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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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Chapter Five Dreaming Love

Extract

We have thought too much in terms of a will which submits and not enough in terms of an imagination which opens up.1

– Paul Ricoeur

Throughout this book I have shown how feminism must embrace the imagination so that the critique and challenges of this framework can shape a new world. The promise and prophecy of a feminist imagination remain unfulfilled, though, until it is historically realised, practically concretised.

We have seen that a new imaginative understanding of women – women’s subjectivities and women’s identities – requires a corresponding programme of action. Indeed, I would hold that it is only in the context of political action that the new feminist subject, the new way of perceiving reality, can be developed. We have also examined the importance of language in shaping the understanding of who we are and who we might become. Generating imaginative language is, as I have indicated, foundational to imagining human flourishing. Radical change in ways of being and becoming will only be conceived by an imaginative revolution in discourse. Yet, as I discussed in the last chapter, a revolution in discourse must be complemented by a restructuring of reality. While imaging and speaking new language out of the female and male imagination is foundational action for a new world, it must be complemented by diverse social activity to create concretely that new world. Otherwise, the radical discourse will be co-opted by the people and systems that structure personal and social power in dominating...

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