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Showing posts from February, 2012

February Notes and Thoughts

February notes and thoughts: just in time, thanks to the imprecise rotation of the earth around the sun.

1. Gericault's Wounded Cuirassier (1814). The first thing I thought when I saw this painting - in a book on eighteenth-century art, not in the Louvre, sadly - was "Deleuzian".

The perspective is surprisingly flat - three claustrophobic planes, with the darkness of the clouds and the horse's body pressing all of them forward. And it seems obviously influenced by Rubens: that return of violent motion, slicing diagonal compositions and seething, muscular bodies that characterised so much of French Romantic painting.

What I like is that the mount is more violently Rubensesque than the rider: and as such, it seems to mean more and evoke more. It is the most interesting plane in the painting for me. The backdrop is bare and naked - merely swirling, foreboding storms, and a chunk of hillside. The human figure is relatively well defined - the metallic detail of his armour,…

Does Language Have a Gender? (Notes)

This the somewhat boring bit to go with my experiment into gendered or sexuated language, described here.

1. I am aware that there could be transgender students in the cohort, or other students who dislike to be 'designating' by gender. Irigaray's experiments and indeed thinking, however, is very binary. Moreover, I did not want to create any kind of 'select gender' button in the Moodle quiz because it might have influenced people's sentences. In the end, I simply looked at the name and marked it in terms of being conventionally male or female.

2. When 'I' was included in a sentence, I assumed it was the student as the grammatical subject. Where 'you' was included, I did not designate it as singular or plural (even if I thought it was strongly likely to be one or the other) unless this was explicit from context. The same applied to deciding whether 'we' referred to two people or a group of more than two.

3. Obviously, there were plenty o…

Does Language Have a Gender?

I've recently been reading the work of French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray, which makes a series of contentious claims based on a broadly 'essentialist' position, i.e. that men and women are fundamentally different. For Irigaray, any feminist project must not erase this difference, which she sees as stemming not so much from the biological self but from the 'relational' self. Men and women, she asserts, relate to themselves, other subjects, and objects differently.

Much of this position is rooted in a feminist grammar, which comes out of Irigaray's early work as a linguist. Her claim is that male and female language is different: hers desires intersubjective, recurrently addresses a male presence, is orientated to the future; his is interested in objects and things, articulates group-relationships rather than intimate ones, and is aligned to present and past. As she puts it:
The whole universe of expressed in various ways by woman and man. …