Journal of Literature & Theology, Vol 8 No 3, September 1994

Graham Ward
Introduction: The Problem

by outlining a problematic; a problematic which I believe is going to dominate theological thinking throughout the Anglican Communion and the English-speaking world. For with the recent ordination of women as priests by the Anglican Church the clamour will increase for the use in liturgy, theological writing and translations of the Scriptures of an inclusive language which "makes women visible". In fact, Making Women Visible (1989) was the title of an attempt by the Church of England Liturgical Commission to address and redress the problem of gender-bias in collects and prayers. This sensitivity to exclusive language continued in the two new sets of liturgies published in 1990 for experimentation in the parish church:

Patterns for Worship and The Promise of His Glory. Making women visible will

demand new theologies of woman. More generally, it will demand new theologies and ethics of personhood. It is not simply liturgies and theologies which will be under pressure to change. Our readings and translations of the Bible will have to change. We are informed by the introduction to the New Revised Standard Version (1989) that the policy of the translators (many of them women) was that "in reference to men and women, masculineorientated language should be eliminated as far as can be done without altering passages that reflect the historical situation". What this elimination means, in terms of a praxis, is the changing of the generic 'man' to 'people' or 'neighbours', 'sons' to 'sons and daughters' or 'children', 'forebears' for 'fathers' etc.. Hence we arrive at a definition of 'inclusive language' as "a deliberate avoid the use of apparently male terms for both genders, ie., to avoid language that 'excludes' women".1 Aside from my concern with the adjective 'apparently', inclusive language here is being defined negatively—in terms of avoidance—rather than positively—in terms of an enrichment. What follows is not a debunking of this attempt to render language 'inclusive'. Rather, it is an examination of the nature and operation of discourse as it is presupposed by those attempting to develop an inclusive language. I wish to challenge the model of language understood in this scissors and paste approach to texts, by problematizing the relation between sexuality and language, desire and signification. I wish to do this by conOxford Univernty Press 1994



fronting these attempts at an inclusive language with statements about the nature of symbolic representations, male and female imaginaries, made by Luce Ingaray. This statement comes from an essay included in her volume Parler n'est
jamais neutre (1985), [Speaking is Never Neutral /Neuter]. She is addressing a

group of Lacanian psychoanalysts. "Gendemen, psychoanalysts...Why only 'gendemen'? Addmg 'ladies', as is the custom nowadays, would not change anything: in language [langue], the masculine noun always governs the agreement. The subject always speaks in the same gender...The phallus—indeed, the Phallus—is the emblem, the signifier and the product of a single sex".2 There are, of course, certain differences here between the English and the French language. The use of the pronoun 'diey' to which Irigaray is referring here can, in English, signify men, women, or any combination of men and women. In French the masculine 'ils' is always used with reference to groups unless the group is specifically feminine. For Irigaray, this use of 'ils' with reference to collections of people is symptomatic of a more profound betrayal. For she proposes diat such uses of 'ils' are evidence that culture itself is monological. It is, on the whole, the product of the male imaginary. Irigaray, then, drives the nail of her argument through the domination of male symbolic consciousness tout court. The empire of die Phallus has reigned co-extensively with patriarchal power. It has informed the imaginary or die symbolic from "die dawn of our logic era". From classical culture on "die values which subtend its articulation and deployment are isomorphic with die male imaginary".3 Furthermore, to reduce "the challenge to phallic domination to anatomico-physiological criteria betrays a wilful ignorance, to say die least, a refusal to interpret this domination as determining, through the order of language it governs and which sustains it, all your systems of representation, a resistance to questioning your perception of male-female difference, a difference, as you see it, widiin a single discourse which rmsrecognises its sexual determinations".'4 These statements by Irigaray problematise the current procedure for creating an inclusive language. The differences between the nature of language as it is understood by Ingaray and the nature of language as it is understood by those concerned to make language inclusive are threefold. First, inclusive language as it is currendy practised views nouns (or pronouns) as regulating language. The fundamental syntax of an exclusive or an inclusive language remains the same; only sexually identifying labels require adjustment. The question arises whedier the masculine orientation of language really only does adhere to certain forms of naming. Whedier it does not also mclude or affect conjunctions, prepositions, verbs, syntax - representation itself, reality itself. Might it not be that language itself (Saussure's and Irigaray's langue5) has a masculine orientation? That the very subject-object division at



the basis of Indo-European syntax is a masculine form of mimesis; that is, the way men define their world, their place and their activity within that world? This is Irigaray's starting point. It is not enough to observe, as Virginia Woolf once observed, that "a woman must make for herself, altering and adapting the current [male] sentence until she writes one that takes the natural shape of her thought".6 For Irigaray, all representation is male and "woman does not have access to language, except through recourse to 'masculine' systems of representation".7 We will develop this further. For the moment, I merely wish to posit the abyssal difference between altering, adapting or adding feminine names to the masculine and the recognition that there is "a different mode of articulation between masculine and feminine desire and language".8 This leads me to the second major difference between these approaches to language. The practice of inclusive language, the very belief that such a language is available, requires the forgetting of sexual difference. Language operates as a tertium quid between male and female names. It embraces both the male and the female and therefore it includes them both. The writers of Making Women Visible were aware that the effect of a language equally applicable to either sex "can be to obscure rather than increase the visibility of women." But their focus upon the relation between visibility and language, that only what is named can be seen, prevents them from examining their own presuppositions about language. Let me give an example here. In Luke's Magnificat Mary makes reference to "the promise he made to our fathers" (1:72). The Greek is unequivocally masculine, pateras, but it is suggested that we could translate that term 'inclusively' as 'forebears'. But by doing just that not only has Luke's metonymy been vapounzed and likewise the sociohistoncal specificity within which 'fathers' is meaningful. More significantly, the noun is rendered inclusive by dissolving its sexuality. One of the major criticisms of so-called inclusive language, made by rear-guard traditionalists, is that it is stylistically bland. Of course, such criticisms imply standards of style established by some independent authority and they would need to argue for what that authority is. But perhaps what is being registered in a word like 'bland' is the asexuality of the language which is being assumed. By balancing or equalizing or dissolving sexuality we are not establishing an inclusive language; we are attempting to establish a language which excludes both men and woman and create an androgenous Esperanto. Derrida issues a timely warning here: "a classical ruse of man [is] to neutralize the sexual mark...So, to the extent which universahzation implies neutralization, you can be sure that it's only a hidden way of confirming man in his power. That's why we have to be very cautious about neutrality and neutralization, and universality as neutralization".9 What Ingaray is attempting to do, on the other hand, is identify, by questioning the phallocentnc structure of



discourse, the sexuation of language. "I want to show that the generation of messages is not neutral, but sexuate."10 Messages are 'generated' by sexually distinctive imaginaries. They are not simply composed of linguistic markers independent of the message. As we will see, what is generated by these distinctive imaginaries does not preclude the possibility of an inclusive language. Irigaray, whose thinking is indebted to Julia Kristeva's notion of the chora and Levinas's dialogicalism, describes the possibility of an inclusive language. It is a possibility founded upon a theological horizon, a "sensible transcendental arriving through us, of which we would be the mediators and the bridges."11 The I and the Thou, like the two angels on either side of the ark of the covenant, present the invisible God between them, the God who constitutes the place where the 'we' can meet.12 We will return to this theological horizon for the possibility of an inclusive language, later. The third and final difference between these two approaches to language, lies in the presupposition by promoters of inclusive language that reason is always able to distinguish, identify and define, and language is always concurrently able to represent such a process. The praxis of inclusive language at the moment assumes that language functions as the objective, non-sexual representation of stable identities. It identifies the world and all that lies therein—male and female. It communicates these identities and no one need to be in any doubt about them. In other words, the model of language being employed here is that derived from communication theory. There is an addresser, who gives an address, which is received by an addressee. Language is an objective vehicle for the communication of meaning. It does not construct our world; it does not construct our (sexuate) identities. It serenely, objectively, neutrally, conveys what is. It may be owned by a subject who speaks and that subject (if he is male and an exclusivist) may distort his communication by emphasizing his own masculine orientation. But language in and of itself transcends this masculine orientation and, by a little adroit linguistic engineering, the 'message' or 'meaning' can be released from its male distortions and be made inclusive. Language is viewed as the mechanics of meaning or the production and exchange of symbols. There is no room for metaphorical ambiguity or density in such a language. No room for Bachelardian reverie, which attempts to recover in words the dreams they have gathered about them.13 There is only metonymic contrnguity. Ingaray, like Kristeva, views language as a process and meaning is always multi-layered. In questioning the male systems of representation, she questions the stability of representation itself. She questions our understandings of space and time, by referring both spatiality and temporality as it is understood at present to the male imaginary. She draws attention to what is repressed, elided, forgotten and made illogical in male systems of representation in order for the exchange of symbols, the mechanism of language, to operate. She



emphasizes the male inability to question their representations. Employing a Freudian idiom, she speaks of that which has been "censured by the logic of consciousness".14 In identifying a distinct feminine language, she writes that "when one starts from the 'two lips' of the female sex, the dominant discourse finds itself baffled: there can no longer be a unity in the subject, for instance. There will always be a plurality in feminine language...[A]t each moment there is always 'at least two' meanings, without being able to decide which meaning prevails...[A] feminine language would undo the unique meaning, the proper meaning of words, of nouns: which still regulates all discourse".15 We will need to examine this more closely. Currently, then, the notion of 'inclusive language' is naively construed and employed. And the consequence of this is not just an intimation of blandness, of sexual indifference. The more profound consequence is that women are made visible still only within a male economy. They are not made visible in and of themselves. In and of themselves, Ingaray would argue, women remain silent, invisible and undefined. Inclusive language as it is practised at the moment only makes them visible in terms of men. At best, this is a patronizing gesture. At worst, it is a deception—a holographic inclusion. As Ingaray has written, "Such collusion with phallocentrism only serves to confirm its power".16 What this implies for theology, if I understand Irigaray correctly, is that we are far from appreciating what an inclusive language would look like. We are still far from actually having a theology of woman, nevermind, a feminist theology. For until the female imaginary is given expression, and hence an alternative mode of space, time and representation emerges, then theologically we are still working within the purview of a God made in the image of men, by men, for men and a salvation understood in terms of the redemption of men by a man. Irigaray writes that "We lack, we women with a sex of our own, a God m which to share, a world/language to share and become."17 Theologically, we are still chasing a Word, interpreting a tradition and employing a language which remain exclusively phallocentric. A new, sexuate Logos must be proposed. For the moment it is important to understand that this raises the fundamental question 'What is salvation for a woman?' In a recent interview, Irigaray stated that "The God of men requires the maintenance of grammatical rules; the God of woman, or their divinities, singular or plural, requires change in the linguistic code."18 The male 'God' remains the God of the metaphysicians on this reading, which is reductive, but nevertheless the statement questions what 'God' is for a woman. As a man, and therefore perhaps speaking from within a male imaginary, I cannot answer the question, but certainly a male understanding of God and the economy of salvation must be affected by the possibilities of an altogether different account of both God and salvation for a woman as conceived by a woman. Hence, as I suggested at the beginning,



we stand at the threshhold of new anthropologies, new constructions of the male and the female subject and, therefore, new theologies of being human, of being sexually distinctive and new models of God. As for the pursuit of an inclusive language, we must begin again, and on an altogether different basis. We cannot take any short cuts, we must think language through to its very roots; its sexual roots. Concomitant with an investigation into the intimacy of sexuality and signification, must be an analysis of the stability of texts themselves. That is, we will have to examine the nature of the text as an object, because Christian theology takes the Scriptural texts as one of its starting points. Furthermore, Christian theology takes the works of seminal theological figures, and of liturgies and creeds as its resource material. A recognition of the sexuality of language requires, concurrently, a recognition of the sexuality of interpretation and reading. For a discussion about inclusive language is not simply a discussion about the constitution of language; it is also a discussion about how we read or interpret language, how we recognise and evaluate that constitution. These are two related, but distinct questions.
Language and Sexuality

Having outlined the problem and drawn out some of the questions which need addressing, we need to move towards a more adequate model for an inclusive language. We must begin by realising that any discussion about inclusive language is a discussion about the sexuahzation of discourse. Just as theologically any discussion about the inclusivity of the Word and the inclusively of redemption, must be a discussion about the sexuality of the Word and the sexuality of redemption. I wish to argue strongly that the Christian understanding of inclusive language must both issue from and bear witness to a Christian understanding of the sexually inclusive nature of the Word. This realisation in turn demands a recognition of sexual difference and the manifestation of sexual difference in language, and that is where we shall begin. Before we can proceed to argue this we need to clarify what is the sexual structure of language as it is currendy perceived. Furthermore, this sexual structure must be related to other kinds of structures found in language. The economy of desire is then understood as it adheres to the economy of signification or how signs function. In this century, it is the work of the Swiss philologist, Ferdinand Saussure which initiated a systematic investigation into the nature and operation of signs. In Saussure's influential discussion the structure of discourse, or particular instances of language use, is constituted by two axes both autonomous and interdependent. There is the diachronic level upon which discourse functions. This is the movement in time and history along a chain of signifying



elements, a chain of signs, whereby a language develops. Diachronic linguistics concerns le parole—or utterance—its elements, the signs, and the way one sign replaces another in an endless sequence. There is also a synchronic level upon which discourse functions. This is the timeless, abstract system of language (la langue) amenable to scientific study. It corresponds to an axis of simultaneity where certain general laws are perceived. It is concerned with grammar and logic. Saussure's work was taken up by E. Benveniste, R. Barthes and R. Jakobson, among others. It is Jakobson who provides an important link between Saussure and Lacan. Though Jakobson was not as convinced as Saussure was that the nature of the sign was arbitrary (see his important essay 'Quest for the Essence of Language'), he agreed that discourse developed along two different semantic lines. He too characterizes these lines in terms of contiguity and simultaneity, but he calls the two axes metonymy (which operates diachronically) and metaphor (which operates synchronically). He gives them the names of these tropes, because these tropes are condensed forms of the operations themselves. For Jakobson every symbolic process is located within the autonomy and interdependence of these two axes, though certain symbolic forms give more emphasis to one than the other. Hence the metaphonc axis is more prevalent in lyric poetry and the metonymic in prose and realistic fiction. Saussure and Jakobson provide influential investigations into the structure of signification. We need to examine where this structure encounters the nature of sexual desire. It is precisely in the work of Luce Ingaray and Julia Kristeva that this examination takes place. What is common to the thinking of both women is an attempt to wrestle with the relationship between sexuality and representation. And both women clarify that relationship in terms of a correlation between psychoanalysis and linguistics. For both women, then, the work of Jacques Lacan maintains a critical position in their thinking. For it is Lacan, reinscribing Freud, who makes the claim that "what the psychoanalytic experience discovers in the unconscious is the whole structure of language".19 And it is Lacan who, in his essay 'The Signification of the Phallus', relates signification, sexual identity and desire: "The phallus is the privileged signifier of that mark in which the role of the logos is jomed with the advent of desire".20 Let me briefly unfold the logic of this gnomic phrase. Freud came to understand the morphology of sexual identity as related to the threat of castration on the part of the boy and penis envy on the part of the girl. Sexual identity is linked then to a perception of the biological presence or absence of the penis. The boy's maleness is defined by his desire for the mother (the Oedipus complex) and by the dissolution of this desire in a castration complex (where such desire is forbidden). His desire finds other



female substitutes. The girl, meanwhile, sees that she has no penis, desires it and so transfers her desire for the mother into a desire for the father who has the phallus. Lacan takes up this morphology but reinterprets it on the basis of a stage which precedes the morphology of sexual identity: the mirror stage. In the mirror the child first comes to recognise what is other, what is separate and reduplicated, what is its T. But it is an T which is alientated. It has an identity—for the fragmentation and amorphousness of the body crystalizes into one image—but diis image is outside and therefore not identical with the self. It is a constituted identity—constituted by the mirror and, subsequendy, by language. As Lacan puts it, this Gestalt "situates the agency of die a fictional direction."21 With the mirror stage, as Lacan realised, we are at the very "junction of nature and culture."22 From this point onwards the T can only identify itself through language or symbolic construction. This language, like identity itself, is split. It expresses both a desire issuing from what is lost, other and unavailable (primary identification) and it substitutes for and perpetuates that loss in an unending chain of signifiers. All identity, including the sexual identity of male and female, is symbolic. It is neither biologically or sociologically determined. The desire for die stability of identity, Lacan reads as the desire for the Phallus, the mastersignifier. Hence die entry into the symbolic in the mirror stage is understood as the splitting of the mother-child dyad by a third term, the father. The law of die father is die law of identity. He is die Other which invokes desire to signify. But since this identity and Odier is a fiction, desire is empty of content though it constitutes and fosters entry into the symbolic, the employment of signifiers. The law of die fadier announces die rigid distinction between 'male' and 'female', but there is always the knowledge that die Name, the controlling Logos, is an illusion (this is Lacan's reading of the castration complex). The law of die father is both necessary and empty. Language, dierefore, is die very structure of desire in which loss circulates. It is the "other-scene" where the unconscious law of the father is heard to speak. It is the effects of that unconscious "discovered at the level of the chain of materially unstable elements diat constitutes language: effects determined by the double play of combination and substitution in die signifier, according to the two elements diat generate the signified, metonymy and metaphor."23 What Lacan is domg here, and he makes it explicit in his long essay 'Function and Field of Speech and Language', is correlating Saussure's language/speech (la langue/k parole) division for linguistic structure, Jakobson's metonymy/metaphor division, and die two mechanisms (combination or condensation and substitution or displacement) discovered to be involved by Freud in dreams. Metonymy, language (la langue) and the operation of



displacement in the unconscious are indivisible for Lacan. Metonymy establishes the chain of signifiers that is inseparable from the "eternally stretching forth towards desire for something ebe."2A Metaphor, speech and condensation are also indivisible. They constitute the cry of the symptom with which the analysis has to do. The ontological identity of these correlations is summed up in Lacan's insistance that "the symptom is a metaphor whether one likes it or not, as desire is a metonymy".25 The Word, therefore, is always the Word of the father and Lacan reinscribes here a classical metaphysic: "The function of the phallic signrfier touches here on its most profound relation: that in which the Ancients embodied the Nous and the Logos."26 So, although the Word is always absent and lost, like the phallus of Osins, Lacan's understanding of language and sexual identity remains phallocentric. Incarnation is only ever masculine (although masculinity is not a stable identity). The implications of this for feminism have been at the centre of much recent debate.27 The question remains whether women have any desire of their own, a desire not determined by the phallus (whether real or symbolic). It is Irigaray who most deeply challenges, not the sexuality of language, but Lacan's homosexuality of language. And she does this m two major ways. First, by returning to the accounts of the Oedipal stage and recovering the repressed woman to be found there, the repressed female desire. Secondly, by presenting a critique of Lacan's structuralism; a deconstruction of Lacan's alleged metaphysics. We must not underestimate how profound Irigaray's thinking is—it is nothing more or less than a calling into question of epistemology as it has been so far conceived. We will have to look more closely at this later, in analysing the importance for Irigaray of the body of the text and the metonymic. But we can have some insight into the depth and sophistication of the challenge she poses by comparing her work with that of Dale Spender. For Dale Spender, in her 1980 book Man Made Language, also draws attention to how "Language is not neutral. It is not merely a vehicle which carries ideas. It is itself a shaper of ideas, it is the programme for mental activity".28 'Neutral' here means politically neutral, not sexually neutered. Irigaray's French neutre can mean both. Building upon the work in comparative linguistics of Sapir and Whorf—who in turn built upon the work of Humboldt and Cassirer—Spender outlines how it is men who have constructed reality and knowledge. But while criticizing male-orientated representation, she does not question representation itself; she does not question the existence, or the sexuality, of the subject of the transcendental reasoning. Irigaray's work is far more philosophically sophisticated because she does question whether women have an I at all; whether this transcendental ego, and therefore the world it constructs, is not the product of the male imaginary.



She narrates a story of the complicity between the history of metaphysics and a blindness to womanhood. She scours the surface of male representations, of male considerations of the nature of representation itself. Her cntique of philosophical thinking from Plato to Hegel in Speculum of the Other Woman points up the questions not raised, but secreted about the body of the male text: the real other, the forgotten body of the woman. From this she constructs the possibility of an alternative epistemology, an epistemology not-yet heard or written which reinscnbes the body, the sensible which the male imaginary has eclipsed in its emphasis upon the symbolic, the rational, the metaphysical. She develops, through the aponas of male reasoning, an unthought of other, a feminine form of 'representation' or re-presentation (which may not represent at all, since all our understandings of representation are male constructs for controlling the world). Ingaray proposes a female thinking, a female 'syntax' irreducible "by the standard of representation, or re-presentation."29 Ingaray proposes, as the other of phallocentnsm, a Word of the Mother M She wishes to speak "in the name of another objectahty."31 Let me briefly sketch the challenge Irigaray's work proposes, for it is fundamental if we are to understand not only the sexuahty of language or the sexualities of language, but the complicity of man-made language with our models of representation and knowledge. The question Ingaray thrusts into Freud's psychoanalytic system is simply "Does the little girl, the woman, really have 'penis-envy' in the sense that Freud gives to that expression...? This assumption, in fact, governs everything said now and later about female sexuahty".32 Her answer is not a simple no. She is not, I believe, attempting to outline a new psychoanalytical model for the morphology of female sexuahty. Nor does she wish to reduce sexuahty to genitality. Rather, she submits the accounts of the castration complex by Freud and Lacan to a psychoanalysis, pointing out what remains mainly repressed in the accounts; pointing out how there is no construction of a genuinely female sexuahty and a female desire. She does not refute Freud but she unfurls in her characterization of the castration complex the male onentation and the sociohistorical conditioning of his thinking. It is an onentation and a conditioning implicated in the Western metaphysical tradition itself and in all forms of that tradition's reflections upon representation. Freud's inability to question his stance, his framework, his maleness, has led to this crowning psychoanalytic definition of women and female sexuahty in terms of'lack', in terms of "the effects of man's relationship with his unconscious."33 The phallus has become the interpretative key to the identity of woman and, more importantly, this has led to the forgetting, the repression, of difference, the eclipse of genuine otherness. She proposes a representation of woman, as other, as sexually different; a representation and a theory of representation not based upon the phallus "for



her genitals are formed of two lips in continuous contact". Hence "Woman's desire would not be expected to speak the same language as man's".35 And so emerges a speculum of the other woman. The construction of this speculum is, I believe, Irigaray's abiding project. It is not a question of the non-existence of the female imaginary. Rather it is a question of the repression of this imaginary. Ingaray's project is the dragging of this imaginary into the realms of the symbolic and the representational. This involves the critique of the spatial and temporal orders as conceived by male philosophers and the development of a new style, an alternative representation. What is 'seen' in this speculation is difficult to assess. The privilege of seeing in metaphysics is itself questioned by Ingaray. "[T]he predominance of the visual"36 is associated with male logic and phallocentnsm. Whereas "her sexual organ represents the horror of nothing to see".37 The 'hole', the 'crack' is that which defeats formal representation: "She resists all adequate definition".38 Here Ingaray takes up the postmodern project and aligns it with "speaking (as) woman" (parler-femme). For a woman's sexuality is defined as plural and to her employment of phallocentric discourse she brings her sense
of "an 'other meaning' always in the process of weaving itself, of embracing itself with words, but also of getting rid of words in order not to become fixed, congealed in

them."39 Speaking (as) woman is the speaking of difference within sameness and identity. The arrangement of Ingaray's essays within a particular book often expresses a dialectic between prescriptive and mimetic discourse, critique and Utopian myth. The woman, the 'two-lips', incarnates cntique, deconstructaon, the unspoken, even negative theology.40 In answer to the questions "How can its [feminine sexuality's] language be recovered, or invented?... Can this speaking (as) woman be written? How?", Irigaray wntes: "Questions—among others—that question themselves."41 The danger here, as Ingaray aware (in her essay 'Cosi Fan Tutti', for an example) is that woman can be defined as the mystical Odier, the womb of language. She quotes Lacan: "if what I am suggesting is true, namely that woman is not-all, there is always something in her which escapes discourse".42 There is a danger of courting the very products of the male imaginary which have kept woman in purdah for so long: woman as semiotic body to quote Kristeva, as instinct, as "dark continent" to quote Helene Cixous. But in deconstructing these products Ingaray also wishes to redefine them and "to open up die autological and tautological circle of systems of representation and their discourse so that women may speak of [parler] dieir sex."43 She is attempting to infiltrate the male-owned symbolic system, with a female enunciation. Margaret Winford, in her splendid study of Irigaray's work, concludes that "What [Irigaray] is trying to conceptualize is the double syntax, the possibility of a relationship between two economies, of which one



would be metaphorical (the paternal one) and one would be metonymical (the maternal one)."44 If language then is never neutral, never neuter, where does that leave the question of, and the quest for inclusive language? If, pnor to the dream of inclusion, women have yet to realise the shape, form and texture of their own sexually specific discourse; if, that is, we have yet to account for representations of sexual difference, how can we proceed towards an inclusive language? How can we speculate on what such a language (and representation) would look like? Are we then in a position to make our language inclusive? We are certainly in a position to disrupt, if only pragmatically and provisionally, the specific masculine naming. That is what has been occuring m recent translations of the Bible and m recent transformations of liturgies. We are certainly in a position to question all our representations, to deconstruct them. But beyond these incursions into, and disruptions of, the domain of the male, how do we proceed towards realising the sexual otherness of the female and from there how do we proceed towards a language that reflects the complexity and interlacement of identity and otherness, of sexual difference? In another sense, how do we proceed towards new formulations of what it is to be a woman, a man, a human being? And how will those anthropological models affect our theologies—specifically, in Christian theologies, our Christology and our doctrines of God? It seems to me that we are only at the edge of what could become a redefinition of the theological task, and the question of inclusive language circles before us, drawing us on. From where we are now there are possibly only ghmpses of an inclusive language yet-to-be and what would constitute it. Today perhaps we can only be warned against naive inclusivism—which has begun to lay down the tracks, but must never be seen to be the product itself. From here a new landscape is conceived which recognizes sexual difference, or two genres. Irigaray writes: "Sexual difference would represent the advent of new fertile regions as yet would involve the production of a new age of thought, art, poetry and language; the creation of a new poetics."45 The reason for this new fertility lies in Irigaray's sense of the importance for men of "speaking (as) woman". For only in that "speaking (as) woman" can women then "speak to men."46 Men in that speaking would be released from their own narcissism, that imperialism of their own phallocentrism. A new relation, a new anthropology is born. Beyond biological essentialism, taking cue from Lacan's teaching of the symbolic, Irigaray herself proffers a Utopian vision of a third genre. It is preferred as a question and washed in theological colours: "What birth takes place, is yet to come, between these two poles of invisibility [the male Godhead and the silenced woman]?"47 Several other places in Irigaray's work could be cited in which this Utopian hope hangs loosely from a theological chain. There are the



closing pages of 77m Sex which is Not One where the amorous I-Thou (jete) dialogue proceeds towards a final All. There is the intimation of a third age in her book Ethique de la difference sexuelle, beyond the Old and New Testaments, an age of the Spirit and the Bride. There is her 'Epistle to the last Christians' in Amante marine and her essay 'La Croyance meme' in Sexes et parentes. The horizon of an inclusive language is recognised specifically as a sacred horizon, relating closely in practice, to poetry—a poetry of sexuate bodies and spirits, a poetry of transcending love. For a moment let me just tease out this transcendence and its sexual understanding, because it is exactly at this point that Ingaray has something to contribute to theology. Theologically, Ingaray's thinking announces a Parousia and a salvation in terms of a return to a lost Eden. In Amante marine and Je, tu, nous, Ingaray recalls the lost and forgotten gynocratic systems and their female divinities. Her theology is an eco-logical vision, as much as a social, sexual and religious vision. It operates within a Freudian meta-narrative—of loss and return, fall and atonement—which is itself founded upon a Jewish messianism. It looks to the future for its fulfilment—her Utopia is the eschatological dawning of die kingdom of God. But it is also a theology of the body and the textuality of the Word/words. It is a theology which has some similarities to Mary Daly's Pure Lust, an "active longing that propels a woman [and a man for Irigaray] into her [their] own 'country', that is, into the Realms of Elementary Reality, of ontological depth."48 It is a vision of sexual togetherness which never eradicates sexual difference, but rather requires the recognition of sexual difference in order to create the awareness of a sexuate self-transcendence. The transcendental horizon might be termed a Logos of puissance, a coupling and a cupola. This sexuate Word is neither and yet both male and female. It is encountered only in the very difference between male and female. It is the enjoyment of a paradisial sexuality as an experience of the divine. In terms used by Kristeva in her book In the Beginning was Love, "In reality, it is the biblical God who inaugurates separation at the beginning of creation [by His Word], He creates division which is also die mark of his presence".49 For Ingaray, the couple, the I and thou, "draw one another mto die mystery of a word [m&e] seeking to be made flesh. Trusting inordinately in that which makes die body and the flesh of all diction: air, breath, song. Giving, receiving/themselves/ one another in the as yet unfelt/beyond reason [I'encore insense~\. So as to be reborn of it, invested with the telling [dire—Levmas's 'Saying'] of a forgotten inspiration. Buried beneath all logic. Surplus to any existing language [langue]. The abeyance of all signification, unveiling the trade that unlies it, and venturing beyond. ..Their radiance comes of their consenting diat nothing shall ensure their keeping. Not even being—that perimeter of man's narrative. Nor God—diat guarantee of the meaning or non-meaning of die whole?"50 The



question of God's presence is both intriguing and significant; a God beyond the being of "man's narrative" (specrfically's Heidegger's which is the subject of the book from which this quotation is taken). This Irigaray terms a sensible transcendental in which "Female puissance would be of the order of the constant and gradual creation of a dimension ranging from the most corporeal to the most sensible."51 On the basis of this sensible transcendental there may be "a new convenant sealed between us"52 with "love as an intermediary."53 "[T]he question of our relation to the divine is not irrelevant and can help us in this task of seeking a personal and collective identity," Irigaray adds, in the same interview.54 Irigaray's transcendental horizon is an overarching love (as is Kristeva's). Love mediated through a celebration of sexual difference; love that is integral to a sexual economy. It manifests itself in a form of language which exceeds its signification. Poetry, then, is the medium best suited to present the unpresentable. In essays like 'When our lips speak together' Irigaray herself is moving into a mimetic discourse, into a story of "Giving/receiving themselves/ one another in the as yet unfelt/beyond reason."55 The addressing of the I to the other come close at time to the quality of prayer. But, Irigaray, like Daly, shuns the institution of religion, and speaks of "The goddesses, and not just the mother goddesses, all valorizations of the female, all female ntes, remain bound up with cosmic rhythms."56 There yet remains the theological question of an emphasis upon the immanental. Ingaray herself speaks of this sensible transcendental as an 'immanent ecstasy [extase instattte]' in her 'Questions to Emmanuel Levinas'. She takes Levinas to task, in this essay, for the transcendence of his other [I'autre]. The transcendent God, for Irigaray (and Daly), is the product of a male imaginary. There remains, nevertheless, a notion of transcendence intimated by the words 'ec-stacy' and 'transcendental'. But Irigaray is quite content to blurr the distinction between divine transcendence and selftranscendence. She is content to describe the experience of the divine as orgasmic, but for the theologian this raises certain theological questions. Not least is how 'divine' is being used here by Irigaray—is it a metaphor, a symbol, a mytheme? To escape a biological essentialism, 'woman', 'two lips', 'man' and 'phallus' are all understood symbolically, they do "not mean a regressive recourse to anatomy or to a concept of 'nature', nor a recall to genital order."S7 These concepts operate as symbolic expressions of an unconscious imaginary. What are we to understand by 'God' or 'divine', then? Others have debated this issue58 and no consensus as yet has been arrived at. Nevertheless, Irigaray's work provides suggestive and creative thinking that could aid our thinking towards a theology of inclusive language. Furthermore, it would seem to me that we step beyond Irigaray's isomorphism between divine transcendence and self-transcendence, by working this hne of thought



in terms of a Christology and the operation of an lntratrinitarian love. That is, following the work of von Balthasar60, by defining in Trinitarian terms the economy of incarnation as divine self-emptying which takes form in the human body as a spirituality (also an eros) in the image of God. Jouissance might then be understood in the context of an economy of love in, beyond and through sexual sociality and culture. To go, now, beyond the simple confrontation between the presuppositions of inclusive language as it is currently practised and the feminine philosophy of discourse propounded by Ingaray, is to develop a theology of sexual difference as related to a theology of the inclusive, sexuate Word. It would be a theology founded within a hermaphroditic Chnstology which would necessarily redescribe the operation of the Trinity. And that, it seems to me, is the next step.
Exeter College, Oxford
REFERENCES New Revised Standard Versum, (Nashville level In her essay "The Neglect of Female Thomas Nelson, 1989), from 'To the Genealogies' (inje, tu, nous), Ingaray histoReader'. nzes the feminine and the gradual censur2 Tne Ingaray Reader, ed Margaret Whitford ing of women's speech. It is not a question (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), p. 79. of developing another langue, but remem3 ibid bering and reinstalling. Even so, mere are 4 ibid , p. 96. several occasions when Ingaray, it seems to 5 Margaret Whitford, in her book Luce me, is not consistent here (witness the quoIngaray Philosophy in the Feminine (London: tation from PaAtr n'est jamais neutre above). Routledge, 1991), pp 38-49, discusses the There are occasions when it seems as nature of 'language' for Ingaray's parlerthough Ingaray is calling for a new langue fcmme. She is attempting to clarify amid altogether, which will emerge from the several complex terms for language m representation of the female imaginary French {langue, langage, discours, bwnaation Throughout Je, tu, nous, she calls for a and inond) which terms Ingaray is thinking transformation of the cultural system which about She concludes, and I dunk this is will only come when language is transcorrect, that parlcr-femmc refers to bwnciformed on all its levels. ation, that is, to the position of me speaking 6 Virginia Woolf, 'Dorothy Richardson and subject in the discourse and that when the woman's sentence' in The Feminist Ingaray calls for a different language, she is Cntiquc of Language, ed. Deborah Cameron intending langage, that is the language of a (London. Roudedge, 1990), p 37. particular group or craft, not langue which 7 'The Power of Discourse and the is the total field of language available She Subordination of the Feminine' in The accepts, it seems to me, Saussure's (and Ingaray Reader, p. 131. Jakobson's) structure for la langue, draws 8 attention to Lacan's overemphasis upon the ibid. pp. 137-8. symbolic and metaphonc, draws attention 'Jacques Dernda, 'Women in the Beehive' also to the forgotten and repressed metm Men in Feminism, eds. Alice Jardine and onyrruc level of langue and calls for a Paul Smith (London: Methuen, 1987), different langage to install this metonymic p. 194.


Gynesis. Configurations of Woman and Modernity (Ithaca: Cornell U.P., 1985). In chapter 8, 'Towards the Hystencal Body: Jacques Lacan and His Others', Jardine includes as his 'Others' Michele Montrelay and Eugenie Lemoine-Luccioru, but, cunously, she does not mclude either Ingaray or Knsteva among these Others. For a incisive, detailed and cogent account of the development of Lacan's thinking see Elisabeth Roudinesco Jacques Lacan and Co : A History of Psychoanalysis in Frame trans. Jeffrey M e h l m a n (London: Free Association B o o k s , 1990), p p 373—679.

'The Three Genres' in The Ingaray Reader, p. 143. 11 Ethique de la dtffbence sexuelle (Pans. Minuit, 1984), p. 124. 12 C.f. her essay 'La Croyance meme' in Sexes et parentes (Pans: Minuit, 1987). 13 C.£ Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics ofRherie (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971). 14 "The Power of Discourse', The Ingaray Reader, p. 121. 15 'Women's Exile' in The Feminist Critique of Language, p. 8 3 - 4 . 16 Speculum of the Other Woman, trans Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 50 17 Sexes et parentes, p. 83. 18 In French Philosophers in Conversation, interviews with Raoul Mordey (London Roudedge, 1991), p 64. "Jacques Lacan, Ecrits, trans. Alan Shendan (London. Tavistock Publications, 1977), P H7 20 ibid , p. 187. 21 ibid , p 2. ibid , p. 7 In contrast, Knsteva and Ingaray wish to see the juncture of nature and culture in the pre-Oedipal stage In Je, tu, nous, trans. Alison Martin (New York: Roudedge, 1993), Irigaray interviews Helene Rouch who talks about the placental economy and remarks that "It seems to me that the differentiation between the mother's self and the other of the child, and vice verse, is in place well before it's given meaning in and by language" (p. 42). Woman as modier is a threshold for both Knsteva and Ingaray between nature and culture 23 ibid., p . 285 24 ibid., p. 167 25 ibid., p. 175. 26 ibid , p. 291. 27 Some feminist thinkers believe Irigaray has misunderstood Lacan. They draw attention to Lacan's insistence that all sexuality— masculine and feminine—is constructed. They also draw attention to Lacan's later work on feminine sexuality, published in Encort (Pans: Seuil, 1975). See here: Jacques Lacan and the Ecole Freudienne, eds. Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose (London: Macmillan, 1982). See also Alice Jardine,

29 30

Man Made Language ( L o n d o n Pandora, 1990), p . 139. Speculum of the Other Woman, p. 138 Ingaray does n o t construct a pnvileged site for t h e symbolic mother, unlike Knsteva. M o t h e r h o o d should not, Ingaray thinks, define the feminine Nevertheless, she does wish, m t h e face o f the mother-father-son economy of t h e Oedipus complex, to install a mother-daughter relationship It was m this relationship that "formerly transmission o f t h e divine w o r d was l o c a t e d " (The Ingaray Reader, p. 182). Furthermore, women are associated with creation (though not stnetly limited to procreation) in Ingaray's thought. In her 'Questions to Emmanuel Levinas', m wanting to promote die two genealogies and counter Levinas's emphasis upon God the Father, she raises the question, "And does not the latter [God the Father] need a Mother G o d ' " (The Irigaray Reader, p 186) The woman, then is mother as female lover, but her creation is not always a physical child, but a spiritual one, bom within the economy of love Speculum of the Other Woman, p. 146 ibid., p . 5 0 - 1 . The Ingaray Reader, p. 89. This Sex which is Not One, trans. Cadierine Porter (Ithaca: Cornell U.P , 1985), p 24. ibid., p. 25. ibid ibid , p. 26 ibid. ibid., p 29. C.f, h e r essay 'Cosi Fan T u t t i ' in t h e same volume

31 32 33 34

35 36 37 38 39 40

42 43


ibid, p. 119.
ibid., p . 89 Parler n'est jamats
1985), p . 272 Luce Ingaray. p . 181.

Postmodernism neutre (Paris
in the




Routledge, 1993).



45 46 47 48

The Ingaray Reader, p 165 77i£s Sex which is Not One, p. 136. The Ingaray Reader, p 152. Pure Lust Elemental Feminist Philosophy ( L o n d o n : T h e W o m e n ' s Press, 1984), p . 6. In the Beginning was Love, trans Arthur


51 52 53 54 55 56

G o l d h a m m e r ( N e w York: Columbia U P , 1987), P 31 The Irigaray Reader, p 218
ibid , ibid , ibid , ibid., ibid., ibid , p p. p. p. p. p. 190 193 196 193 218 192

In h e r 'Questions to E m m a n u e l Levtnas' and as a response to his Paternalism and ontology of sonship, Ingaray, b y speaking of the importance o f the M o t h e r in such a 'family' and emphasizing 'child' rather than son or daughter, does develop what Margaret Whitford has termed " a divine trinity". Whitford uses 'trinity' m e t a p h o r ically. Nevertheless, the e c o n o m y of love for Ingaray (like the e c o n o m y o f desire and the other in Levinas) does possess a tnnodal structure, and that I believe is n o t w i t h o u t significance for theology C.f. m y essay " B e t w e e n Karl Barth's W o r d and Levinas's Saying" m Modem Theology 9:2 (April, 1993). For Hans U r s v o n Balthasar's account o n the Trinity's kenotic love as it is poured our in the incarnation, see his Introduction to The Glory of the Lord A Theological


57 58

Sexes et parentes, p. 272 C f Margaret Whitford's book, chapters 6 and 7 and Philippa Berry's article ' W o m e n and space according to Knsteva and Ingaray' in Shadow of the Spirit

Aesthetics, volume I, 'Seeing the Form' (Edinburgh: T. & T Clark, 1987) and
volume VII, "Theology The New Covenant'

(Edinburgh T & T Clark, 1989).