Margaret R. Miles: Carnal Knowing: Female Nakedness and Religious Meaning in the Christian West

An exploration of the power of visual and verbal representations of female nakedness throughout Western Christian history. Margaret Miles looks at how men have treated women's bodies – in their actions, art and writings, and why, in Christian history, naked female bodies have symbolized shame.

Margaret R. Miles is Emeritus Professor of Historical Theology at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. As Bussey Professor of Theology, she taught the history of Christian thought for 20 years at Harvard University Divinity School. Her previous books include Plotinus on Body and Beauty (Blackwell, 1999), Reading for Life (1996), Seeing and Believing (1996), Desire and Delight (1993), Practicing Christianity (1988), Carnal Knowing (1988), Seeing and Believing (1996), and A Complex Delight (2007).

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Additional Resources:
Margaret R. Miles: Religion and the Common Good (lecture)
Living Lovingly in a Culture of Fear (Lecture)
Gender and Teaching in Education (Essay)

Bram Dijkstra: Idols of Perversity, Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siecle Culture

At the turn of the century, an unprecedented attack on women erupted in virtually every aspect of culture: literary, artistic, scientific, and philosophic. Throughout Europe and America, artists and intellectuals banded together to portray women as static and unindividuated beings who functioned solely in a sexual and reproductive capacity, thus formulating many of the anti-feminine platitudes that today still constrain women’s potential.
Bram Dijkstra’s Idols of Perversity explores the nature and development of turn-of-the-century misogyny in the works of hundreds of writers, artists, and scientists, including Zola, Strindberg, Wedekind, Henry James, Rossetti, Renoir, Moreau, Klimt, Darwin, and Spencer. Dijkstra demonstrates that the most prejudicial aspects of Evolutionary Theory helped to justify this wave of anti-feminine sentiment. The theory claimed that the female of the species could not participate in the great evolutionary process that would guide the intellectual male to his ultimate, predestined role as a disembodied spiritual essence. Darwinists argued that women hindered this process by their willingness to lure men back to a sham paradise of erotic materialism. To protect the male’s continued evolution, artists and intellectuals produced a flood of pseudo-scientific tracts, novels, and paintings which warned the world’s males of the evils lying beneath the surface elegance of woman’s tempting skin.
Reproducing hundreds of pictures from the period and including in-depth discussions of such key works as Dracula and Venus in Furs, this fascinating book not only exposes the crucial links between misogyny then and now, but also connects it to the racism and anti-semitism that led to catastrophic genocidal delusions in the first half of the twentieth century. Crossing the conventional boundaries of art history, sociology, the history of scientific theory, and literary analysis, Dijkstra unveils a startling view of a grim and largely one-sided war on women still being fought today.

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Luce Irigaray: Speculum of the Other Woman


Speculum of the Other Woman by Luce Irigaray is incontestably one of the most important works in feminist theory to have been published in this generation. For the profession of psychoanalysis, Irigaray believes, female sexuality has remained a "dark continent," unfathomable and unapproachable; its nature can only be misunderstood by those who continue to regard women in masculine terms. In the first section of the book, "The Blind Spot of an Old Dream of Symmetry," Irigaray rereads Freud's essay "Femininity," and his other writings on women, bringing to the fore the masculine ideology implicit in psychoanalytic theory and in Western discourse in general: woman is defined as a disadvantaged man, a male construct with no status of her own.

In the last section, "Plato's Hystera," Irigaray reinterprets Plato's myth of the cave, of the womb, in an attempt to discover the origins of that ideology, to ascertain precisely the way in which metaphors were fathered that henceforth became vehicles of meaning, to trace how woman came to be excluded from the production of discourse. Between these two sections is "Speculum"–ten meditative, widely ranging, and freely associational essays, each concerned with an aspect of the history of Western philosophy in its relation to woman, in which Irigaray explores woman's essential difference from man.

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Interview: Of Relations and Rights
PDF: The Sex Which is Not One

Working With Luce Irigaray
About the Project (A Note from Luce Irigaray): Since 2003, I hold a seminar with researchers doing their PhD on my work. This way, they have the opportunity to receive personal teaching from me and to exchange ideas, methods and experiences between them.
The framework of the seminar is as follows: A group of fifteen researchers stay one week on the university campus. The timetable includes a presentation by each on the aspect of their PhD which most focuses on my work, a discussion of this presentation by the group, my comments and my answers to questions, and also sessions devoted to an explanation of some key words chosen by the participants. Personal meetings with me are organized on the last day.
The participants in the seminar have come from different regions of the world, they belong to different cultures, traditions and fields of research. In each of these fields, diverse domains, approaches and methods are represented. To date, the participants came from Australia, Vietnam, Korea, China, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Latvia, Spain, Italy, Ireland and from various universities of the U.S.A. and the U.K.
This website intends to make known the work of young researchers who participated in the seminar through summaries of their research, news about the evolution of their career, and dialogues that they continue holding with me. It also aims at maintaining and developing the link among researchers of one year’s seminar and broadening it to every researcher who took part in the seminar.