Luce Irigaray (1930-) - Key Figures in Literary Theory

The Blackwell Guide to Literary Theory - Gregory Castle 2007

Luce Irigaray (1930-)
Key Figures in Literary Theory

Luce Irigaray was born in Belgium and was educated at the University of Louvain, where she received an MA degree. After a short stint teaching high school in Brussels, she attended the University of Paris and received a second MA in psychology (1961), followed by a Diploma in psychotherapy (1962) and a doctorate in linguistics (1968). For two years, Irigaray worked for the Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique in Belgium, and in 1964 she began working for the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, where she is currently Director of Research. Throughout the 1960s, she trained as a psychoanalyst and was a member of Jacques Lacan's Ecole Freudienne de Paris. In the late 1960s, she began teaching at the University of Paris VIII (Vincennes). Upon publication of her dissertation (for a second doctorate), Speculum of the Other Woman (1974), Irigaray was dismissed from her position at the University of Paris (and Lacan’s Ecole Freudienne de Paris), largely due to Lacan’s disapproval of her work.

In Speculum, Irigaray argues that Western philosophy and Psychoanalysis regard women as mere reflecting surfaces on which masculine IDENTITY constitutes itself in a DIALECTICAL relation of dominance. In This Sex Which Is Not One (1977), she experimented with an innovative mode of ECRITURE FEMININE (feminine writing, writing the body). These works were committed to deconstructing the PHALLOGOCENTRIC traditions of Psychoanalysis, philosophy, and literature. Defying rhetorical, syntactical, and thematic conventions, Irigaray’s theoretical writings offer a penetrating critique of those conventions as well as alternatives to them. In her subsequent works, Irigaray pursued questions of DIFFERENCE and alterity, especially as it concerned gender and sexual identity.

In the 1990s, she worked with the Commission for Equal Opportunities for the region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy, producing a report on the status of rights for women, Democracy begins Between the Two (1994). She also wrote many books exploring the ethical implications of gender difference, includingJe, Tu, Nous (1990), a collection of essays on civil rights and biological difference, and An Ethics of Sexual Difference (1993), a study of the ethical tradition in philosophy and an elaboration of her own ethical vision. She also produced new works on philosophy, psychoanalytic method, and language, as well as a series of works on the role of the elements in the sensual life of philosophers, including Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche (1991). In 2002, drawing on Eastern philosophy and yoga, she revisited the questions of gender and sexual difference that had first secured her reputation as a feminist philosopher.


Irigaray, Luce. An Ethics of Sexual Difference. Trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1993.

---- . The Irigaray Reader. Ed. Margaret Whitford. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1991.

---- . Je, Tu, Nous: Toward a Culture of Difference. Trans. Alison Martin. New York: Routledge, 1993.

---- . This Sex Which Is Not One. Trans. Catherine Porter. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985.

---- . Speculum of the Other Woman. Trans. Gilliam C. Gill. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.