Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, Vol 26, No 3 (2013)

Animals, Women, and Writing Impurity: From Joy to Compassion

Eva Birch
Issued Date: 24 Feb 2014

Abstract


This paper examines the subjectivity of the woman and the animal through the critical lens of écriture feminine, the poststructuralist, feminist theory of Hélène Cixous, Julia Kristeva, and Luce Irigaray, and queries how these theorists have used religious notions either to bolster or challenge their constructions of identity. In the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament we nd ordinations in regard to the pure and the impure. Cixous’s and Kristeva’s interventions into this text draw on literature to illustrate the shared associations between women and animals as categories of the impure and subjects of abomination. Yet, their feminist brand of anthropocentrism belies general disregard for the morality of eating meat, which is a pivotal concern in Leviticus. Irigaray’s autobiographical writing, which forgoes the confessional trappings of conventional memoirs, provides us with an alternative literary engagement with this theme, one that counters carno-phallogocentric logic with an embrace of vegetarianism. In her essay ‘Animal Compassion’ she writes about impurity in a way that describes the possibility of companionship between those exiled by this category, and therefore problematises the notion of human privilege.

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DOI: 10.1558/jasr.v26i3.288

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