vol 14 - 1988

This issue of Feminist Studies is devoted to deconstruction. More accurately, it participates in the recent wave of retrospection and taking stock which has attended the apparent (but disputed) decline of deconstruction as an orthodoxy in U.S. literary criticism. Several of the essays in this volume raise questions about what Mary Poovey calls deconstruction's "project of demystification," a project necessarily presented here as more unified than it really is, but a project which has centrally consisted of exposing the artificial and hierarchical oppositions (man/woman, mind/body) that lie at the heart of Western thought. Where did this project come from, these essays ask, what has it meant, and what, if anything, is its future? Specifically, what has it meant and what will it mean for feminist scholarship and politics?

The reflections on deconstruction in this volume are marked, fittingly enough, by disagreement and by internal ambivalence and contradiction. Even those writers who argue for the usefulness of deconstructive strategies are sharply aware of their limitations and of the profound incompatibilities between most feminist politics and much deconstructive practice, between "philosophers," as Leslie Wahl Rabine puts it, "and members of a social movement dedicated to eradicating oppression through collective political action." As part of a political movement, for example, feminists find it necessary to take "yes-or-no positions on specific issues and to communicate them as unambiguously as possible," as Rabine observes, to claim access if not to "truth" then to limited truths, to believe in the possibility of social change and to articulate for themselves, through a study of history and through analyses of a specific present, how change has taken place and how it might be effected in the future. Of what ultimate use to feminism, then, is a philosophical program which is characterized by insistence on the arbitrary nature of all constructions of the "real," which adopts the strategy of "undecidability" to avoid the "metaphysical nature" of taking yes-or-no positions, which questions the agency behind change and our ability to know whether change is desirable, which insists that oppressive structures must be endlessly deconstructed, and whose relentlessly ahistorical tendencies in some cases render it incapable even of accounting for the changes we know have taken place. In particular, how can feminism be reconciled with a philosophical practice whose appropriation of the feminine has often served the purpose of reinforcing the masculine power.



Leslie Wahl Rabine
A Feminist Politics of Non-Identity

Joan W. Scott
Deconstructing Equality-Versus-Difference:
Or, the Uses of Poststructuralist Theory for Feminism

Mary Poovey
Feminism and Deconstruction

Barbara Christian
The Race for Theory

Marnia Lazreg
Feminism and Difference:
The Perils of Writing As a Woman on
Women in Algeria

Nicole Brossard

Molly Hite
Writing-and Reading-the Body:
Female Sexuality and Recent Feminist Fiction

Daphne Patai
Constructing a Self: A Brazilian Life Story

June Howard
Feminist Differings: Recent Surveys of
Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism
(a Review Essay)

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