Irigaray, Luce 1930-

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IRIGARAY, Luce 1930-

PERSONAL: Born 1930, in Belgium; immigrated to France, c. 1962; married; children. Education: University of Louvain, M.A. (philosophy and literature), 1955; University of Paris, M.A. (psychology), 1961; Institut de Psychologie de Paris, diploma (psychopathology), 1962; University of Paris X at Nanterre, Ph.D. (linguistics), 1968; University of Paris VIII, Ph.D. (philosophy), 1974; École Freudienne, Ph.D. (honors).

ADDRESSES: Home and office—Paris, France. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Editions Grasset & Fasquelle, 61 rue des Saint-Peres, 75006 Paris, France.

CAREER: Writer, educator, and philosopher. Worked as a high school teacher in Brussels, 1956-59; Fondation Nationale de la Recherce Scientifique, Belgium, assistant researcher, 1962-64; University of Paris VIII, Vincennes, instructor, 1970-74; Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, assistant researcher, then director of research, 1986—. Named to Chaire International de Philosophie, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, 1982; teacher at École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 1985-86, College International de Philosophie, Paris, 1988-90, and Centre Americain d'Etudes Critiques, 1989-90. Lecturer at women's groups and conferences throughout Europe and North America.


Le Langage des dements (thesis), Mouton (The Hague, herlands), 1973.

Speculum de l'autre femme (thesis), Minuit (Paris, France), 1974, translation by Gillian C. Gill published as Speculum of the Other Woman, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1985.

Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un, Minuit (Paris, France), 1975, translation by Catharine Porter published as This Sex Which Is Not One, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1985.

Et l'une ne bouge pas sans l'autre, Minuit (Paris, France), 1979; translation by Helene V. Wenzel published as "And the One Doesn't Stir without the Other" in Signs, Volume 7, number 1, 1981.

Le Corps-a-corps avec la mere, La Pleine Lune (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1981.

Passions elementaires, Minuit (Paris, France), 1982, translation by Joanne Collie and Judith Still published as Elemental Passions, Routledge (New York, NY), 1992.

Amante marine. De Friedrich Nietzsche, Minuit (Paris, France), 1983, translated as Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1991.

La Croyance meme, Galilee (Paris, France), 1983.

L'Oubli de l'air chez Martin Heidegger, Minuit (Paris, France), 1983, translation by Mary Beth Mader published as The Forgetting of Air in Martin Heidegger, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1999.

Ethique de la difference sexuelle, Minuit (Paris, France), 1984, translation by Gillian C. Gill and Carolyn Burke published as An Ethics of Sexual Difference, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1993.

Parler n'est jamais neutre, Minuit (Paris, France), 1985, translation by Gail Schwab published as To Speak Is Never Neutral, Routledge (New York, NY), 2000.

Una Probabilita di vivere: Limite al concetto di neutro e universale nelle scienze e nelle tecnologie, title means "A Probability to Live: Limit to the Concept of Neuter and Universal in Science and Technology," Riuniti Riviste (Rome, Italy), 1986.

Sexes et parentes, Minuit (Paris, France), 1987, translation by Gillian C. Gill published as Sexes and Genealogies, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Le Temps de la difference: Pour une revolution pacifique, Livre de Poche (Paris, France), 1989, translation by Karin Montin published as Thinking the Difference: For a Peaceful Revolution, Athlone (London, England), 1994.

Sexes et genres a travers les langues, Grasset (Paris, France), 1990.

Je, tu, nous: Pour une culture de la difference, Grasset (Paris, France), 1990, translation by Karin Martin published as Je, Tu, Nous: Toward a Culture of Difference, Routledge (New York, NY), 1993.

The Irigaray Reader, edited by Margaret Whitford, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1991.

J'aime a tois: Esquisse d'une felicite dans l'histoire, Grasset (Paris, France), 1992, translation by Alison Martin published as I Love to You: Sketch for a Happiness within History, Routledge (New York, NY), 1995, published as I Love to You: Sketch of a Possible Felicity in History, Routledge (London, England), 1995.

Le Souffle des femmes (title means "The Breath of Women"), ACGF (Paris, France), 1996.

Entre Orient et Occident: De la singularité à la communauté, Grasset (Paris, France), 1999, translated as Between East and West: From Singularity to Community, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

La Democrazia cominicia a due, Bollati Boringhieri (Turin, Italy), 1994, translation by Kirsteen Anderson published as Democracy Begins with Two, Athlone (London, England), 2000.

Etre deux, Grasset (Paris, France), 1997, translation by Monique M. Rhodes and Marco F. Cocito-Monoc published as To Be Two, Routledge (New York, NY), 2000.

Contributor to journals, including Critique, Langages, and Signs.

SIDELIGHTS: Within the realm of feminist philosophic study—and even beyond academic circles—the work of French theoretician Luce Irigaray serves as a frequent point of comparison for such feminist thinkers as Judith Butler, Toril Moi, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Holding the position of director of philosophic research at Paris's National Center for Scientific Research, Irigaray has published numerous works in translation. "Psychoanalyst and philosopher by profession, feminist by choice, and radical by nature, Irigaray is one of the most important women writers of contemporary France," noted Anna Otten in Antioch Review.

Born in Belgium in 1930, Irigaray traveled to France in the early 1960s, where she completed advanced degrees in psychology, psychopathology, linguistics, and philosophy. In addition to her academic pursuits during the 1970s, she became actively involved in the French women's movement and wrote in defense of a woman's right to sexual autonomy. Irigaray would defend her own right to intellectual freedom just as fervently after her presentation of her doctorate dissertation, a feminist re-evaluation of Freudian theories later published as Speculum of the Other Woman, caused an uproar in French academic circles. The brilliant but now notorious student soon found she was not to be welcomed in her intended career as an educator within Paris universities; instead, she turned her full attention to developing and refining her theories on creating a more gender-equitable social order.

Since the 1973 publication of Le Langage des dements, a study of the linguistic collapse that sometimes accompanies old age, Irigaray has continued to produce groundbreaking work in the area of psycholinguistics. Of particular interest to her, the relationship between language and gender has served as the subject of numerous essays.

Irigaray's work is strenuous reading for most laymen. She demands of her readers a rudimentary understanding of her previous theories and makes numerous allusions to classical works of Western philosophy. Wordplay, allusion, metaphor, neologisms, analogies, and spontaneous interjections appear throughout her prose, mortared together by an assortment of punctuation marks, while compound words are frequently shattered by hyphens in order to bring to light their sometimes surprising origins. While Irigaray's complex style has often been criticized, such "deconstruction" of the written word is also central to her overall thesis: language is an artificial patriarchal construction that must be imbued with female "subjectivity" in order to be fully reflective of all who use it. Her goal in writing: to encourage a more equitable society by understanding and accepting the innate character of both sexes on many levels of intercourse, including language.

The essays in Irigaray's This Sex Which Is Not One, published in 1985, provides beginning students of her work with a relatively uncomplicated introduction to her ideas on feminine sexuality. In addition to her customary critique of the work of such theorists as Freud and Jacques Lacan, she also discusses the relationship between language and sexuality, putting forward the suggestion that women should create a new level of communication. While such themes are characteristic of her work as a whole—from Speculum of the Other Woman to 1993's An Ethics of Sexual Difference—they often remain obscured by Irigaray's dense abstractions. However, her influence among feminist colleagues in Germany and Italy in particular remains vigorous.

As Irigaray became increasingly prolific in the late 1990s and onto the 2000s, some critics accused her of abandoning the sophistication of her earlier work in order to appeal to a wider audience. As Penelope Deutscher pointed out in Hypatia, "Irigaray declares that some of her critics applauded her when she dismantled masculine culture, but they retained only the deconstructive aspect of that work and never followed the more constructive aspects." One such criticized text was her 1992 book I Love to You, which was translated into English in 1995. The book explores a reconstruction of sexual identity and, as Deutscher explained, "emphasizes the four domains that require reshaping so as to provoke an evolution toward a culture of sexual difference: law, language, religion, and love."

In To Be Two Irigaray continues to examine the issue that has been vital in much of her work: the definition of "being" and "identity" as they relate to women. She also published two works in 2002: To Speak Is Never Neutral, the translation of a 1985 study of the subconscious structures that form speech, and Between East and West: From Singularity to Community, which takes her in a slightly new direction. Between East and West contains Irigaray's idea that the theories and beliefs in the practice of yoga could hold not only the key to uniting the sexes, but a cure for globalization as well.

Critic Deutscher asked, "Has there ever been another contemporary woman philosopher whose work has incited the same degree of diversity, intricacy, and frequently high quality of engagement?" As more of Irigaray's works become available in translation, English readers who are able will have the opportunity to follow the path of her enormous intellect, while others will continue to see her ideas energetically debated by other scholars and critics.



Chanter, Tina, Ethics of Eros: Irigaray's Re-Writing of the Philosophers, Routledge (New York, NY), 1995.

Feminist Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Magill, Frank M., Cyclopedia of World Authors, Salem Press, 1997.

Ross, Stephen David, Plenishment in the Earth: AnEthic of Inclusion, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1995.


Antioch Review, winter, 1986, p. 114.

Choice, February, 2000, p. 1114.

Contemporary Literature, Volume 29, 1988, pp. 606-623.

Cultural Studies, April, 2001, p. 222.

Diacritics, winter, 1975, pp. 2-20; fall, 1978, p. 2; summer, 1982, pp. 11-20.

Ethics, April, 1995, p. 696.

French Review, March, 1995, p. 722.

French Studies, January, 2002, Kirsteen H. R. Anderson, "La Premiere femme: The Mother's Resurrection in the Work of Camus and Irigaray," p. 29.

Hypatia, spring, 1998, Penelope Deutscher, review of I Love to You, p. 170; winter, 2000, Marjorie Haas, "The Style of the Speaking Subject: Irigaray's Empirical Studies of Language Production," p. 64.

Journal of Religion, April, 1998, Amy Hollywood, "Deconstructing Belief: Irigaray and the Philosophy of Religion," p. 230.

Library Journal, January, 2002, Leslie Armour, review of Between East and West, p. 108.

Literature and Psychology, Volume 32, number 1, 1986.

New York Times Book Review, December 12, 1993, p. 27.

Philosophy Today, spring, 1999, Richard White, review of Elemental Passions, p. 43.

Publishers Weekly, April 1, 2002, p. 70.

Signs, autumn, 1980, pp. 66-68; autumn, 1981, pp. 56-59.

Twentieth Century Literature, winter, 2000, Richard Dellamora, "Apocalyptic Irigaray," p. 492.

Voice Literary Supplement, October, 1993, p. 31.

Women's Review of Books, March, 1986, pp. 12-13.*