Sexual Ethics Beyond Sexual Difference: Luce Irigaray and the Ethics of "Women's" Writing Open Access

Barker, Wesley Nan (2012)

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Sexual Ethics Beyond Sexual Difference:
Luce Irigaray and the Ethics of "Women's" Writing
This dissertation suggests that the experience of non-subjectivity presents an opportunity
for imagining an ethical personhood beyond the reductive economy of a selfsame
subjectivity. I propose that an ethics of open-ended multiplicity can emerge through the
indeterminacy afforded by deconstructing the binary of sexual difference. To frame the
question of ethics as a problem of sameness to be overcome, I read Luce Irigaray's work,
Éthique De La Différence Sexuelle, as a feminist response to Emmanuel Levinas. By
dissimilating the feminine from masculine language, Irigaray's work answers Levinas's
insistence on radical alterity through the question of the feminine. I contend that Irigaray's mimetic writing
deconstructs the feminine such that the feminine becomes an indeterminate space of
materiality, infinity, plurality, and relationality beyond the discursive boundaries of a
concrete notion of "woman" that might otherwise be suggested by her language of sexual
difference. This project therefore moves beyond Irigaray's specific language of sexual
difference as the condition of alterity. I claim that Irigaray's writing offers a space of
indeterminate beings where alterity is preserved through relationship with the flesh of
one's irreducible others. I conclude by suggesting that writing through the indeterminacy of an identity
like "woman," as Irigaray has done, embraces the uncertainty and irreducibility of radical
alterity. When one writes through that uncertainty, one's writing enacts an ethical
openness beyond the binary of male-female difference that disrupts the totalizing and, as
Levinas would say, "allergic" way of relating to the differences of this world.

Sexual Ethics Beyond Sexual Difference:
Luce Irigaray and the Ethics of "Women's" Writing
M.T.S., Duke Divinity School, 2003
B.A., Emory University, 2000
Advisor: Wendy Farley, Ph.D.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the
James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies of Emory University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Graduate Division of Religion
Comparative Literature and Religion

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Ethics and Sexual Difference: The Problem of Sameness from Irigaray to Levinas...18

Chapter 2: Secondarization of Woman: The Lack of Difference in Sexual Difference...64

Chapter 3: Mimesis and Catachresis: Making Space for Oneself Without Taking from the Other...105

Chapter 4: Rebirth: Irreducibly Sexed Bodies and Discursive Possibilities for an Ethical
Future beyond the Self-same...141

Chapter 5: Rebirth: From Othered to Otherwise: "Woman" and the Possibility of Ethical Writing...192



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