Towards a poethics of love
Poststructuralist feminist ethics and literary creation
- Margaret E. Toye
While ethics has become accepted as an important field of inquiry within Anglo-American critical and feminist theory, the same thing cannot be said about ‘love’. I argue that ‘love’ needs to be taken as a serious, valid and crucial subject for academic study, and that feminist theory should have a special investment in the topic. Phenomenological theories of pain and psychoanalytic theories of melancholy can provide a negative definition of love by describing situations where love has lost its objects. These theories help to map connections amongst pain, love, and language, and demonstrate how language — and for Julia Kristeva, how especially literary language — can play an important role in mediating these states. I propose that ‘love’ names not only a particular qualitative relation between a self and an Other, but also a process of altering oneself that involves the creation of an unusual and seemingly contradictory spacing or distance. Luce Irigaray’s work helps us conceive of this concept as an embodied one through her concept of proximate distance. I suggest a ‘poethics of love’ as a theory/methodology that could allow us to continue to think through these complex issues in a way that ties ethical, political and aesthetic concerns together.
- © The Author(s), 2010