Islamic Azad University
Tehran Central Branch
Faculty of Foreign Languages
A Thesis
Submitted to the Department of Postgraduate Studies as a Partial Fulfilment For the Degree of Master of Arts in English Literature
Tracing Helene Cixous & Luce Irigaray’s Concepts on Female Characters of the Three Plays of Sam Shepard:
A Lie of The Mind, States of Shock & Buried Child
Dr. Shahram Kiaei
Dr. Kian Soheil
Saharnaz Pishnamazzadeh Hassani
Winter 2013
Repression, beating and abusing of women and regarding them as the “second sex” are issues that cannot be ignored. These affairs are also shown in vast dimension in post-modern American literature in which women characters are in search of “identity” and a way of liberty and freedom from patriarchal society to heal themselves but all their efforts lead to a life of “ambiguity” and nothing more; alike what women do and live in the real world. The question that comes to mind is that “what is the reason and what if there can be a solution?” This research is planned to have a feminist point of view on female characters of the three plays of Sam Shepard Buried Child, A Lie of the Mind and States of Shock. Due to the broad spectrum of the history of feminism, the methodology of this study focuses on Irigaray, a contemporary French feminist, theorist, psychoanalyst and critic of literature, through her ideas of “subjectivity”, “sexuality”, “language” and “desire”; And Helene Cixous Another French feminist and philosopher whose challenging theory of “Feminine Writing” are surveyed through this study. In the process of this research it is revealed that the belief in the theory of “transition of woman’s personality” is shared among all three thinkers and is experienced by women’s of Shepard’s plays in three social situational phases of “normal”, “sick” and “crisis”. However, the post-modern viewpoint of Shepard, Irigaray and Cixous, conveys that women fail in this transition and cannot achieve their “ego” in the modern era and their ambiguity remains with them. Finally the research concludes that literary writing and expression of problems are the part of solution which post-modernists show by criticizing “modernity”.
Keywords: transition, identity, subjectivity, literary therapy, Shepard, Cixous, Irigaray.
I am greatly beholden to a considerable number of people who genuinely assisted me during fulfilling this dissertation. I would like to show my gratitude to my caring advisor, Dr. Kiaei whose prompting and constructive feedbacks, encouragement, flexibility and confidence in my abilities lit my way during writing this research. I would also like to thank Dr. Soheil for his input through his classes which encouraged me to work on the subject matter of my interest. Here I should thank Prof. Sokhanvar for all his precious efforts for reviving English Literature in Iran and for his valuable courses and leadership through all years of my study and specially for introducing Dr. Bordbari as my referee who was encouraging to me. I am also indebted to Dr. Montakhabi who by giving precious insights on my subject was very helpful and for her extremely large heart and sentimental nature. She has been a wonderful role model, not only to me, but to many. Most importantly, I would like to thank my mom, my encouraging angel and my father, my symbol of faith, for being my biggest cheerleaders and for supporting me through all of my educational pursuits; And To my brother and sister, kambiz and sepideh, who were always there for me. A special thanks to my true friend Mr. Abtahi whose unconditional support came at a much needed time and he gave up his many weekends and evenings reading my work, truly being interested, giving comments and for never saying no.
Chapter 1: Introduction1
1.1General Background2
1.2Statement of the Problem9
1.2.1Research Questions11
1.3Objectives and Significance of the Study12
1.3.1Significance of the Study12
1.3.2Purpose of the Study13
1.4Literature Review14
1.5Materials and Methodology16
1.5.1Limitation and Delimitation19
1.6Thesis Outline20
1.7Definition of Key Terms21
Chapter 2: Transition of Female Characters24
2.1Current of French Thought25
2.1.1French Feminism26
2.1.2Psychology and French philosophers31
2.1.3Interactions between French thought and German thought33
2.1.4The relation of Feminism and Marxism37
2.1.5Lacan’s and Foucault’s Structuralism38
2.1.6The role of Simone de Beauvoir in French Feminism42
2.1.7Manifestation of Postmodernism and Post-structuralism44
2.2Luce Irigaray45
2.2.1Irigaray’s concepts about the “female character”47“The Other Woman”48“Sexual Difference”52 repressions of women identity in West culture55 and Schizophrenia55 of Patriarchal philosophy57 organs58
2.3Helene Cixous59
2.3.1Cixous’s philosophy and concepts about the female character60 writings about woman’s character60 Born Woman65 Writing66
2.4American and French Feminist literary criticism and art criticism67
2.4.1First waves of feminism69
2.4.2Second waves of feminism and Cixous’s and Irigaray’s concepts70
2.5Proposing the theory of transformation of woman’s personality from Irigaray’s and Cixous’s viewpoints72
Chapter 3: Female Characters of the Buried Child77
3.1″Buried Child”78
3.2Discourse of Characters and Post-Modern Attitude of Shepard79
3.3Construction of “Buried Child”81
3.4Psychoanalysis of women characters81
3.4.1The character of “Catholic Bride” or the notion of multi-phallus in Irigaray’s and Cixous’s concepts83
3.4.2″Halie”: the hysteric and repressed character85
3.4.3Orgasmic pleasure and the character of Shelly88
3.4.4Rape or alienation to femininity89
3.4.5“Woman’s body” speaks91
Chapter 4: Female Characters of A Lie of the Mind & States of Shock92
4.1“A Lie of the Mind”93
4.2Love Crisis and A Lie of the Mind in Shepard’s Viewpoint97
4.3The personality of “beaten Beth”104
4.3.1Beth’s anxiety-Freud’s and Irigaray’s “lack of orgasm”106
4.4Irigaray’s dialectics in women characters109
4.4.1The relation of mother-daughter (Meg and Beth)110
4.5Cixous’s literature therapy and dialogues of woman personality111
4.6“Transition of Personality” in female characters of A Lie of the Mind112
4.6.1“Sally”: Conservative and unrepressed personality112
4.6.2Meg and Lorraine: Non-Reborn Mothers113
4.7″States of Shock”115
4.7.1“White Woman, lack of male’s sex organ”117
4.7.2“War, the absence woman identity”119
Chapter 5: Conclusion121
5.1Summing up122
5.2.1Research Questions127
5.3Works Cited131
Chapter One:
Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 General Background
Sam Shepard (5 November 1943- ) is “the greatest American playwright of his generation” (New York Magazine). In his high school years he began acting and writing poetry. In 1963, he moved to New York City where he met Charlie Mingus who introduced him to a jazz group. In these years he became familiar with Cinema too, he was especially interested in Western movies, which had a great impact on his personality.
His father’s personality and his life that is full of immigrations are the factors, which influenced his works. He loved his father so much and had a very friendly relationship with him and maybe the reason for such a relationship is the several travels, which he had with his father.
In the sixties, American art was undergoing some basic changes, which were related to autonomy of art and literature from their old traditions; Shepard was also under the influences of these changes. In this period Broadway theatre was put aside and a new theatre was created with the aim of reconstructing society.
It was in 1960 that he began his work as a postmodernist in American theatres. Many critics believe that Sam Shepard is the most enjoyable and excitable contemporary playwright in America, but little can be said about what exactly makes his plays interesting and exciting.
Shepard deliberately focuses on the issue of family and in this way he somehow psychoanalyzes the system of family in America. He believes that the reason of his emphasis on family issue is that 1960s was a period of family crisis in America and he himself was greatly affected by this crisis. He was raised up in an environment where “men” had the superior and dominant role and “Alcohol” and “violence” were the main threats for Family’s foundation. He clearly stated that the biologic and blood relations between brothers and sisters in a family were always interesting for him (Callens 27-39) which can be seen in Buried Child and A Lie of the Mind.
Shepard, who was grown up in a patriarchal family, was always curious and interested in woman’s personality: therefore when he brings a female character in his plays he is actually showing us the unconscious part of his mind. For this reason in the process of writing he does not usually hesitate and he writes spontaneously. He said that he completely wrote “Buried Child” in a spontaneous mode.
It can be concluded that he portrays women’s characters through his psychological vision and intuition. In this regard he says:
I don’t know that much about my woman’s characters evolutions or their maturity but I think that they gradually become active and strong characters and they are not merely a symbol of something, in my early works they were more of a sign or symbol […] and I think the evolutions and changes of my woman’ characters started with “Curse of the Starving Class” in characters of mother and daughter and then it continued in “Buried Child” and “A Lie of the Mind” (Shepard 25)
Shepard’s writing style is very close to the style of Joseph Chaikin, for his interests in mythology and complex literature. Both of these paradigms are related to woman’s personality and their influence can be seen in Shepard’s works especially in those which are mainly about women. “Complexity” is the main characteristic of “mythology” so there is a deep relation between the mentioned paradigms and “transformation” and Shepard has connected these three paradigms in its best way.
Throughout his life he wrote many plays and the most notable one is Buried Child, which won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1979. In this play Shepard artfully shows us that how human personalities break, change and set apart and because of these changes of personality, family arguments and crisis would appear. It then leads to arguments therefore these people forget their previous personalities or they would be wiped out.
It all happens in a two-story house, which is inconspicuous and simple. The mother of the family “Halie” cheats on his husband “Dodge” with a protestant minister “Father Dewis”. Dodge is an alcoholic and suffers from bad health; he also does not have a good relation with his sons who act so weird and foolish from time to time. The interesting event is the return of the grandson to the house after so many years as he encounters the unusual deeds of the family members residing in the house.
Another noticeable play by Shepard is A Lie of the Mind, which won him the New York Drama Critics Awards as the best play of the year and Frank Rich, of The New York Times, described it as “a variously rending and hilarious reverie about parents and sons and husbands and wives, all blending into a mythic wilderness…” A Lie of the Mind is a play of three acts and it is about two families and their interaction. This “lie” is visibly seen through the relations of the members of these two families as well as on the stage and in the decorations. In one of the families there is one mother “Lorraine” and her daughter “Sally” and her two sons. “Jake”, Lorraine’s son has beaten “Beth”, his wife, badly and caused her brain damage. “Frankie”, Jake’s brother, wants to go to Beth to find out if she is still alive. The situation in Beth’s family is also complicated and confusing. There is a mother and daughter whose relationship is complicated and the father of the family shoots Frankie while trying to hunt an animal.
States of Shock is another play written by Sam Shepard. “By turns violent, vulgar, poised, and stunningly theatrical … States of Shock is also often very funny” written by Independent. It is a one-act play, consisting of five characters. The set is a family restaurant and there, is a Colonel who remembers his son all the time and is completely nostalgic. He also has a retarded guest who is on a wheelchair and does not really care about the Colonel who keeps talking to him constantly. Their appearance on the stage is symbolic as the residual effects of the Vietnam War, the colonel is the father who ignited the war and that boy is the son who has to fight it off. There are also two women characters in this play, one of them is “Glory Bee”, the restaurant’s waitress, and the other one is called “white woman” who is a customer in the restaurant and is accompanied by her husband. The performances of these two women are marginal in the play but they bring in some profound meaning.
What is noticeable in each of Shepard’s plays is the female character he creates. Generally speaking, women are almost invisible or left unnoticed in his plays. These women are mostly mysterious and do not express their true nature openly. In the Buried Child, the mother character “Halie” is mostly heard rather than being seen and her dialogues are full of repetitions as are her actions. She questions her husband constantly and through her questions she expresses herself. She has short acts in different parts of the play although she screams for a listening ear in silence and her answer to Father Dewis who says that everyone must have a Belief in certain things is:
Yes, yes, I know what you mean. I think that’s right. I think that’s true. Certain basic things. We can’t shake the fundamentals. We might end up crazy. Like my husband, you can see it in his eyes. You can see the madness almost oozing out. We can’t believe in something .We can’t stop believing. We just end up dying if we stop. Just end up dead. (Shepard, Buried Child 99)
It is also the same in the A Lie of the Mind, the women characters depicted in here are in need of a connection with other people and keep striving for it although it comes out to be worthless and watching such quest in vain is completely incisive. This is not only the case of Beth who does not know why she cannot get married with her husband’s brother who is much more nicer to her, but also with mothers who carry the binary of recovery from difficulties versus giving up through this play. In Act three, her husband for helping him fold up the American flag kisses Meg and she says that he had not done that in twenty years. This line just shows the realities that are hidden underneath the surface of their relationship through years.
Lorraine, Jake’s mother, is another wicked women portrayed by Shepard in this play who seems crazy at the beginning but later, about the end of the play, she gets some sane sentences. She even comes more to her senses when she realizes that she had received nothing in response to what she has done through years for her family:
I know one thing for sure all these airplanes have gotta go. All these airplanes are comin’ down. Every last one of ‘em all, this junk in this house that they left behind for me to save, It’s all going. We’ll make us a big bonfire. They never wanted it anyway. They had no intention of ever comin’ back here to pick it up. That was just a dream of theirs. It never meant a thing to them. They dreamed it up just to keep me on the hook. Can’t believe I fell for it all those years. (Shepard, A lie of the mind 96)
In another play by Shepard, the States of Shock, the women are shown to be real, undefended and to some extent sacred and they are understandable although they look somehow stupid. “Glory Bee” the waitress is “present mainly for decorative purposes. […] Women characters in Shepard’s plays, as in States of Shock, very often are marginalized and portrayed mainly by negative stereotypes” (Willadt 158). She does not really have a significant role through the play and she is shown in a way, too dumb to have any idea to present or have anything to say about the action happening between the Colonel and Stubbs.
The other female character is the “White Woman” who is underestimated even much more than Glory bee and to the extent that she does not have a name, she is just called the white woman. This just shows the way she is looked at by others, as being “Other” and characterless. She is not supposed to be a round character and she is there just for being accepted as naturally being a woman and being white and without an identity.
This is exactly what Cixous argues about. From her perspective of binary oppositions like activity/passivity, heart/head and logos/pathos, she comes to the idea that the female is composed of emotions and that she is passive and therefore she is expected to abide by the norms of the patriarchal society if she wants to survive in the system. On the contrary, man is rational; therefore he has the authority to judge, to question and to make up the last decision about nearly all the issues in the society. As a result of these binary oppositions the patriarchal society develops and Cixous aims to break away this binary opposition leading to the repression of women. She considers that women and their actions as are dictated to them, are always targets of oppression, domination and exclusion and being thought as “other”.
The analysis of “female character” is a psychological issue and fortunately Luce Irigaray is a psychologist and psychoanalyst, also the ideas of this thinker is in quite close relation with the ideas of Helene Cixous. In the most of references the name of these two authors, Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous are mentioned together.
In these three plays, The Buried Child, A lie of the Mind and States of Shock by having a specific look on women characters, the readers get a better understanding not only of the meaning of the plays but also in general, about the up and downs and difficult situations which women from all over the world encounter daily. “Women in this separate female world […] developed a “consciousness” and “common identity of womanhood” that propels them to understand the collective problems of their sex”. (Isenberg 9)
1.2 Statement of the Problem
With regard to Sam Shepard’s plays such as The Buried Child, A lie of the Mind and States of Shock, one comes to notice the women characters involved. “The only respectable role for a woman in that time was wifehood in terms of service as a kitchen mat […], a utilitarian object, easily repaired or replaced, […] a metaphor for a woman” (Bonds 54). It is impossible to come across a play by Shepard in which there is a total absence of women characters; although they are few in number, they are inevitable elements in all Shepard’s plays.
Those women are noticed because they are not normally in the main plot of the play but in the background. They complete the meaning with their actions and for being the secondary characters, what they do is to make the audience at theatres or readers who do not expect any action from those characters, wonder for a short time and get consciously involved. In A Lie of the Mind, in the end of scene one act two, Beth the retarded daughter of one of the families, surprisingly makes a monologue and ends the scene:
This—this is my father. He’s given up love. Love is dead for him. My mother is dead for him. Things love for him to be killed. Only death counts for him. Nothing else. This –this—(she slowly moves towards Frankie.) This is I. This is I now. The way I am now. this. All. Different. I—I live inside this. Remember. Remembering. You. You—were one. I know you .I know—love. I know what love is. I can never forget. That. Never. (Shepard, A Lie of the Mind 57)
Since these plays, although seem marginalized, due to the importance of the female characters, their provoking actions and choice of words move themselves to the category of Feminism; this study aims to examine Sam Shepard’s Buried Child, A lie of the Mind and States of Shock, according to Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray’s theories, in order to bring to light any hidden or unnoticed aspects of these plays so that in later years people interested in postmodern dramas specially those of Sam Shepard would be able to look in new perspectives and come up to new understandings. Helene Cixous is one of the most important thinkers in Feminism. “As an Algerian, Jew and woman, she finds herself thrice culturally and historically maked and vows to fight on all fronts against Amy form of oppression” (Conley 4).
Cixous has come to some key concepts in her definition of feminism, which very interestingly can be applied to the works of Shepard in this special case, which this study tries to achieve. Through this research the motive is to trace those concepts of Cixous’s theories not only in the female characters in all those three plays in general but also regarding the dialogue and act of the characters in particular. In her Sorties: Out and Out. “The Newly Born Woman”, Cixous tries to prove that:
Moreover, woman is associated with passivity in philosophy. Whenever it is a question of woman, when one examines kinship structures, when a family model is brought into the play. In fact, as soon as one asks oneself “what is it?” as soon as there is intended meaning. Intention: desire, authority. –Examine them and you are led back… to the farther. (Sorties 561)
Luce Irigaray is also one of the forefront postmodern, psychoanalytical feminist theorists of our times. Irigaray argues that true sexual and gender differences do not exist because sexual difference requires that men and women should achieve the same subjectivity. This subjectivity in Western culture, she argues, for being phallocentric and basing on male ideas, making it impossible for females to exist independently. She developed the theory that the female identity has yet to be stated and is thus declared as an identity independent of male-centric ideas.
It is interesting to acknowledge that despite some beliefs that the plays of Shepard are difficult to open up for getting into them, he has very masterly put his characters especially female ones in plays. By putting both female and male characters in his plays, he makes binary categories and mostly the masculine one is dominant. He later on shows the female ones so naive and weak and consciously makes the readers or audience think of the power and knowledge of male characters as something of natural and inevitable. Meg, Beth’s mother points out in a lie of the Mind:
The female – the female one needs – the other but the male one – Doesn’t really need the other. Not the same way the male one goes off by himself. Leaves. He needs something else. But he doesn’t know what it is. He really doesn’t know what he needs. So he ends up dead. By himself. (Shepard, A lie of the Mind 32)
1.2.1 Research Questions
In reading these three works, there occur some outstanding questions to a thoughtful mind to which this thesis seeks answers:
1) Under which hypothesis can the correlation of Irigaray’s, Cixous’s and shepard’s theories be discussed?
2) How does the correlative hypothesis of the three Intellectuals connect around “Psychoanalysis of Personality”?
3) What is the organic connection between “post-modernism” and “Irigaray-Cixous literary analysis” with Shepard’s plays?
4) Which aspects of the social psychoanalysis of American society do Female characters of Shepard’s plays portray?
5) Is the status of Woman in American society reflected in Shepard’s plays?
1.3 Objectives and Significance of the Study
This piece of research attempts to find the roots and reasons of women’s discourse, behavior and thought in order to identify each female character of The Buried Child, A lie of the Mind and States of Shock. This objective is planned to be achieved by borrowing the theories of Luce Irigaray and Helen Cixous.
The premise and hypothesis is that the personality of women particularly in these plays of Sam Shepard are changed by four steps of transformation, from birth to virginity period and then to the intercourse pleasure and penetration process and at last when she began to understand the dialectical relation of her “ego” with “the other” and sees the world from the “Other” perspective.
1.3.1 Significance of the Study
Although some of Shepard’s plays got many worthy prizes such as Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Obie Awards, they have been criticized at times for being weird and impossible to understand by many critics and also readers and audience in theatres. As an unfortunate phenomenon, which occurs for no reason, Shepard did not get the deserved fame until 1994. It is of course in this current decade that his plays are becoming known among many different groups of people and one of the reasons is the effect of postmodernist movement, which emerged in the same years and made a way for new outlooks over modern theatre. Although there has been some talk about the characters of Shepard’s plays, the analysis of specially female characters as being the “other” and the way they lead to better understanding of the plays seems to have been less applied to.
There are some reasons to why this thesis is worth going through. First, it is necessary to see whether Shepard has a specific reason to put one or two women characters in margins of his plays and if yes, how these marginalized characters help for a better understanding of the play and therefore getting a better insight into the heart of Shepard’s mysterious plays. The second reason about the importance of this study is that the plays which are selected for that aim are in the category of postmodern dramas and as a matter of fact the subject of most of the plays of this category are related to family issues and corruption, therefore people can feel more intimacy with these plays specially those of Shepard which actually won important prizes. The last reason but not the least, is that the women which are portrayed through these plays, each can be a symbol of any woman out in the modern world and by analyzing their situation and identifying themselves with them, women can also go through a self-acknowledgement process and separate their own way from oppression and domination induced by their society.
It is worth noting that there has been no specific reading of Shepard’s plays according to Cixous and Irigaray’s theories on gender. So this study aims at making a research to achieve a new understanding and perspective in watching the plays or reading them.
1.3.2 Purpose of the Study
This thesis aims at analysis of female characters of Sam Shepard’s three plays, The Buried Child, A lie of the Mind and States of Shock, according to Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray’s theories on sex and gender in order to shed a light over the significance of these notions in 20th century drama and the way it leads to an understanding of the plays by audience in theatre and the points that Shepard points at.
1.4 Literature Review
Female characters of Sam Shepard’s three plays, Buried Child, The lie of the mind and states of shock are going to be studied in relation to Helene Cixous’s and Luce Iligaray’s theories on gender. There are some important works by notable critics and also some articles by different authors which are of prime importance and are used for making out this study, the most important ones are Helene Cixous’s The Newly Born Woman and her two major articles:” The Laugh of Medusa” and “Sorties”. There is also another important book, which is Luce Irigaray’s The Ethics of Sexual Differences that can be noticed and each of which makes possible a sufficient understanding through this study.
In The Newly Born Woman, which is a book that provides tools for understanding more about gender, Cixous brings out new challenging ideas like binary oppositions and some other struggling but related ones. She surveys the “woman” concept in the feminist theories and movement and challenges its existence and the amount of its stability. Cixous also talks about Gender, sex and desire that are not happening one after another as independent opponents and this brings limitations to the identity politics. In this case, the female characters of Shepard’s plays are also an opposition to their mate and these couples perform as law organizes them. Cixous says “Superior/Inferior. Myths, legends, books. Philosophical systems. Everywhere (where) ordering intervenes, where a law organizes what is thinkable by oppositions (dual, irreconcilable; or sublatable, dialectical). And all these pairs of oppositions are couples. Does that mean something?” (Cixous, The Newly Born Woman 99)
In the text of Helen Cixous’s The Laugh of the Medusa, Cixous expands the concept of feminine writing by claiming its proximity to voice. She says that this writing should take place in between, which is an abstract space that has no loyalty to opposing terms. She uses her poetic genius and academic savvy to create a text that is brilliantly effective in many ways. First, she succeeds in giving the reader a concept of feminine writing but convinces the audience that in actually defining of the term, its beauty is destroyed. She also manages to give us an example of what this text might be like in her illusive and circular style, but still writes academically enough to be included in most major surveys of rhetoric, literary criticism, and feminist theory. By reading this article one can see differences that Shepard has created between male and female characters.
Another article by Cixous is “Sortie” which is the most anthologized and cited. In this article, Cixous describes the set of hierarchical values, of which we are probably all familiar. The oppositions she sets up include culture/nature; head/heart; colonizer/colonized and speaking/writing. She relates these to the opposition between man and women and then engages in a political and philosophical rejection of the dialectical relation of these terms, believing that they depend on power and exclusion for their existence. At times she seems to suggest two separate approaches to exploring these dichotomies. First Deconstructive reading, in which we must challenge ourselves to question the naturalness or inevitability of structural hierarchies. The second one Subversive and political writing, in which she posits a feminine writing practice she calls writing the body that attempts to do away with hierarchical structures. In this context the language of Shepard’s female characters can also be examined and shed light on new meanings.
In Luce Irigaray’s book The Ethics of Sexual Differences, she continues and completes her writing on “sexual difference” by addressing the ethical implications of her work. Irigaray speaks out against the egalitarian project of feminism important to the Anglo-American school of women thinkers; instead she pursues questions of sexual difference, arguing that all thought and language is gendered and that there can therefore be no neutral thought – philosophy, science or psychoanalysis. Counter posing classical philosophical texts – including those of Plato, Spinoza and Levinas – with a series of meditations on the female experience, she shows that traditional philosophical concepts are problematic. She advocates new philosophies grounded in women’s experience, through which women can develop a distinctly female space and a “love of self”. Only then can love become ethical and the basis of a transformed ethics of sexual difference. This book provides a major contribution to an expanding feminist and philosophical discourse and should be of value to feminists, literary critics and philosophers.
1.5 Materials and Methodology
Through this study and research, the theoretical method of this study is based on the category of Feminism and specifically on the Helen Cixous and Luce Irigaray’s ideas of gender and identity.
Irigaray is somehow in search of Descartes’s ego which is under the influence of Feminism so this ego has a feminine nature. Irigaray looks for the notion of “femininity” and she mainly discusses Freud’s concepts such as the relation of “mother and daughter”. She has analyzed the Libido and mother and daughter relation mutually and for explanation of these relations she got help from Mythology.
Irigaray believes that the “symbolic order of Lacan” is a kind of Freudian patriarchal order, which forms the “dominant patriarchal discourse in language”. She believes that women have hid the mythological matriarchal goddesses inside themselves and by Jung’s analytical psychology they can find out about them. This Freudian dominant patriarchal discourse starts when the “man’s ego” find himself against “the other of woman”. This discourse is manifested in language which names and things are divided to two categories of “masculine” and “feminine” .it is the man who defines “woman and her character” in relation to his character. “Woman” does not give a definition of “her femininity and her ego” or she is not allowed to do such. “Woman” is not a subject and she had been always the man’s object.
Irigaray believes that unlike philosopher’s claim that “subject” is not masculine and is neutral, in literature and philosophy “subject” is masculine and there is a need for deconstructionist revision. The solution of this crisis lies in making a revolution in the notion of “incomplete or imperfect woman object”. Women should be in subject state and reach to Descartes’s “transcendental subject” so they should have a conscious “I” and this transcendental growth can be achieved by “language”. Language and consciousness of woman need the individual and social transcendence and this transcendence can only be achieved by patriarchal deconstruction and passing to “feminine subject” which ultimately leads to “independent transcendental object”.
In Irigaray’s viewpoints, the “female character” needs a revival. She believes that “traditional woman” is an “unborn woman” who is not conscious to her ego, who is defined by her position toward man. Cixous has investigated this characteristic of traditional woman in detail. As Derrida has mentioned correctly about Cixous, her thought and concepts are more poetic than philosophical and psychological that is her difference with Irigaray.
For Cixous, all the women in all over the world including her are without home. She believes that in order to have an “independent identity”, women should write about themselves, about their identity, about their emotions and about being a woman. She, herself, started writing about woman and she calls her method a kind of “theory of writing”.
This “theory of writing” wants to deconstruct the dominant structure of Patriarchal history, literature and philosophy. In most of her works it can be concluded that she is the character of narrator and as a woman in her own narration, she expresses her issues, as if she monitors all the cracks, unsaid and problems from a long distance. As a result, it can be said that Cixous concerns about the projection of problems and issues from woman’s viewpoint.
Cixous believes that a woman who is living in a Patriarchal society and becomes conscious about her feminine ego and confronting with any repressions from patriarchal society, can reveal her ego and only in this way she can be born again and achieve an independent personality. She later developed the idea in which the woman personality can be defined separately from man (the other) and in this she can be re-born.
Cixous’s Feminine Writing or Ecritute Féminie includes all the materials, which cannot be expressed, and because of some sociological norms they are also repressed. Sexual repressions, jokes, Graphic image, emotion and love are those materials which are allowed for men in a patriarchal society but women cannot write or express them. These repressions lead to the repression of sexual and emotional egos of women, which the cause of personality disorders.
Cixous believes that female writers should have the courage to change the patriarchal writing. Female writing can create an opportunity in which all the words and sentence would express women’s real emotions .she believes that by the means of writing women should display their pleasant and beautiful body, just like a painting.
In patriarchal writings, being a woman is either erotic or conveys motherhood but female writings display women just like the way she, herself, feels without having any fear from repressions of the patriarchal society. In these ideas, Cixous was under the influence of Derrida especially about the term phallogocentrism. This term focuses on Derrida’s social structure of speech and binary opposition as the center of reference for language, with the phallic being privileged and how women are only defined by what they lack. She believes that this presence without the other can be achieved by woman’s writing about her ego without the presence of the other man.
As a result, Irigaray believes that one of the treatment strategies for personality disorders of women is psychoanalysis and women’s expressions about their own. Cixous has theorized this theory of Irigaray in “female writing” in a way that female writing and female expression can “change or transfer” woman’s personality from one state to another. This personality change or transformation is also emphasized by Sam Shepard, which is exactly the main point of this research but it should be noted that Shepard was not aware of Cixous’s and Irigaray’s concepts. The impact of French feminism on American feminism has an important role in influencing of French feminist intellectual current on Americans. Similarly, American theatre in fifties and sixties was familiar with the notion of “transformation. So that was how Shepard became familiar with the concept of “transformation” and tried to develop this theory in his works. The theory of transformation of personality which is the main concern in this research can be a chain which connects all these three authors with each other.
1.5.1 Limitation and Delimitation
On hearing Sam Shepard’s name, one is reminded of modern dramas, poems, and several books of short stories, essays, memoirs, films and cinema. As it is seen, other than being a literary figure and a writer of plays and poems, Shepard is also an actor and at the same time television and film director writing most of his own scenarios himself. So his works can be read through different approaches. This thesis, however, will focus on Sam Shepard’s The Buried Child, A lie of the Mind and States of Shock.
This study will go through these plays regarding both Cixous and Irigaray’s ideas and theories on gender, which are very new perspectives in feminism towards the female gender, and other theories of feminism will be disregarded.
In this context, there will be a study on Cixous’s theories on gender and ecriture feminine and the idea of subjectivity, which would shed a light on the work’s overall mood. There are also other concepts of Irigaray that will be studied on female characters in Shepard’s plays such as identity, sexuality, jouissance and reproduction.
1.6 Thesis Outline
The next four chapters include the main body of this dissertation, and its first step is to launce and to introduce the approach of this thesis in the framework of flashbacking to the theories, perception and debates of philosophers and thinkers that were the basis of the theories of Cixous and Irigaray on gender. The predominant part of this chapter deals with Cixous and Irigaray’s statements and principles on “transformation of Personality”.
The next two chapters provide critical amount of details in the analysis of each play of Sam Shepard with reference to the theories of Cixous and Irigaray. Because of being a rewarded play, Chapter three is all about Buried Child, which encompasses the life of female characters in the play, and it discloses the psychological conflicts of these women in fronting the patriarchal society. Naturally, the next chapter is designed to discover the transition of identity in women characters of A Lie of the Mind and States of Shock and this represents that the women characters of these play although look marginal, are in a fight to break the limitations and speak their feminine language.
The final part of this thesis is chapter five that includes three main subdivisions of summing

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