Form and Content
Based on Luce Irigaray’s work as a psychoanalyst, linguist, and philosopher, the eleven essays collected in This Sex Which Is Not One critically analyze Western culture’s descriptions of female identity and the many ways in which these representations influence women’s psychic, social, and economic development. Irigaray explores a number of related issues, including the restrictive nature of masculinist language systems and the subsequent limitations in male-defined images of female sexuality, women’s absence in Western philosophical tradition, and the importance of developing exclusively feminine modes of communication. The nonlinear, poetic writing styles she employs in many of these essays make it difficult to arrive at definitive statements concerning her theories of the feminine, yet this elusiveness is an important part of her undertaking. By unsettling readers’ expectations, she challenges them to rethink conventional definitions of masculinity and femininity.
Although many of the essays in This Sex Which Is Not One were previously published in various journals and can be read separately, the arguments presented in each chapter are interconnected and mutually dependent. The title essay offers a useful entry into Irigaray’s work, for it provides readers with an overview of her theory of the feminine. In addition to arguing that women’s pleasure and female sexuality cannot be adequately described in Western culture’s patriarchal language systems, Irigaray contrasts women’s autoeroticism with men’s and offers an alternative perspective on the feminine, which she describes as plural, nonunitary, and fluid.
(The entire section is 689 words.)