Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pythias Influencing Discourse

Long before George Lakoff's "embodied mind" was Robin Tolmach Lakoff's "third wave feminist linguistics." And long before that were the Gestalt psychologists with their "put together, figure and ground." But long before that was Phythias's "woman's discourse."

Nancy Mairs in Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer reminds us:

[The dominant, objectivist, Aristotelian discourse is not] women’s language, since women, for a variety of reasons, live in a polymorphic rather than a dimorphic world, a world in which the differentiation of self from other may never completely take place, in which multiple selves may engage multiply with the multiple desires of the creatures in it. Some theorists would claim that all subjects function thus. But as Julia Kristeva points out, female subjectivity, traditionally linked to cyclical and monumental time rather than to linear time, lies outside “language considered as the enunciation of sentences (noun + verb, topic – comment, beginning – ending).” Possessing an “irreducible identity, without equal in the opposite sex and, as such, exploded, plural, fluid,” a woman may be driven “to break the code, to shatter language, to find a specific discourse closer to the body and the emotions, to the unnamable repressed by the social contract.”

The difference that emerges here is not the polarity intrinsic in the dominant discourse, which reduces “woman to man’s opposite, his other, the negative of the positive.” No, this is an absolute and radical alterity that enfolds the other, as in pregnancy a woman’s immune system shuts down in such a way that she shelters and nourishes, rather than rejects and expels, the foreign body within her: “Cells fuse, split, and proliferate; volumes grow, tissues stretch, and body fluids change rhythm, speeding up or slowing down. Within the body, growing as a graft, indomitable, there is an other. And no one is present, within that simultaneously dual and alien space, to signify what is going on.” Feminine discourse is not the language of opposites but a babel of eroticism, attachment, and empathy. (40-42)

Here's how Aristotle struggled with a poetic riddle in the Rhetoric. (He struggles with the same in the Poetics). And here's how Pythias reads that (with a few traditional English translations -- dominant discourse translations -- following).

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