Luce Irigaray's Phenomenology of Feminine Being

By Virpi Lehtinen

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy, Phenomenology, Philosophy, Gender Studies, Women's Studies
Series: SUNY series in Gender Theory
Paperback : 9781438451282, 280 pages, January 2015
Hardcover : 9781438451275, 280 pages, June 2014

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Table of contents

Part I. Body
1. Feminine Existential Style: An Operative Concept
2. The Philosophical Discourse and Canon, and Femininity
3. Irigaray’s Activity of Productive Mimesis: Opening of the Possibility of Original Feminine Expressivity
4. Phenomenology of the Body: the Methodological and Conceptual Framework for Irigaray’s Investigations of Lived Embodiment and Expressivity
5. The Feminine Lived Body
Conclusions to Part I
Part II. Desire
6. Irigaray’s Account of the Beloved Woman as a “Man’s Woman”
7. Opening up the Possibility of Woman’s Self-Love and Love among Women
8. Male Phenomenologists’ Promise of the Uniqueness of Woman in Carnal Love
9. The Continuum of Caressing Gestures in Accordance with the Holistic Conception of Sexuality
10. The Philosophical Discourses of Carnal Love: Obstacles and Openings for the Becoming of a Woman Lover
11. The Male Lover, the Feminine Beloved One: A Specific Way of Understanding (Carnal) Love
12. Irigaray Writing, Speaking, and Acting as a Woman Lover
Conclusions to Part II
Part III. Wisdom
13. Original Aspects of Woman in Philosophy: Intermediating between Materiality and Spirituality, Nature and Gods
14. Irigaray as a Midwife for Diotima’s Daimonic Philosophy of Eros
15. Writing: An Intervention into the Neutrality and Absoluteness of the Subject and a Model of Sensible Ideality
Conclusions to Part III

A dynamic interpretation of feminine identity capable of resistance, change, and transformation.


The reception of Luce Irigaray's ideas about feminine identity has centered largely on questions of essentialism, whether criticizing this as a destructive flaw or interpreting it in strategic or pragmatic terms. Staking out an alternative approach, Virpi Lehtinen finds in the phenomenology of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty a framework for what she characterizes as dynamic essentialism, which seeks to account for the complex networks of lived experience: embodied, affective, and spiritual relations to oneself, to others, and to the world. Rather than prescribing one norm to which all women should conform, Lehtinen argues, Irigaray's work exemplifies how each individual woman in her own way contributes to a norm of femininity that is both unique and singular but also connected to the existential styles of past, present, and future others.

Virpi Lehtinen is Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Philosophy, History, Culture, and Art Studies at the University of Helsinki in Finland.