Jesús R. Velasco | Introduction to Nietzsche 10/13

By Jesús R. Velasco

Welcome to Nietzsche 10/13

It has been said that Luce Irigaray’s Amante Marine, translated in English as Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche, is an opaque work. As Joanne Faulkner puts it in one of the articles suggested for this session, Irigaray intended her readers to come to her text with their homework done. Irigaray does not quote textual references, she does not inscribe herself in the history of philosophy, she does not present a philosophical argument that she intends to pursue, and she definitely does not present the philosophical or authoritative genealogy of such argument. It does not mean, as Kelly Oliver has demonstrated, that Irigaray places herself outside the philosophical traditions, outside the philosophical debates that are taking place in her intellectual universe; on the contrary, she holds a sustained discussion with thinkers that may be absent in name, but who are inscribed, tattooed in her text with their conceptual contributions and analytical tools.

What seems interesting to me is the power of this movement in itself, its inherent energy of cleaning up the desk of all the names that constitute the male philosophical history of the West, in order to focus on the moment of the address, in the conversation itself. In this conversation there are only two interlocutors, and their truth appears in front of every reader under the guise of two tropes that oscillate between the metaphor (being something else) and the metonymy (an impossible contiguity). Those are the ones that will philosophize —even if that entails a careful surgery to extract from the text the whole  historia philosophorum.

Instead of all the explicit professional discourse, the philosophical poem can be seen as moment of recognition in which the one who gives an account of herself engages in a conversation with the male philosopher afraid of the sea, afraid of water altogether, and who does not expect the moment of recognition itself. To read Irigaray from this perspective, I found illuminating the following words of Judith Butler:

“…my narrative begins in medias res, when many things have already taken place to make me and my story in language possible. And it means that my story always arrives late. I am always recuperating, reconstructing, even as I produce myself differently in the very act of telling. My account of myself is partial, haunted by that for which I have no definitive story.” (Butler, “Giving an account…”, diacritics, p. 27.)

I hesitate to say that the marine lover’s account arrives late to anything. It is mostly the one addressed as vous or addressed as tu, the male philosopher, who arrives late to the story, and to history altogether. It is because of this that Irigaray’s philosophical-poetic voice, Ariadne, wants to delve into the technologies of the philosopher’s self, by, first of all, interpreting his dreams:

“…I want to interpret your midnight dreams, and unmask that phenomenon, your night. And make you admit that I dwell in it as your most fearsome adversity. So that you can finally realize what your greatest res sentiment is. And so that with you I can fight to make the earth my own, and stop allowing myself to be a slave to your nature. And so that you finally stop wanting to be the only god.” (25).

This paragraph is not only a philosophical desire in that crucial moment of recognition. It is, as well, one of the moments in which the autophilosopher (as the account is given in the first person) deploys the philosophical language and the philosophical style of the male philosopher in front of him. She thinks with this language, thinks with this style, thinks with the metaphors and the concepts of the male philosopher —to make the critique of his own critique. Return, ressentiment, power, will, all those concepts are subject to the poetic microanalysis of the autophilosopher, with the purpose to think what scares the male philosopher:  not earth, but water, le féminin, and even the exegesis of the incarnation, the birth of the gods. In a sense, she proposes a different history of humankind.

To speak about this formidable critical thinker that is Luce Irigaray, we have invited the main specialists. We are happy to have today with us Penelope Deutscher and Kelly Oliver.