rukeyser, "The Life of Poetry," in A Muriel Rukeyser Reader

A predominant feature of these texts has been observed already: the conflicting feelings and contexts that shadowed and shaped their appearance. Some students built an address to these conditions into the work itself, while others manifested their self-division belatedly, returning often to my office to ask about my reading and interpretation of the work or to ask permission to rewrite their abstracts (in which they explained their choice of medium or media, the main things they wanted the text to provoke in its reader/s1 and so on) in case they were not clear.

The following excerpt from a student's text refers to two further mechanisms by which a woman might, in producing a text of experience, simultaneously explore the source of her identity and seek a kind of "covering" or surety in language: that of silence and of internal dialogue which precedes or exceeds the exchange to take place between herself and the teacher. This student writes:

I have a plan that some day I will write my life story ... because I like stories about human life. Also because my whole life seems full of stories. Before starting to write this story about myself I thought about my life. It seemed so simple and not very special.

I noticed that when I talk in Korean, I sometimes talk too much and exaggerate my ideas and opinions. On the other hand, when I speak in English, I feel that I am only expressing half of what I think, half of what I imagine. I feel like a half-person.

In silence I become able to talk with myself and to search for my real identity.

For this student, silence is more than the absence of words. Silence, and the internal reflections it fosters, functions as a mediatory space enabling the writer to get some distance from, or perspective on, her several selves and their relation to each other. Conceiving of one's life in a critical manner means just this; to do so is to take up a position in regard to fictions of origin, to accept that there are versions of one's life, from amongst which one will present a partial view. And because we cannot, naturally, get outside our lives, we need an "other" to serve as the means by which aspects of experience are reflected back to us. This student's difficulties with English meant that she was frequently silent in class, despite encouragement to speak, yet here that silence is given meaning through reflective language. The text is the "third term" which enables dialogue between outward silence and inner identity, or produces the recognition that the former enables, and does not only constrain, the latter. Here silence is given, finally, a twofold meaning: it is conversational, and it fuels an ongoing search for further insight from the self.

Luce Irigaray describes women's experience psychoanalytically in ways that have some bearing on this text and on my reading of it. "Experience," in her work, alludes to the sexed parameters of the representational field which tend to make themselves invisible, so that experience comes to be seen as self-revealing. But as every student who made a life-text to be graded knows, the contexts of production are political. In a sense, my students' texts did function as pieces of their lives that were offered to me as exchanges, because in return for this work of experience they received a grade that might affect their opportunities for work and advancement in the world. Of coarse, my readings of these texts are similarly weighted. I write for a well-known feminist journal, and although everyone I asked gave permission to be cited, it is clearly in my interests (not least regarding professional advancement) to look further in the texts for what I see.

It is at the site of this tensile interchange between inner and outer that Irigaray claims the feminine is often placed, occultively, and experienced as such. She suggests, inflammatorily to some, that women are construed as a limit to bind the death drive--Freud's name for the conflict between (internal) desire and (external) demand at whose dynamic site is posed the social subject--so that its forceful yield disrupts, yet is also contained within, social forms. (7) Irigaray claims that women still bear the costs of mediation in the symbolic economy of Western culture: to varying degrees depending on the complex determinacies of their placement, they represent the loss of specificity which, on entry into language, is the price of recognition within the social field.

This means that women, or all those seen as such, have a complex position within representation. The feminine, says Irigaray, signifies both loss and longing: the fantasy of maternal origin as homely--oar lost home--but also that within us which is foreign, or unhomely, rendered alien by the loss language opens in experience. (8) Accession to the world of common meanings--the social domain, the field of language--means everybody loses, but Irigaray suggests that female subjects encounter particular difficulties in representing this loss on their own terms. The feminine, historically in European frameworks, has the task of representing "sexual difference," the fantasy of a relation between the sexes which inadequately sutures, like a wire stretched across a void to walk on, oar "fall" into language. "Woman," thus, grounds the symbolic structures of language, but her anchoring function makes and unmakes an oceanic memory: she symbolizes what each subject, each in her own way at odds with social process, imagine s, from within it, she has lost.

Thus, unable to find a place of their own in language, a reference point of difference to stand for their own division and beginnings, yet experienced as the sign of (lost) satisfaction, imagined origin, or body, women may find themselves at sea in the structures of language, negotiating alien forms. They may make for themselves "protective gestures" and coverings in the absence of an "other sex" to give them a sense of place, of safety whence to begin to chart a symbolic identity of their own. (9) These gestural coverings may serve as efforts to make space between women which is lacking in language, (10) their having served, historically, as agents of sublimation of a kind of universally imagined lack, and in particular, inferentially, of lack for men. (11)

If femininity is read as index of the lost maternal body whose absence underwrites linguistic contracts, how might female subjects find compensation in language for their own unsymbolizable loss? Perhaps an exploratory silence might function for a woman as a move, rather than a void or the absence of sound or movement, to gather herself from the places where she finds herself linguistically dispersed, fragmented (always talking too much or too little) and to rehouse or establish herself in language. (12)

And yet, this student's text provides a counter to Irigaray, whose writings, being rather grandly focused, seldom risk return to the deceptive simplicity of the local. Indeed, her thematization of female subjectivity as lost ground or the embodied contradiction of space and place for others has somber resonances with regard to the embodiment of race and ethnicity in (post)colonial and globablizing contexts that she does not, in texts penned in the 1970s and 1980s, explore. (13) On first reading this student's text, however, from which I have reproduced part of the abstract, I was most struck by its articulation of silence as a language, arising directly from a context in which English, and not the writer's own tongue, is the norm. If language is alienating, for structural reasons, to women who wear the name, it is doubly so for this student who, far from home, was the only representative of her Korean culture in the class and so was, in a number of interconnected ways, estranged in language.

Elsewhere in the text this student describes how, in this foreign country, she finds a home away from home in the library. At the University of Auckland, Asian students form a considerable and increasing (not to mention, lucrative) percentage of the student body, and in recent years the university library has become, for many of them, a gathering place, and studying space, that they have made their own. (14) Traditionally a silent building housing books, the outward forms of scholars' inner dialogues, the library has been undergoing, thus, symbolic transformation, becoming intelligible as the lively space of a complex, culturally interlocutive recasting. The silence immigrant students often choose as safest practice in the classroom is given voice here under authenticating cover but is reworked. The university library, it seems, is a text inscribing the intricate networks of cross-cultural encounter that, although not yet fully codified in publication, are being processed, all the time in classrooms, through reverberative languages of silence. (15) So although in this text I read strong commentary on the experience of students for whom English is inadequate cover for expression in the classroom, it is also clear that this cover may serve unseen and productive purpose, rather as the library, a symbol of scholastic isolation, is kept alive by, but also shelters, the exploratory dialogue of like and unlike voices: "in silence I become able to talk with myself and to search for my real identity."

With a rather different focus, Shoshana Felman describes silence as an articulation of crisis in terms of the acts of giving testimony and bearing witness, arguing that the person who witnesses a traumatic testimony may serve as a medium of the transmission of unconscious knowledge. (16) Speaking to a class of graduate students who had undergone a crisis of silence after viewing the testimony of a Holocaust survivor, Felman observes that their experience mirrors that of the texts they have studied, and quotes Paul Celan, a writer of one such text, who reflects upon the incommensurability of language with the trauma of wartime experience he had undergone. Felman, quoting Celan, tells the class: "This, the language, was not lost but remained, yes, in spite of everything. But it had to pass through its own answerlessness, pass through a frightful falling-mute, pass through the thousand darknesses of death-bringing speech. It passed through and yielded no words for what was happening--but it went through those ha ppenings. Went through and could come into the light of day again, 'enriched' by all of that." (17) Here, Felman describes a process in which the writer's (Celan's) language passes through its own kind of silence, or nonmeaning, in order, paradoxically, to mean more, to articulate something that cannot be contained in language or empirical forms of observation. And as in Celan's language of poetry, so was the experience of the class, who fell silent on hearing the Holocaust testimony, because they were hearing something that exceeded all available, sense-making words.

Despite significant differences, there are some points of commonality between what Felman's class experienced as a crisis of language manifesting in a tortured silence and the fraught relations my students and I experienced in the period leading to the production of their autobiographical texts. In both cases, what went on was something which, it was felt, necessarily exceeded language, in Felman's case because the Holocaust may be unique in the history of European culture for the way in which it represents a crisis of human comprehension that is impossible to make sense of within the limits of (tolerable) knowledge about humanity. (18) In this case, the degree to which experience exceeded language was the measure of language's failure: more meanings were produced than could be bound in its current, sense-making forms. The direction in which students' identification proceeded was painful because it was overwhelming: they met a limit to identification which recalled the Holocaust survivor's experience of conce ptual impasse, or trauma, where language proved insufficient to bind the impact of the event. The limits of language or text was thus the reality the class encountered, but it was encountered precisely in the body, as a silence that was full, not void, of meaning.

If we accept some of Irigaray's observations of women's interactions with each other and their position in sociolinguistic structures, there is a sense in which women who make texts from the material of their lives find themselves similarly at a point of crisis. Symbolically on a fault line, where they stand in for "that which stands without" recognizable forms of culture, (19) the grade, means of cultural advancement and thus also prohibition, is inseparable from giving form to the matter of their lives. (20) The text in this case becomes a form of hiding that is showing, or a dynamic of protection and engagement, a body and yet simultaneously a skin to serve as screen. This process is complicated by ways in which hierarchies of value render bodies legible through invisible codes of race and class (usually registered as different kinds of unbelonging) as well as sex, sexuality, and gender that students may encounter as familiar impasses to their sell-expression. (21) Self-representation, here, becomes explic itly performative: a matter of appearing in the field of social meanings in a mask which yields sufficient space for feedback between the responses it generates in others, and the ongoing life of the self.

In the situation I have been describing and the experience documented with regard to Felman's class, what was needed was some form of mediation, or cover, that would protect the students from the ravages of their crisis-ridden state. But it was also necessary that language work to enable or oblige connections ("the symbolic value of the subject's exchanges," in Hortense Spillers's terms) (22) where previously uncertainty or a sense of disconnection reigned. (23) In the following, internal dialogues proliferate in a text whose timber is the opposite of a contemplative silence, yet the noise the text articulates seems, paradoxically, to bind the impact of experience and to serve for self-protection. The project's main text is an aural collage, submitted on audiotape, and these lines from its abstract describe its critical source:

An aural collage of autobiographical texts highlights the construction and selection processes involved in presenting each one publicly. A multifaceted representation denaturalizes the presentation of myself to remove expectations of one coherent, truthful story which could accurately sum up a life....

The collage is designed to expose the inconsequentiality of any one of the shallow descriptions of myself I continually rattie off. I... included descriptions of myself from the perspective of my mother and brother with the intent of showing that these descriptions only touch the surface of who I am, I can resist being summed up. I revert back to the safe shallow stories in the tape to verbally sidestep, to counteract the unease and slight panic I have occasionally felt at revealing what may be closer to the bone. I deliberately avoided one pseudo-objective voice as I could only be subjective about my life.

Although the abstract goes to war on easy assumptions about the transparent self and the truth status of the aural narrative to follow, elsewhere in the written text that accompanies the tape, this writer says: "I wanted personal details fragmented and juxtaposed with others to protect myself from their roughness" (emphasis added). "Roughness" in the context of autobiographical production suggests the stifling immediacy or violence of experience when there are insufficient forms to represent it, and, correspondingly, the ways in which the available forms can be experienced as both distant from yet dangerous to the self. (24) Paradoxically, then, this text maker chose to further fragment the language of her text in order to forge a distance between the words which were her medium and a kind of excess of the personal, of unsymbolized experience, inhabiting them. As Adam Phillips provocatively observes, "nothing that is human is alien, but nothing that is human can do without the idea of the alien, to protect it se1f." (25) The alienating devices of pastiche, irony, and word play functioned for this writer, in a further ironic twist, to gather together those fragments of felt experience ("roughness") and to give them a new form of tangible connection or embodiment in the text.

Gesture, for Trigaray, has similar connotations. Although it may last only a moment, for its duration a symbolic passage is created that might represent, for instance, the movement of female subjectivity into language in a way less traumatic than is precipitated by the Oedipal crisis, where female subjects discover that their fleshly identity consists in a unique inability to symbolize what they have lost. (26) Gesture, then, is an articulation of form in space whose transitoriness echoes the losses that fuel desire in language. But insofar as the linguistic order, for Irigaray, is mortgaged to "woman" as the ultimate "lost object," the mother's body (and, although Irigaray does not say it, to the versions of that lostness that colonialism has reproduced), movement may be one of few viable ways in which women can inhabit the shifting spaces of language for and between themselves. Gesture, for some women, may offer a means to negotiate their presence and absence within representation, keeping productively open the question of what their identity consists. (27)

A large number of autobiographical works received for "Texts of Women's Experience" were packaged as gifts, forms of gestural exchange whose handing over (by students) and unwrapping (by me) was a one-time event bearing multiple meanings. The wrappings of these texts, some consisting of bows tied with ribbons and string, some of boxes and bags, and often accompanied by instructions as to what to unwrap and read or look at first, in addition to their practical purpose, appeared as signs of ambivalence regarding self-exposure, even as they made the experience of submitting text a cause for celebration.

The giving and receiving of a gift, although a physical enactment, is, in Irigaray's analysis of gesture, much more than this. It can serve to designate, for instance, two different positions within the same sex and provides a form for a culturally recognized yet potentially open-ended instance of mediatory dialogue, because the outcome of gift giving--including how the receiver will interpret or receive the gift--is impossible to predict. As Elizabeth Grosz, after Derrida, observes, a gift "gives time ... temporality delay" and creates a "possible future, a temporality in excess of the present and never contained within its horizon." (28) Once performed, the act of gift giving passes into the history of the subjects involved and their relation: its power to renew lies in its passing (the letting go of the gift) as much as in its symbolic force. Or rather, one might say, its symbolic power lies in its marking out positions in language that contain the possibility, indeed the necessity, of their own passing or loss.

Similarly, Felman writes of the difficulty and the necessity of "assuming one's own sexual difference" as a woman when reading, an assumption that is always only temporary--which is not to say, ephemeral or meaningless--because it needs to avoid encapsulation in feminine forms that are symptoms of masculine anxieties while seeking the renewal of subjectivity that is the gift of the literary or creative text. Thus a woman, when entering into the risky dialogue that generates exchange, must assume "not the false security of an 'identity' or a substantial definition (however nonconformist or divergent) but the very insecurity of a differential movement, which no ideology can fix and of which no institutional affiliation can redeem the radical anxiety ... the performance of an act that constantly--deliberately or unwittingly--enacts our difference yet finally escapes our own control." (29)

The text pictured in figure 1, entitled "The Brain Box," is one of the texts that was complexly packaged. Initially tied up with several pieces of string, it contained instructions as to how to open it (and is photographed here already opened). The text consists of a wastebasket containing a box, which contains in turn three objects representing "brains," emblematizing the intellectual self-division and wastage that this student felt had characterized her life. In this form, however, the text celebrates its maker's recognition of the value of her intellectual creativity--reclaiming the label pejoratively assigned in her girlhood: "she's just a brain box"--in service of her adult desire. The text's construction in multiple layers, and the singular act of discovery they precipitated in the reader, together give that experience a new and potentially empowering form, or as this student herself puts it in the final lines of her abstract: "[These are] conditions of my own making. This is. Joy. Fun."

Figure 2, although packaged as a gift, belongs to another, related category: those texts that were presented as games or puzzles which I had either to piece together, unravel, or play. These tended to show a sophisticated awareness of the diverse interpretations different readers might generate from texts and often implicated me in a statement to the effect that I must take responsibility for my own reading. In highlighting the symbolic processes that produce and constrain interpretation, these texts placed a political analysis of language between us as a form of self-covering. This analysis, however, also gestured toward new avenues of female communication, not least by problematizing the teacher-student relationship in light of feminist political concerns.

Many other texts received for the project required tactile involvement on mundane and interpretive levels, most of them being too large or unwieldy to fit into the essay boxes designated for assignments near the program's office, so having to be brought to me individually. I was forced to keep in touch with many of the texts myself, as, given their size, they needed to be strategically placed in my office where not only could they be seen and commented on by visitors, but also where they were frequently bumped into and moved to new positions by me in the course of my daily work. Sometimes this necessitated taking the work apart and putting it together again, as in the case of an installation or other construction of multiple parts, such as figure 3. These texts became works in constant progress and cocreation in the sense that I had to attend closely to their form, as well as spirit, on at least one occasion prior to grading, in order to later reconstruct them as I thought they had been made.

In the texts depicted in figures 4,5, and 6 touch is similarly integral to interpretation. The abstract accompanying the text pictured in figures 4 and 5 states that the outside of the work is to be looked at and touched--it articulates a bicultural spiritual journey--but the underside is to be touched only, with instructions not to look. Initially, the balloon that forms a kind of bladder fenced behind the crisscrossing string was large enough to press against the string and sit in dangerous proximity to the small tacks which protrude beneath the side of the pyramid that is covered with cotton wool. Reading the underside of the text is an experience in which feelings of fragility, vulnerability, and a related need for restraint which appeared to be common to many students' experience of making these texts for me to grade, are central. Touch is associated with the text's unconscious, its "feminine" side, where its motivating feelings exceed language and resist encapsulation by the eye. But resisting the prima cy of sight also makes possible a reversal of the pedagogical relationship, by ensuring that my reading takes place on a level where sensations riot and I must face my own feelings of uncertainty regarding meaning.

The text complicates, too, the discretionary privilege of whiteness--both the student's and my own--with regard to racially marked difference, because this student's identification with Maori culture was not readily legible through the color of her skin. The text, then, produces signs of racial difference on its outside (on its skin) as occlusive signifiers for the experience it represents, suggesting how race, so often naturalized as visibility within frameworks of white invisibility, for which it serves as a kind of symbolic anchor, is embodied through larger and yet more subtle networks of identification. (30)

Figure 6, also, was full of tactile significance. It consists of a jar of Crystal Rain (a product sold as plant food) into which I was required to put my hand in order to draw out a cling-film-wrapped package of small cards on which were listed the repetitive, domestic tasks the maker had to perform each day. The reader of the text was intended to feel on her flesh as well as to see with her eyes (by reading the cards) the sticky sensations and grueling labor of the "stuff" of maternal experience. The text, with its glass vessel containing the clear jellylike substance, which contains another clear substance (also "clingy"), itself enclosing the written forms of words, enacts a reversal of the terms of subjectivity, where the maternal body is left behind, the "dark continent" (in that telling phrase) par excellence, in order for the subject to be reborn into language. Here, maternity is represented as the container of language, yet the words it births appear as damaging to their maker when read, with their ph ysical correlative, within the everyday context of her life.

This text's use of multiple coverings (the jar, the Crystal Rain, the cling-film) that are both porous and stable, transparent and opaque, then, appears as an effort to open up the assignment discourse to some of its material contradictions. The text both surrenders and requires a surrendering of the boundaries of flesh, through articulating its subject matter--the visceral reality of (maternal) experience in its (lost) relation to language--on condition that the reader experiences the text bodily, through touch. It is in relation to this text, perhaps, that my own skills of reading reach their limits, because, although the very porousness the work seeks to explore, imbues, and conditions its representation, it also forces me, as reader, to confront abject experience. This student was aware that I do not have, nor desire to have, children, and that the worlds we inhabit are, for this and other reasons (but perhaps this most of all), substantially different. That the readings of this text proposed in earlier d rafts of this essay (largely dependent on Irigaray) read unconvincingly is not, I think, accidental and only serves to emphasize my need to create some distance, as authority and teacher, from the disturbing heterogeneity that is figured (in fact, rather as Irigaray has it) in the work. (31)

Finally, the texts pictured in figures 7 and 8 gesture simply toward coverings, with all the theatrical ambiguities that entails. There is an inside and an outside to each; the maker uses her text to explore spaces between her several selves: one more publicly evident, one hidden. Where does her real self lie? As one student's abstract states: "Every outward form of the self is a lie. You see what you want to see," and yet a text such as that portrayed in figure 7 exhibits what is normally, for this particular student, largely hidden in the academic context (her Polynesian heritage) as a rich resource grounding, in indisputable ways, the outward shape of her life. Its play with covering and exposure may also be read as a form of protection, a sign of difference or distinction marking her identity in its specificity from mine (visibly European and aligned, thus, with the academic institution) which yet engages and invites cross-cultural conversation.

Of the text depicted in the final image, its makers say: "The chain and padlock are symbolic, not of bondage, but of secrecy and a desire to protect the inner self from the outside world." Protection, then, in this context, is not the same as bondage. The coverings with which women temporarily house themselves when they make texts of their experience are as much about opening up spaces of exchange as they are about shielding oneself from violent consumption. The covering itself, in many cases, requires a gestural interaction which makes of the text an occasion of physical dialogue yet at the same time signs the body's function as screen in the field of representation, to hide and show, to represent self to world as a site of reimagining even as it is also the space of elusive vulnerability, possible violence, and pain.

Elsewhere, reflecting on the processes of construction of this text, one of its makers describes how she sees the experience used as its basis, after having had that conversation. She writes:

My identity was never prescribed to me by stereotypes of femininity, youth or heterosexuality. . . . Rather I found my identity in relative isolation, through literature, art, music, spiritual experience, in the lonely, the dark, the melancholy. Through these things I established my own way of saying, articulated most frequently through writing, and through silence. Through the process of creating my text I discovered these things. It never occurred to me at the time that I had a language of my own. Silence seemed like the antithesis of language. But through the process of looking at my experience, and presenting it in a physical way, I have become aware that my silence, my refusal to accept, is only the antithesis of the tradition of masculine conventions of language. My silence, my sickness, was my language, my defiance. Thus the process of creating my text didn't give me a language through which I could see myself. I already had that. Instead it made me aware that I have always had this language, and it ga ve me a means by which to share this language with others, "to touch with words."

It seems to me that this extract supports both Irigaray's call for the cultivation among women of "potential physical and imaginary forces" through which we might "give ourselves . . . forms . . . that allow us to respect ourselves, [and] the other" (32) and Felman's articulation of teaching as an encounter, like psychoanalysis, with crisis. It is through the process of "looking at [her] experience, and presenting it in a physical way" that this student discovers the existence of a cultural unconscious with which she has, all her life, been aligned: "I have become aware that my silence, my refusal to accept, is only the antithesis of the tradition of masculine conventions of language." The process of reflecting on her experience and turning it into text is, for this student, one in which language itself serves to realize another language beyond and within the conventional: "the process of creating my text didn't give me this language through which I could see myself. I already had that. Instead it made me awa re that I have always had this language, and it gave me a means by which to share this language with others."


Let's not talk about communication any more.

Muriel Rukeyser, "Parallel Invention," in The Collected Poems

In the closing pages of "Education and Crisis, or the Vicissitudes of Teaching," Shoshana Felman suggests that, at the end of the crisis-ridden twentieth century, "teaching... must...testify, make something happen, and not just transmit a passive knowledge, pass on information that is preconceived, substantified, believed to be known in advance." Felman observes that teaching, like psychoanalysis, has, "in fact, to live through a crisis" in which both teacher and student (or analyst and analysand) are implicated. This crisis renders each of them, in their respective positions, at a loss in the face of their lostness, the newly awakened knowledge of what has, unbeknownst to them, triggered and trailed their conversation, always just out of reach. Teacher and student, or partners in the analytic journey, may become aware that language, as symbolic, draws its life from elsewhere and can sometimes show this elsewhere even as it hides. "Both this kind of teaching and psychoanalysis," Felman writes, "are interested not merely in new information, but, primarily, in the capacity of their recipients to transform themselves in function of the newness of that information," to re-inhabit and invigorate language with the dynamic-newly realized and rediscovered-material of their lives. (33)

Much work that has gone on in feminist classrooms, as documented in the literature describing it, has similar concerns, and I would like, in closing, to draw together some key themes of this article in the form of a reflective response to writing in this field. Although Felman describes psychoanalysis, in educative terms, as "a pedagogical experience," which is at the same time "a critique of pedagogy" because it puts in question the conventional educative faith in perfectibility, (34) feminist pedagogical theory has, until quite recently, appeared at the site of an impasse, has, indeed, in my reading, served as impasse or conceptual limit masking how the unconscious, often appearing as a crisis moment or point of failure in the classroom, furthers the work of learning.

As a typical example of its kind, the conclusion of Kathleen Weiler's Women Teaching for Change: Gender, Class, and Power describes the work as an attempt "to explore the dynamics between the power of structural determinants and the consciousness of individuals who can become aware of those determinants, and thus attempt to change them."(35) Frances A. Maher and Mary Kay Thompson Tetreault, in their comprehensive survey of feminist pedagogical practices in U.S. colleges, go further to claim that "for us pedagogy means the entire process of creating knowledge, involving the innumerable ways in which students, teachers, and academic disciplines interact and redefine each other in the classroom, the educational institution, and the larger society." (36) Patti Lather, commenting on the work of Erica McWilliam, writes similarly of the role of "feminisms of difference" in making possible new kinds of teaching practice, achieved via "experimenting with our own meanings, practices, and confoundings":

Here, speaking from shifting subject positions and occupying zones of legitimacy only to dismantle them or exploit them as sites of intervention, McWilliam works within/against the dominant, contesting its borders, tracing complicity, moving into some place I am presently calling feminist efforts toward a doubled science, both science and not-science. To position one's work as both within the disciplinary discourse of the human sciences and as a wanderer outside of the science in which it purports to be is to capture the vitality of the deviations that elude taxonomies. The concept of a doubled science, then, gestures toward a proliferation of eccentric kinds of science, "as much nomadology as sociology," in addressing the question of practices of science within the context of post-foundational discourse theory. (37)

And yet by far most of the work to which Lather refers, here and elsewhere, (38) pays little heed to psychoanalysis, that most eccentric of all kinds of science, whose science is precisely the subversion of science as enlightenment and the work of science as reflexivity or "doubling." (39) This, to me, seems puzzling, and also goes some way toward explaining what I have found lacking, until quite recently, in so much writing in the field, (40) namely the way in which an underlying positivism focuses attention away from those moments when genuinely inexplicable kinds of classroom crisis loom. Lather describes McWilliam's analysis of teacher education policy as a "struggle over language" where language is "framed within broader networks of discursive practices-disciplinary; institutional, and societal," which make up the "contested political nature of educational work." (41) Although this view of language, and education, as the site of contestatory claims is itself incontestable-who these days would claim that education and language are not the site of competing meanings?-it also leaves something significant-I would venture so far as to say irreducible-aside.

A politicized teaching practice of any kind proceeds through a form of self-blindness because it discovers new modes of oppression only after the fact of an experience it was previously unable to explain. It is this experience of crisis as crisis on which I wish to refocus attention, not because I think it is more truthful than other educative moments but because, coming from outside available terms of reference, it has a unique power to renew practice, and because the unforeseen, confounding moment is the one thing that can be guaranteed to recur in quotidian teaching scenarios, whatever self-critical forms of conversation we employ. As Slavoj Zizek puts it: "[T]her is no freedom... without accepting some basic 'irreconcilability.' When you want to actualize your... project and you are confronted with some limit, disalienation does not consist in annihilating the limit, but in seeing how this limit is the positive condition of your very activity." (42)

I do not think that psychoanalysis, or indeed any critical/clinical method, can have the status of a metatext which holds the answers to difficulties that arise in a given classroom moment; however, I do think that it offers a way to inhabit different registers at once and so to interpret constructively, and not foreclose against, those times when a dynamic of aggression and anxiety, for instance, or vulnerability and privilege, appears to be the fundamental agent of classroom exchange. As Jacqueline Rose observes in another context, psychoanalysis has "much more to say about the problem of recognition," or encounter, "than about the eternal sameness of the self," (43) and for Felman its "pedagogical imperative" is "to learn from and through the insight which does not know its own meaning, from and through the knowledge which is not entirely in mastery-in possession-of itself." (44)

For my students, whether they knew it or not, feminism enabled the production of experience as text yet was felt by many to be inadequate to limit their sense of exposure to the teacher, so that, initially, I felt (over)charged with the task of their protection (my own youth and relative inexperience playing a part here, too, no doubt). This was an unsatisfactory scenario and registered to my students and myself, in different ways, as one of crisis. Yet the texts, arising from this crisis-laden space, or gap, where feminism as part-institution, part-internal dialogue, is at work and was experienced in this context as insufficient cover for personal expression, had consequently to explore the limits of self-covering and the limits of language, particularly where woman-to-woman conversation is concerned. (45)

If there is one thing that I hope my discussion of these texts will show it is that psychic experience is both produced and constrained at the site of the institution, however we read the term, and that it is also in such places that feminism as a political practice must confront where it is lacking and the (psycho)analytical work it has yet to do. It is at the site of institution that feminism is confronted with the specter of what it must lose if it is to translate its utopian impulses into recognizable social gains (which is another way of saying, growing up); but as my students knew, the terms by which to measure these cannot be given in advance, precisely because it is a transvaluation of existing terms of value that feminism seeks and, in the best of imagined futures, brings about.

Feminism, like any brand of politics, is a necessary fiction and needs to maintain credence as a discourse of equality--to work for an imaginary future or ego ideal, framed with reference to public discourse and institutions--while sustaining the conditions for dialogical inner space. A form of identity, or limit, is necessary to make that space, but as contemporary feminisms of difference have shown, partly through exploding the distinction "difference/norm," that identity, to be effective, must prove flexible enough to own its privilege as its lack. (46) Thus, it may be where feminism, or any politics of self-actualization, meets the public arena--in the academy, say--that to interrogate its identity seems most costly (indeed, the near-global nadir of the value of the term "feminism," especially for younger women, is an indication that a feminist identity crisis has been going on for some time). And yet I would argue that feminism, by definition, inhabits a space of representation that is both inside and ou tside institutions or symbolic frame-works-which is another way of saying it is representational--and that the cohabitative labor that is its metier is both its best protection and potentially greatest political gain. (47)

After reflecting on the work of production, submission, and grading of these texts, I conclude that they represent not only a crisis experience for my classroom, and different aspects of that experience are still coming into evidence through hindsight for me. They also represent a crisis for feminism regarding assimilation and public identity in tension with difference, where a white, middle-class, pre-Gen-X women's feminism is being forced to confront its representational limits and to allow that these limits may function like a screen as the means of simultaneous revelation (the chance to open up to difference, to expand) and protection (the need to bind the impact of change through performance, to wear authority in ways that make one and the viability of one's political project safe).

If there is anything to be gained from reflection on these works of self-representation, it is, I think, that our blind spots or crises, what we hide from ourselves as we reach for new insights, are not exclusive to the enlightenment, or opening up of established forms of knowledge that is at the heart of feminism's project, but are in fact its fuel, its future, and its source. That these blind spots show up in our field of vision in disguise is in their nature but significant: both feminism and the classroom are the site of masquerading, and whether arguing for "all women" or presenting scholarship as given, we cannot afford to ignore how what we think we're doing, at any given moment, is fed by and gives rise to something more. I have resisted, here, the impulse and injunction to delineate the forms that "something more" might take, partly because the question of feminism's current representation, in an imaginary and symbolic sense, is something that I think needs broader address, but also for another and p erhaps more heartfelt reason. Although the texts I've analyzed were engendered in my classroom, they taught me what I do not think grandiose to call a crucial truth: that the work of learning proceeds in ways which are, and remain productively, dispersed outside the concrete meeting space of the institution, whence they are also always returning, bodily, within the confines of its system (lectures, grades, and the work of idealization and anxiety they capture) to unsettle and renew its intellectual life.

I take comfort from Felman's articulation of teaching as a generative movement through crisis, and not just a form of crisis management, as I do too from Irigaray's remarking of gesture as that which gives form to the amorphous identity that hinders many women's self-expression. For Irigaray, if we are looking, in women's interactions with each other, for a story of their beginnings and their passage into habitation of the symbolic world, we will not find it articulated in the conventional linguistic media which render that narrative impossibly strange and situate women "too far out all [their lives]" from their maternal beginnings. (48) Language, in Irigaray's view, is premised on the exclusion of this tale, rendering it the substance of another's crisis, originary only in its status as lost. The gestural forms of exchanges between women, where a momentary space, or shelter, is fashioned in which a dynamic of self-interrogation may occur, are, for Irigaray, what we must pursue if we are to discover the condi tions of feminine specificity in the murky, offshore spaces of women's interactions with each other.

These communicative forms may also be seen as gestures of survival, as moves to distinguish oneself from the sea of femininity symbolically inhabited by women, where they are charged with safeguarding the remembered chaos of origin at the expense of their own relation toward identity and place. Like Felman's provocative description of teaching as a bringing to, and moving beyond, crisis, Irigaray's hope that women might attain, even temporarily, a "territory in difference," a "female shelter" (49) whence to set off again on new journeys, means that their gestures (that which ordinary language hides) must be given due attention as they pass. This attention would be like that practiced by the analyst, who listens for echoes of earlier stories forgotten by the subject but encaptured and labored over in the body, whose gestures, whether signifying waving or drowning (or both), are not expended in their meaning while the possibility of response and rescue remains.

Eluned Summers-Bremner is lecturer in women's studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She has published articles on psychoanalysis, crime fiction, teaching, and performance and is currently at work on two book-length projects: one on hysteria and seduction and the other on the changing relations between affect, the senses, private space, and memory in the performative lives of modem cities.


(1.) See Shoshana Felman, "Education and Crisis, or the Vicissitudes of Teaching," in Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, ed. Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub (New York: Routledge, 1992), 1-56.

(2.) See Sue Middleton and Eluned Summers-Bremner, "Feminist Pedagogy: A Conversation," in Feminist Thought in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Connections and Differences, ed. Rosemary Du Plessis and Lynne Alice (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998), 76-81; and Joan Scott, "Experience," in Feminists Theorize the Political, ed. Judith Butler and Joan Scott (New York: Routledge, 1992), 22-40.

(3.) See Patricia J. Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights (London: Virago, 1991), 99; Frances A. Maher and Mary Kay Thompson Tetreault, The Feminist Classroom: An Inside Look at How Professors and Students Are Transforming Higher Education for a Diverse Society (New York: HarperCollins/Basic Books, 1994), 3-4; and Patricia Gumport, "First Words, Still Words," in Learning from Our Lives: Women, Research, and Autobiography in Education, ed. Anna Neumann and Penelope L. Peterson (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997), 183-93.

(4.) During the four years in which I taught the class, only two men enrolled (in separate years), whereas female enrollments ranged from between twenty and forty students in each year. In other courses taught in the Women's Studies Program, male students constitute between 10 and 30 percent of enrollments, the low numbers in this course reflecting, I imagine, the sexual specificity of its title and content.

(5.) See Evelyn Fox Keller and Helene Moglen, "Competition and Feminism: Conflicts for Academic Women," Signs 12 (spring 1987): 493-511; and Jane Gallop, Marianne Hirsch, and Nancy K. Miller, "Criticizing Feminist Criticism," in Conflicts in Feminism, ed. Marianne Hirsch and Evelyn Fox Keller (New York: Routledge. 1990), 349-69.

(6.) Nonetheless, in "postfeminist" times (and I use the term ironically) that fiction serves good purpose, a key question, for feminism, being how to maintain viability or imaginary unity, on the one hand, and multifariousness, on the other, while at the same time managing its (re)production within the context of more established institutional regimes. See Teresa de Lauretis, "Eccentric Subjects: Feminist Theory and Historical Consciousness," Feminist Studies 16 (spring 1990): 115-50; Tania Modleski, Feminism without Women: Culture and Criticism in a "Postfeminist" Age (New York: Routledge, 1991); and Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 4.

(7.) See Sigmund Freud, "Beyond the Pleasure Principle," in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 18, ed. and trans. James Strachey (1920; London: Hogarth Press, 1955); also Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985), 53; Elisabeth Bronfen, "Death Drive (Freud)," in Feminism and Psychoanalysis: A Critical Dictionary, ed. Elizabeth Wright (Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 1992), 55-56; Shoshana Felman, What Does a Woman Want? Reading and Sexual Difference (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 156-57 n; and Margaret Whitford, "Irigaray, Utopia, and the Death Drive," in Engaging with Irigaray: Feminist Philosophy and Modern European Thought, ed. Carolyn Burke, Naomi Schor, and Margaret Whitford (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 379-400.

(8.) As I have argued elsewhere, Irigaray pursues a psychoanalytic understanding of subjectivity, where accession to language stops up other ways of saying and wanting and imposes upon us a language that always already belongs to someone else. She argues that women, however, are doubly alienated within the symbolic structures of Western culture: they are not only split subjects as male subjects are but also serve as visible signs of (maternal) loss, which it is also their task to conceal. See Luce Irigaray, "Divine Women," in Sexes and Genealogies, trans. Gillian C. Gill (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 57-72; Adam Phillips, Terrors and Experts (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), 4; and my "Reading Irigaray, Dancing," Hypatia 15 (winter 2000): 90-124.

(9.) See Luce Irigaray, "The Three Genres," 151, "Sexual Difference," 169-70, "Divine Women," 65, all in The Irigaray Reader, trans. David Macey, ed. Margaret Whitford (Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 1991).

(10.) Irigaray claims that, because women are often "unable to create their own words, [they] remain and move in an immediacy without any transitional, transactional object" between them. See "The Limits of the Transference," in The Irigaray Reader, 105; also Whitford, introduction to sections 1, 2, and 3 of The Irigaray Reader, 74.

(11.) In an essay discussing student-produced autobiographies that function as a means of accreditation for entry into higher education courses at North East London Polytechnic, Maggie Humm remarks that "women's autobiographies exploit a rhetoric of uncertainty about themselves and about the role of women, and record feelings not accomplishments." She also points out that the women's autobiographies differ from the men's in the way they organize their material, the women being inclined to "pursue an infinite variety of issues linked by place rather than thematisation." See Humm, 45; also Linda Anderson, "At the Threshold of the Self: Women and Autobiography," in Women's Writing: A Challenge to Theory, ed. Moira Monteith (Brighton, U.K.: Harvester Press, 1986), 60.

(12.) See Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, 53; also Whitford, introduction to The Irigaray Reader, 75; and Anna Neumann, "Ways without Words: Learning from Silence and Story in Post-Holocaust Lives," in Learning from Our Lives, 99-120.

(13.) In the context of Aotearoa/New Zealand, see Linda Tuhiwai Smith, "In Search of a Language and a Shareable Imaginative World: E Kore Taku Mole e Riro i a Koe," in Feminist Thought in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 99-103. Also Donna Matahaere-Atariki, who, after Gayatri Spivak, observes that Maori women academics too often serve the function of standing in for a greater loss of representation, so that "our visible presence enourages assumptions about our availability and knowledge to speak on any issue that Maori confront in their day-to-day lives." See Matahaere-Atariki, "At the Gates of the Knowledge Factory: Voice, Authenticity, and the Limits of Representation," in Feminist Thought in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 69.

(14.) I am indebted to Lee Wallace for this observation, made on encountering this text at one of the exhibitions of student work that was a yearly outcome of the course.

(15.) Relatedly, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, invoking Franz Fanon, describes a problematics of "ghosting" that informs how "invisible people learn to recognize each other" in the academy, and focuses specifically on acts of recognition between herself and Maori students in classrooms articulated in Maori terms, as "eyebrow contact" rather than in pakeha or European terms the more normalized direct engagement of the eyes. See Smith, 99-100.

(16.) Felman, "Education and Crisis," 24.

(17.) Paul Celan, "Bremen Speech," trans. John Felstiner, in "Translating Celan's Last Poem," in The American Poetry Review (July/August 1982): 23, cited in Felman, "Education and Crisis," 50-51.

(18.) Felman, "The Return of the Voice: Claude Lanzmann's Shoah," in Felman and Laub, Testimony, 231-32.

(19.) See Diana Fuss, "Inside/Out," in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed. Diana Fuss (New York: Routledge, 1991), 3, where Fuss describes the way in which the binary homosexuality/heterosexuality functions to render homosexuality as the internal exclusion which must declare or hide itself and heterosexuality visible and present as norm. The binary femininity/masculinity works in a similar way, as Jacqueline Rose, Elisabeth Bronfen, and numerous others have shown. See, for example, Toril Moi, "Language, Femininity, Revolution," in Psychoanalytic Criticism: A Reader, ed. Sue Vice (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 1996), 163.

(20.) Irigaray, "Sexual Difference," 196, 113. See also interview with Irigaray in Women Analyze Women in France, England, and the United States, ed. Elaine Hoffman Baruch and Lucienne J. Serrano (New York: New York University Press, 1988), 156-58; other works by Irigaray: "The Limits of the Transference," 107-12, "The Poverty of Psychoanalysis," trans. David Macey with Margaret Whitford, in The Irigaray Reader, 151-52, and An Ethics of Sexual Difference, trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993), 102-4; and Whitford, introduction, 73-74.

(21.) See Hortense J. Spillers (reflecting on psychoanalysis and the cultural performativities of speech and silence with regard to race), "All the Things You Could Be by Now, if Sigmund Freud's Wife Was Your Mother: Psychoanalysis and Race," in Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism, ed. Elizabeth Abel, Barbara Christian, and Helene Moglen (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 145. See also Kaja Silverman, The Threshold of the Visible World (New York: Routledge, 1996), 20-21.

(22.) Spillers, 145.

(23.) Felman, "Education and Crisis," 51.

(24.) Irigaray claims that language is sometimes felt to be an insufficient protection for women, particularly in exchanges between them. See Irigaray, "Limits of the Transference," 107, 111. Smith (98-99) observes that Maori students at the university learn "to write about Maori topics as if they themselves were not Maori. Conversely, however, the process of unlearning this language is extremely difficult because the positioning of Maori as 'they' has been the whole point of our colonising experience." See also David Marriott, "Bonding over Phobia," in The Psychoanalysis of Race, ed. Christopher Lane (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 417-30.

(25.) Phillips, Terrors and Experts, 16.

(26.) See Summers-Bremner.

(27.) See Luce Irigaray, "The Gesture in Psychoanalysis," trans. Elizabeth Guild, in Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis, ed. Teresa Brennan (London: Routledge, 1989), 127-38.

(28.) Elizabeth Grosz, "The Time of Violence: Deconstruction and Value," Cultural Values 2 (June, 1998): 200.

(29.) Felman, What Does a Woman Want? 10.

(30.) See Spillers, 137; also Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London: Routledge, 1993), 7-11; and Charles Shepherdson, "Human Diversity and the Sexual Relation," in The Psychoanalysis of Race, 41-64.

(31.) The response I have described was not unique to me. At the annual exhibition of student work that I curated for this course, most visitors responded to the "feel" of this text with reactions of revulsion and many chose not to interact with it at all. This, obviously, was part of the work's agenda and might be read as a sign of its success at conveying the liminality of maternal experience, existing within and without representation.

(32.) Irigaray, "Women-amongst-Themselves: Creating a Woman-to-Woman Sociality," trans. David Macey, in The Irigaray Reader, 196.

(33.) Felman, "Education and Crisis," 53.

(34.) Shoshana Felman, Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), 76, 71.

(35.) Kathleen Weiler, Women Teaching for Change: Gender, Class, and Power (South Hadley, Mass: Bergin & Garvey, 1988), 147.

(36.) Maher and Tetreault, 57. The authors go on to note the "nonrational aspects of knowing," what one of the teachers surveyed, Laurie Finke, actually calls "the pedagogical unconscious." See her "Knowledge as Bait: Feminism, Voice, and the Pedagogical Unconscious," in Learning Desire: Perspectives on Pedagogy, Culture, and the Unsaid, ed. Sharon Todd (London: Routledge, 1997), 117-39.

(37.) Patrick Brantlinger and Donald Ulin, "Policing Nomads: Discourse and Social Control in Early Victorian England," Cultural Critique 25 (fall 1993): 33-64, cited in Patti Lather, foreword to Erica McWilliam, In Broken Images: Feminist Tales for a Different Teacher Education (New York: Teachers College Press, 1994), x-xi.

(38.) Patricia Ann Lather, Getting Smart: Feminist Research and Pedagogy with/in the Postmodern (New York: Routledge, 1991).

(39.) "In psychoanalytic thought," as Stephen Frosh observes, "the unconscious is not an object to be observed: its dynamism includes its power to disrupt all claims to coherence and rationality, including those of science, by irrational and emotive impulses." See his "Psychoanalysis, Science, and 'Truth,'" in Freud 2000, ed. Anthony Elliott (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998), 13.

(40.) For scholarship that actively seeks to bridge the chasm between psychoanalytically informed analyses of classroom practice and the more established social science vein of research, see Elizabeth Ellsworth, Teaching Positions: Difference, Pedagogy, and the Power of Address (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997); the collection edited by Sharon Todd cited above, which contains Felman's chapter on teaching and transference; and Derek Briton, "Learning the Subject of Desire," in Learning Desire, 45-72. Todd's own paper on "the gesture in psychoanalysis" and the classroom came to my attention after I had written this one, and our foci and allegiances are rather different. See Sharon Todd, "Looking at Pedagogy in 3-D: Thinking Difference, Disparity, and Desire," in Learning Desire, 237-60.

(41.) Lather, foreword to McWilliam, x.

(42.) Slavoj Zizek and Renata Salecl, "Lacan in Slovenia," interview with Peter Osborne in A Critical Sense: Interviews with Intellectuals (London: Routledge, 1996), 25. See also Felman, What Does a Woman Want? 71.

(43.) Jacqueline Rose, States of Fantasy (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1996), 149 (emphasis added).

(44.) Felman, Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight, 96. See also Ellsworth, 193.

(45.) As numerous writers on feminist pedagogy have observed, many feminist classrooms pursue a process of "unmastering" pedagogical material, fostering dialogue as a means to destabilize conventional forms of knowledge and forge new speaking positions for the historically marginalized. See Maher and Tetreault, 57; also Lather, Getting Smart; Kate McKenna, "Subjects of Discourse: Learning the Language That Counts," in Unsettling Relations: The University as a Site of Feminist Struggles, ed. Himani Bannerji et al. (Boston: South End Press, 1991), 109-28; and bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (New York: Routledge, 1994).

(46.) See Hazel V. Carby, "The Multicultural Wars," in Black Popular Culture: A Project by Michele Wallace, ed. Gina Dent (Seattle: Bay Press, 1992), 192-93; also bell hooks, Ain't la Woman? Black Women and Feminism (Boston: South End Press, 1981), and Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black (Boston: South End Press, 1989); Chandra Talpade Mohanty, "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses," in Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, ed. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ann Russo, and Lorraine Torres (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 51-80; Cynthia Johnson-Roullier, "The Singularity of Multiplicity: Feminism and the Pitfalls of Valorization," in Feminism beside Itself, ed. Diana Elam and Robyn Wiegman (New York: Routledge, 1995), 179-96; Sara Ahmed, Differences That Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 56-58; Lynne Alice and Friends, "Bodies, Sexualities, and Identities: A Conversation,". 138-46; Matahaere-A tariki, 68-75; Patricia Maringi G. Johnston, "Maori Women and the Politics of Theorizing Difference," 29-36, all in Feminist Thought in Aotearoa/New Zealand; and others in the same volume.

(47.) See Michael Payne and Maire Jaanus, "Interview with Jacqueline Rose," in Why War? Psychoanalysis, Politics, and the Return to Melanie Klein (Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 1993), 41-86; Diane Elam and Robin Wiegman, "Contingencies," 3-5; and Valeria Wagner, "In the Name of Feminism," 119-30, both in Feminism beside Itself.

(48.) Irigaray, "Poverty of Psychoanalysis," 135, and "The Bodily Encounter with the Mother," trans. David Macey, in The Irigaray Reader, 39-41.

(49.) Irigaray, "Women-amongst-Themselves," 196.
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Author:Summers-Bremner, Eluned
Publication:Feminist Studies
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Sep 22, 2001
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