Gynesis: Configurations of Woman and Modernity

Jardine, Alice. Gynesis: Configurations of Woman and Modernity. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Part of the French feminist school (l’ecriture feminine), though attempts to both analyze and critique Franco-American feminist debates (American construction “woman as sexual identity” from French “woman as process” (41)).  Jardine proposes “the putting into discourse of ‘woman’ as that process diagnosed in France as intrinsic to the condition of modernity” (25) to examine the intersections of woman with modernity through the process of gynesis. Through critical readings of Foucault, Lacan, Derrida and Deleuze as those who practice gynesis, she criticizes pretentions to master, or know, the exercise of power and the denial of “woman.” She is part of the postmodern deconstructionist project that recognizes “truth” as well as experience as contingent, and in some ways gynesis is postmodernism as it rethinks the dualistic oppositions of master narratives and reincorporates what has been constructed as non-knowledge and even non-knowing, both traditionally coded as feminine (one linked to discourse about women, the other to discourse by/as woman). She proposes that there is a space created by modernity’s construction of male paranoia that is feminine.  Also calls into question the very foundations that make feminism possible – the unity of the speaking subject, the figurability of ‘the real,’ and the possibility of an objective truth. She’s been heavily criticized for writing a book that attempts to bridge the gap between French and American feminism (and simultaneously critique it) by analyzing for the most part male theorists and, in her last section, male authors from France and America.


About kathrynpagel

Working on my PhD in Japanese literature, visual studies, and new media.
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