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Reclaiming the Secret of Love

Feminism, Imagination and Sexual Difference

Katherine Zappone and Anne Louise Gilligan

This book presents a bold hypothesis: the social transformation at the heart of feminist theory will be concretised only when women, and men, use their imaginations to empower new ways of being in and understanding our world. Feminist theory and the history of the philosophy of the imagination are used as resources to outline how the practice of «sexual difference» as an ontological vocation, and its application to religious language, can be a call to live love and mutual relations in a new way. Poetry, art, cultural and literary works are key resources too.

Gilligan invites the reader to apply this theory, history and art to their own unfolding gender identities through an imagination no longer hindered by patriarchal characteristics and restrictions. She offers a special focus on the becoming of female subjectivity. She knew that if people, especially, though not only, women, image the possible for themselves and our world, through doing the hard work of becoming subject, not object of any other, such agency would necessarily change even the most intransigent social, economic and cultural problems to shift violence towards peace, lies towards truth, poverty and inequality towards the flourishing of every one. She bore witness to this in her own life, with others.

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Ann Louise Gilligan was always a woman ahead of her time. Her eyes, mind and heart were forever imaging the possible. Even after she was blinded by her first major brain haemorrhage in 2013, she practised the art of the female imaginaire1 coupled with learning from key insights of neuroscience, to heal herself and begin to offer methodologies for others to do the same.2

She is my late spouse, lover, counsellor and best friend. When she wrote this manuscript in the late 1990s,3 I typed and edited every word. It was not a heavy task. In fact, it was a joy to witness the ways in which she wove together dense philosophical ideas with her own praxis of love to invite creation of the new – in the classroom, community and public stage. Ann Louise’s gift for communication, rooted in a profound understanding of the philosophy of the imagination, and a tenacious grasp of feminist theory of the late twentieth century, enabled her always to speak and to write a common language so that no one was left behind.

As Ann Louise outlines in the introduction, this book represents her life’s work as an educational philosopher up to the point of its writing, starting in the aesthetic Parisian 1970s where she did a master’s degree, through the liberatory and feminist 1980s of her PhD studies at Boston College, and her subsequent interrogations of how feminist theory, rooted ←xi | xii→in a practice of love, could motivate...

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