Is Feminism Realism Possible? A theory of labial eros and mimesis. Anderlini-D'Onofrio, S. Journal of Gender Studies, 8(2):159--180, July, 1999.
Is Feminism Realism Possible? A theory of labial eros and mimesis [link]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
This article establishes a correlation between Aristotle's concept of mimesis and the two concepts of modern realism and linear narration, which, with good reason, have been attacked as phallic by many feminist theorists. The correlation is established on the basis of my analysis of the narrative structure of the play Oedipus Rex, and of the reasons why Aristotle might have chosen it as his main example to illustrate his theory in The Poetics. While Aristotle argued that drama is better than lyric and epic, he ironically chose a narrative play to represent his favourite genre to his male students at the Lyceum. This suggests that the example was the most suitable for them to understand. I argue that this accessibility is directly related to the student's gender, their heterosexual acculturation and their masculine embodiedness and eros. Nonetheless, Aristotle established a positive notion of mimesis, which is useful to feminists because it helps us to correlate the reality of our experience with the representations of it that we propose to each other and the external world. Hence, I propose that we use Aristotlelian mimesis as a point of departure to formulate a notion of mimesis based on female embodiedness and eros. A first example to which I point is that of labial mimesis, in which a female duo replaces the phallic hero at the center of the frame of representation. I argue that this duo represents the labia, thus pointing to the possibility of a feminist realism in which the relationship between experience and the intelligible is mediated by female embodiedness and eros, and of developing a new symbolic order based on these new mediations. As I intend to move feminist thought beyond formalist views of realism, I contend that phallic mimesis is only one of the many possible mimeses; not the most sophisticated, and definitely not universal. Indeed, The Poetics constructs it as universal because Aristotle's job was acculturating his students in a system that valorized phallic eros and expected them to become good citizens and procreators. Thus we see that in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, the hero stands erect at the center of the scene of representation and functions as the symbol of the linear, phallic mimesis which is particular but is presented as universal. Feminist readers can look for alternatives to this kind of mimesis, and we can focus on plays where a female duo is at the center of the dramatic structure, and their interaction is the focus of the play. I propose that this mimesis establishes a different relationship between experience and the intelligible for it is based on labial eros. It is a 'labial mimesis' that can be observed in many modern and contemporary films and plays that are realistic for they order experience in a clear, intelligible way, but do so through a mechanism that symbolizes a site of pleasure found in women's bodies. In this alternative to phallic mimesis, the mimetic function is accomplished by the labia, a symbol in which we women can recognize our own eros and interrelatedness.
@article{ anderlini-donofrio_is_1999,
  title = {Is {Feminism} {Realism} {Possible}? {A} theory of labial eros and mimesis},
  volume = {8},
  issn = {09589236},
  shorttitle = {Is {Feminism} {Realism} {Possible}?},
  url = {http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=2213899&site=ehost-live},
  doi = {10.1080/095892399102689},
  abstract = {This article establishes a correlation between Aristotle's concept of mimesis and the two concepts of modern realism and linear narration, which, with good reason, have been attacked as phallic by many feminist theorists. The correlation is established on the basis of my analysis of the narrative structure of the play Oedipus Rex, and of the reasons why Aristotle might have chosen it as his main example to illustrate his theory in The Poetics. While Aristotle argued that drama is better than lyric and epic, he ironically chose a narrative play to represent his favourite genre to his male students at the Lyceum. This suggests that the example was the most suitable for them to understand. I argue that this accessibility is directly related to the student's gender, their heterosexual acculturation and their masculine embodiedness and eros. Nonetheless, Aristotle established a positive notion of mimesis, which is useful to feminists because it helps us to correlate the reality of our experience with the representations of it that we propose to each other and the external world. Hence, I propose that we use Aristotlelian mimesis as a point of departure to formulate a notion of mimesis based on female embodiedness and eros. A first example to which I point is that of labial mimesis, in which a female duo replaces the phallic hero at the center of the frame of representation. I argue that this duo represents the labia, thus pointing to the possibility of a feminist realism in which the relationship between experience and the intelligible is mediated by female embodiedness and eros, and of developing a new symbolic order based on these new mediations. As I intend to move feminist thought beyond formalist views of realism, I contend that phallic mimesis is only one of the many possible mimeses; not the most sophisticated, and definitely not universal. Indeed, The Poetics constructs it as universal because Aristotle's job was acculturating his students in a system that valorized phallic eros and expected them to become good citizens and procreators. Thus we see that in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, the hero stands erect at the center of the scene of representation and functions as the symbol of the linear, phallic mimesis which is particular but is presented as universal. Feminist readers can look for alternatives to this kind of mimesis, and we can focus on plays where a female duo is at the center of the dramatic structure, and their interaction is the focus of the play. I propose that this mimesis establishes a different relationship between experience and the intelligible for it is based on labial eros. It is a 'labial mimesis' that can be observed in many modern and contemporary films and plays that are realistic for they order experience in a clear, intelligible way, but do so through a mechanism that symbolizes a site of pleasure found in women's bodies. In this alternative to phallic mimesis, the mimetic function is accomplished by the labia, a symbol in which we women can recognize our own eros and interrelatedness.},
  number = {2},
  urldate = {2015-09-25TZ},
  journal = {Journal of Gender Studies},
  author = {Anderlini-D'Onofrio, Serena},
  month = {July},
  year = {1999},
  keywords = {FEMINISM, FEMINISM \& literature, OEDIPUS (Tale) in literature, REALISM},
  pages = {159--180}
}
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