Luce Irigaray

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Luce Irigaray (born 1930 Belgium) is a French feminist and psychoanalytic and cultural theorist. She is best known for her works Speculum of the Other Woman (1974) and This Sex Which Is Not One (1977).


Irigaray received a Master's Degree from the University of Louvain in 1955. She taught in a Brussels school from 1956-1959. She moved to France in the early 1960s. In 1961 she received a Master's Degree in psychology from the University of Paris. In 1962 she received a Diploma in Psychopathology. From 1962-1964 she worked for the Fondation Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) in Belgium. She then began work as a research assistant at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris.

In the 1960s Irigaray participated in Jacques Lacan's psychoanalytic seminars. She trained as and became an analyst. In 1968 she received a Doctorate in Linguistics. From 1970-1974 she taught at the University of Vincennes. At this time Irigaray was a member of the Ecole Freudienne de Paris (EFP), a school directed by Lacan. In 1969 she analysed Antoinette Fouque, a feminist leader of the time.

Irigaray's second Doctorate thesis, "Speculum of the Other Woman," was closely followed by the termination of her employment at Vincennes University.

In the second semester of 1982, Irigaray held the chair in Philosophy at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Research here resulted in the publication of An Ethics of Sexual Difference, establishing Irigaray as a major Continental philosopher.

Irigaray has conducted research since the 1980s at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in Paris on the difference between the language of women and the language of men. In 1986 she transferred from the Psychology Commission to the Philosophy Commission as the latter is her preferred discipline.

Feminist conceptualizations

Irigaray is inspired by the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan and the deconstruction of Jacques Derrida. She has three intentions with her work: to expose the male ideology underlying our whole system of meaning and thus also our language; to create a feminine countersystem to provide a positive sexual identity for women; and to establish an intersubjective relation of 'being two' between men and women. One of her key thoughts is ‘the logic of the same’ or phallogocentrism, a concept expressing how society’s two gender categories, man and woman, are in fact just one, man, as he is made the universal referent.

The aim would then be to create two equally positive and autonomous terms, and to acknowledge two sexes, not one. Following this line of thought, with Lacan’s mirror stage and Derrida’s theory of logocentrism in the background, Irigaray also criticises the favouring of unitary truth within patriarchal society. In her theory for creating a new disruptive form of feminine writing (Écriture féminine), she focuses on the child’s pre-Oedipal phase when experience and knowledge is based on bodily contact, primarily with the mother. Here lies one major interest, the mother-daughter relationship, which she considers devalued in patriarchal society. Luce Irigaray is often associated with Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristeva. Irigaray, Luce (205-6)