Women & the F-Word: tracing the Spectres of Feminism in the English-speaking world (and beyond), 19th-21st centuries
The underlying response to feminism in counter-feminist discourses we explored in our first project (see the “Previously, on Women & the F-Word” page), that which remains unseen/ unthought, is what we would like to probe in our new project by tracing the ‘Spectres of Feminism’ in women’s lived experiences, in the public square (both figurative and literal), in fictional spaces, and in scholarly discourses (we would like to acknowledge here the influence on our thinking in this direction played by the Rémanences seminar run by our colleagues Karine BIGAND and Marie-Odile HEDON at the LERMA).
What we would like to look into, in other words, is the way in which feminist memory and feminist ideas have been passed on, judged, endorsed or discussed, embraced and derided through time but also how (and with what effects) they have been passed on from theorists and academics to activists and vice versa, from activists to the more general public, often but not always via politicians. As always, the role of cultural productions such as fiction, the arts, and the media can be analysed in conjunction with the questioning of these public opinions and the shaping of (a?) feminist culture(s).
Our project can be divided into four broad streams:
How do feminist ideas haunt the lived experience of women, both in favour of or resisting feminist ideas? Is there a way of tracing women’s emotions, dreams and representation of the world through the adoption of or resistance to feminist arguments and ideas? How do women’s emotions reflect the spectres of feminism, the way it haunts them into their bodily experience(s)? How does feminism strike the right chord by inevitably triggering emotional responses and emotional discourses?
How does the feminist past haunt public spaces? We intend to analyse the literal, discursive and material dimensions of this question. First, how do feminist ideas make it into the mainstream of public debate? How do they become accepted? What debates does their adoption cause? Second, how is this feminist culture rendered visible/ pregnant/ comprehensible in the public sphere? How are feminist icons/ great figures selected and exhibited? How is feminism remembered in public sites: statues, street names, etc and how do feminists remember their pasts? Exploring these questions will enable us to question the politics of feminist memory.
How are fictional spaces haunted by feminism? How do feminist ideas shape fictional discourses and influence audiences? And what forms of feminism are made visible in fictional spaces? On the other hand, to what extent do fictional spaces shape feminist thinking by offering innovative/alternative ways for characters to inhabit fictional time and space? We intend to explore the political dimension of aesthetic creations. How are feminist ideas embodied, qualified, renegotiated or represented in fiction? Through what means and techniques? How are women writers, directors and artists influenced by feminist ideas and how do they think about their inclusion in the canon of feminism by virtue of their being women?
How are scholarly discourses (theories, scientific methods and conclusions, etc.) haunted by feminist ideas? How do the spectres of feminism influence or shape other discourses which have evolved thanks to or by resisting feminisms: medical theories for example, especially psychiatry, psychoanalysis and therapy have always been the target and source of feminists’ conceptualization of the patriarchal system and theories about women’s submissive role. Can we say that feminist theories have haunted these other discourses and in what way?