New Critical Perspectives
Deirdre Madden’s Novels: Searching for Authentic Woman Feminist studies have unearthed huge metaphysical questions as to what exactly we mean when we use the word ‘woman’. Are we referring to a stable, universal, eternal entity, endowed with definable, precise characteristics that can be listed and checked? Or are we rather talking of a number of norms and stereotypes that society invented and imposed, and then sought to pass of f as natural? If one is at a loss to define what a woman is, we swim in even murkier waters when we try to assert or deny the existence of a specific language or literary form of expression that would without doubt distinguish women from men. Luce Irigaray and Hélène Cixous have both attempted to define and exemplify of what they call écriture féminine. Even though Julia Kristeva has rejected the idea of such a feminine writing, she has nevertheless developed the opposition between the semiotic and the symbolic, so as to emphasise how the symbolic order may be subverted by re-introducing the repressed semiotic in language. Judith Butler has added further complexity by establishing a clear-cut distinction between sex and gender. For Butler and other poststructuralist writers, gender is the oppressive result of a social process; it is ideological, in the sense that it tries to pass social arrangements of f as natural; Butler’s exact word is that gender is ‘performative’: it is an act, not a thing, something we do rather than something we are....
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