The Print Text - Human Body Interaction

In The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes evokes a distinct connection between the human and the textual body:

Apparently Arab scholars, when speaking of the text, use this admirable expression: the certain body. What body? We have several of them; the body of anatomists and physiologists, the one science sees or discusses: this is the text of grammarians, critics, commentators, philologists (the pheno-text).

But we also have a body of bliss consisting solely of erotic relations, utterly distinct from the first body: it is another contour, another nomination; thus with the text: it is no more than the open list of the fires of language . . .

Does the text have human form, is it a figure, an anagram of the body? Yes, but of our erotic body. The pleasure of the text is irreducible to physiological need.

The pleasure of the text is that moment when my body pursues its own ideas - for my body does not have the same ideas I do.

(Barthes, Pleasure, 16-17)

French feminists Helene Cixous, Julia Kristeva, and Luce Irigaray likewise form a link between the erotics of the human body and the "fires of language." Yet they also see writing itself as a necessary means through which women can break the barriers of patriarchal hierarchy and achieve a particularly feminine language.

In "The Laugh of the Medusa" Helene Cixous calls upon writing as a means to return woman to a direct relation with her own sexuality, her erogeneity, and her body: "Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it" (Cixous, 246).

In "Women's Time," Julia Kristeva remarks that "When evoking the name and destiny of women, one thinks more of the space generating and forming the human species than of time, becoming or history" (Kristeva, 190). Such a statement is significant in emphasizing and placing a positive value on the eternally procreating and maternal aspect of femininity. This distinction between maternal space and linear time leads Kristeva to discuss the possibility of a difference between the temporality of female subjectivity (which encompasses the repetitions and cycles of the biological rhythms, as well as the eternal procreative force), and the temporality of masculine subjectivity (which is linear, hierarchical, patriarchal, and teleological). Many of the qualities which Kristeva here associates with a masculine temporality are successfully subverted in electronic texts.

Luce Irigaray, in "Any Theory of the 'Subject' Has Always Been Appropriated by the 'Masculine'," similarly calls for a feminine discourse that will use the available apparatus of patriarchal language in order to rupture and subvert that very tool: "Rack it with radical convulsions . . . Insist also and deliberately upon those blanks in discourse which recall the places of her exclusion" (Irigaray, 142). In the similarities between the "feminine discourse" for which Irigaray calls and that which appears in electronic spaces, the digital world provides a possible environment in which to reconstitute culturally encoded notions of gender.

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Web page written and constructed by Laralynn Weiss, Georgetown University