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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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The interests which developed into this book were born in the mid-70s when I was studying for my Master’s degree in Paris. During those two years, I began reading the works of Paul Ricoeur and became convinced that imagination must be reinstated at a philosophical and political level if real change was ever to be realised. During that same period, Luce Irigaray was writing Speculum de l’Autre Femme. Our paths did not cross but in my two years of work with psychoanalyst Nadine Durand I became aware of some of the issues I was later to read in Irigaray’s work.

My doctoral studies in Boston College during the 1980s allowed me to expand and develop my understanding of the philosophy of the imagination, especially in the works of Paul Ricoeur. With a growing feminist consciousness, I recognised the academic challenge to place a philosophy of imagination in dialogue with feminist theory. Within this interdisciplinary conversation I became convinced that the aspiration for social transformation at the heart of feminist theory would never be concretised unless imagination is accepted as the faculty which could empower new ways of being and of understanding our world.

During the 1990s I have been persuaded that sexual difference is the issue of our age.

To establish a new world order and to survive the chaos of our present plight, sexual difference must be addressed and resolved. Luce Irigaray sees this as an ontological issue: something related to the order...

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