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1354232

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Feminism, Postmodernism, and Style: Recent Feminist Criticism in the United StatesAuthor(s): Toril MoiReviewed work(s):Source:
Cultural Critique,
No. 9 (Spring, 1988), pp. 3-22Published by:
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Feminism,Postmodernism,andStyle:RecentFeministCriticismin the United StatesTorilMoi
ntheUnitedStates,mybook Sexual/Textualolitics'has been criti-cizedontwomajoraccounts.First,ithas been accused ofsimplyidentifyingwith "French"positionsinorderto hammertraditionalAmerican feministcriticism.Inmy opinionsuchcriticismstendtooverlookmyown materialist feministposition,influencedbytheBrit-ish "New Left"tradition,which structuresmy critiqueofbothcamps.ButI have alsobeentaken to task forsimplyleavingoutFrench-in-spiredAmerican feminism. NowIcan atleastmakeupfor this omis-sionby criticizingthat too.Moreseriously:inthispaperIwantto discuss some of theprob-lems raisedbyrecentFrench-inspiredAmericanfeministtheoryandcriticism.Ihave chosen toorganize myarguments mainlyaround twofeministtexts,bothpublishedin1985:first,apioneeringbookwhichexplorestheuneasyrelationshipbetweenpostmodernismand femi-nism,AliceJardine'sGynesis:ConfigurationsfWoman ndModernity,2nd
1.TorilMoi,Sexual/Textualolitics: eministLiteraryheoryLondon:Methuen,1985).2.AliceJardine,Gynesis:ConfigurationsfWomanndModernityIthaca:CornellUni-versityPress,1985).Subsequentreferences willappearinthetext.
?1988byCulturalCritique.882-4371(Spring1988).Allrightsreserved.
3
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4 TorilMoithen a brilliant andsubtleeffort toclaimLacanianstyleforfeminism,JaneGallop'sReadingLacan.3Beforeturningto thesetexts, however,I would like to makethepo-sitionfromwhichIspeaksomewhat moreexplicit.I do notsimplyspeakfroma"European"or"British,"asopposedto an"American,"position;Ialsospeakoutofa current ofsocialistfeminismwhichinEurope,orat leastin Britainand Scandinaviawhere I live andwork,ismuchmoremainstream thanintheU.S.I think it iscorrecttosaythatsincethe1960s,socialist feminisminitsvarious formshasbeen thedominantrendin British andScandinavianfeminism,bothinsideandoutside academic institutions.WhenaddressingaU.S.audience,then,Iseemy attempttoassess recent trendsinU.S.feministtheoryasthemost valuable contributionIcanmake towards thedevelopmentof afeministdialogueacross narrow nationalpreoccupations. Drawingonrecognizably"British"readingsofrecentFrenchtheoriesinordertoquestioncurrent"American"readingsoftheverysamematerial willfurtherhelpto illuminate and enact thedifferences betweenus.Thisisnot,ofcourse,toadvocate somekind ofcomfortable culturalrelativ-ismor toreducemyownviewsto anunsurprisingreflectionofmyown culturalbackground:Ifirmlybelievethat somepositionsare notonlypreferablebutsimplymore rational thanothers.Ingeneral,Iwould characterizemy project,bothhereandinSexualTextualolitics,asan efforttoargueforapoliticizednderstandingoffeminism,asop-posedtoadepoliticizedne.Myaim, then,isnot first andforemost todemonstratemydifference,but toconvince.At firstglance,feminism andpostmodernismwouldseem to bestrangebedfellowsindeed. Ifpostmodernism,atleastinLyotard'ssense of theterm,4seesallmetanarratives,ncludingfeminism,as re-pressiveenactments ofmetaphysicalauthority,what then canitmeantodeclareoneselfafeministpostmodernistor,perhapsmoreaccurate-ly,apostmoderfeminist?Doesitmeananythingat all? Ioncesaw alargepieceofgraffitiintheladies' room inmyOxfordlibrary.It sim-plyread,"Catholic feminists." Afewdayslater adifferent handhad
3.JaneGallop, ReadingLacan(Ithaca:ConellUniversityPress,1985).Subsequentreferences willappearinthe text.4.Jean-Francois Lyotard,LaconditionpostmoderneParis:Minuit,1979).TranslatedbyGeoffBenningtonandBrian MassumiasThePostmodernondition:ReportnKnowledge,forewordbyFredricJameson(Manchester:ManchesterUniversityPress,1984).
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