Wednesday, September 26, 2007

CFP: "Recoupling Genre and Gender"

A CFP for a special issue of the journal Angelaki is below.

The theme raises questions that include whether and how philosophy (or certain areas or styles in philosophy) are masculine, and if so, whether it is their masculine qualities that contribute to those areas of inquiry being pursued by more males than females.

For example, Jender has noted that software which presumes to guess an author's gender generally pegs analytic philosophy as male, no matter the actual gender of the author. The style expectations in analytic philosophy mimic typical male speech/writing patterns.

This raises some of the same issues as the silly literature on whether boys are naturally good at math, or whether the fact that they receive more instruction and more instructor attention has something to do with it. We analytic philosophers apparently learn which writing style is appropriate. Are women in general taught that a particular writing style is the one with which they are expected to express themselves?

Here's the cfp:

Recoupling Genre and ‘Gender’

Edited by Moira Gatens

Theme Issue for Angelaki: journal of theoretical humanities

Proposed publication date: December 2008

Questions about genre always raise questions of tradition, authority and exclusion. What justifies the judgement that one text is ‘philosophical’, another ‘literary’, and yet another ‘historical’? And
how might these broad ‘genre’ distinctions play out in the realm of gender? Is literary production ‘feminised’ in relation to a ‘masculinised’ philosophy? And what can be said about the gendering of
genres within disciplines?

For example:

· Writing the history of ‘Great Men’ and ‘Great Events’ is the preserve of men whereas social histories, that require an ‘eye for detail’ and the ‘everyday’, are suited to the special talents of women.
· Metaphysics and Epistemology are at the ‘science’ end of philosophy, whereas moral and social philosophy is at the ‘humanities’ end and so more suited to women.
· Epic poetry, high tragedy, and wide-ranging, ‘big picture’, creations are the literary preserve of men; women’s genre is the novel and the short story, both of which suit women’s talents in representing the
everyday and domesticity.

Perhaps these platitudes do little more than rearticulate the claim that Man is able to grasp the 'universal' whereas woman’s preserve is the ‘particular’? Recent scholarship, across the disciplines, has questioned both how these disciplines (history, philosophy, and literature) relate to each other and the way in which ‘gender’ has been coupled with particular genres of writing.

This special issue of Angelaki aims to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars in order to reconsider ways in which the genre and gender question has been configured in recent theory. It seeks innovative reformulations of the genre-gender relation that emphasise the ways in which this relation is intimately tied to specific social norms and particular institutions in a variety of cultural, historical and political contexts. To this end, the papers will explore the specificity of the discursive relationship between various ‘coupled’ authors as well as the way in which the reception of their writings may have changed over time. (The ‘coupled’ authors might include: Wollstonecraft and Godwin, George Eliot and G.H. Lewes, Virgina Woolf and Vita Sackville West, Mary Shelley and P.B. Shelley, Heidegger and Arendt, Delueze and Guattari). The overriding aim is to move towards a 'recoupling' of genre and gender that acknowledges the full force of the range of institutions and social and historical conventions at work in genre allocation.

The upper limit for submissions is 10,000 words but shorter pieces are welcome. Please follow MLA style and submit papers electronically (in Word format) to

Deadline for submission: 15 April 2008.


Khadimir said...

snarky comment: in just reading the beginning, I thought "yeah, analytic philosophy is definitely masculine--often hyper masculine." And then the post says so later on.

I'm not sure what it is, but analytic philosophy as performed at conferences always seems combative, militaristic, and patriarchal when I see it. However, that might also have a lot to do with the fact that the speaker is almost always (a young) male. However, I saw a limited dose of such masculinity at SAAP last year (Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy). That ressentiment panel ....

Third generation phenomenology, critical theory, continental feminism and contemporary psycho-analysis seem much more feminine to me. Though, my one SPEP (Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy) was the most alienated and alienating event that I have ever attended.

But then, reflecting and introspecting, anything strongly Apollonian strikes me as masculine, though the Dionysian need not be an opposite.

Evelyn Brister said...

There is a 1983 paper by Janice Moulton called "A Paradigm of Philosophy: The Adversary Method" which theorizes the link between certain methods of philosophical argument and masculine norms. The paper starts with a section called "The Unhappy Conflation of Aggression with Success" and points out methodological flaws with relying too heavily on thinking critically rather than positively, collaboratively, and practically.

I think these are all legitimate points but they seem to me to target a style which, as you point out Khadimir, is not limited to analytic philosophy.

At the same time, I (and other members of the Society for Analytical Feminism) believe that there are also benefits to an analytic style. It can be practical, precise, and useful for clarifying concepts and identifying inconsistencies. Ann Garry has a 1995 paper in Hypatia about how analytic philosophy, though criticized as irredeemably masculine, is at least "minimally decent."

Khadimir said...

After some further thought, I have realized something about the "hyper-masculinity" that I attributed to analytic philosophy. Musing upon my experiences at conferences, I have realized that I have seen "masculinity," particularly explicit aggression and dominance, during event in each of the traditions. I note some differences in how this aggression manifests, which seems to me to indicate different sub-cultural trends and expectations.

For instance, a particular behavior that I see in some analytic presentations that I name "masculine" is a militaristic drawing a bead on truth attitude. For me it sets off the ascetic will-to-truth flag, which is not good.

At the afore-mentioned SAAP occurrence, the behavior was not will-to-truth, but verged on demagogery--a preaching to hardships that we pragmatists must do something about. We pragmatists *do* things, you see. Or, perhaps we pragmatists are the problem--per John Stuhr's presentation. Will-to-truth is not a popular form here.

Lastly, again anecdotally, I note that some continentals adopt a "man of humanity" approach (pronoun intended). That is, there is a high-intellectual preaching to the condition of humanity that must be rectified--see especially critical theory--which rains down upon its audience like so much patriarchy.

So, I have diverged a bit from written style in my anecdotes to talk more about the performance of a paper. To return to style, there are many ways to attempt to achieve "clarity." Could you express what mechanisms an "analytic" style might use to achieve this? I ask because I have spent years in meditation upon writing and have my own thoughts about various ways to be "clear."

Of particular interest to me is the employment of rhetoric to achieve "clarity" in/through different registers, i.e. grammar, semantics, logic, analogy/metaphor. I note that analytic styles tend to dump complexity into logic, whereas continental per literary often fuses the logical and metaphoric, which likewise makes the grammar and semantics more complicated.

Evelyn Brister said...

Well, since you've asked...I think I'm qualified to talk about the characteristics of writing style in virtue simply of being a reader.

I don't think that complexity of thought and complexity of writing are coupled. In analytic philosophy, sometimes complexity is dealt with through logic and sometimes logical notation is unnecessary. Indeed, sometimes simple ideas are unnecessarily expressed in logical notation. Conveying complex ideas in simple language is, I think, a virtue.

In analytic writing, I think it is considered one of the highest virtues. (Which is not to say that there is not a lot of poorly written, unnecessarily complex analytic writing.) The trope of analytic philosophy is more methodical than other styles. It often lays out some possibilites and then methodically considers each of them and their merits. I may be alone in this opinion, but I really enjoyed reading Arthur Danto's Analytic Philosophy of History (1965) as an example of analytic style.

Although, ideally, continental philosophy should also aim for clarity, the most lauded texts seem to treat provocation and originality as a higher virtue.

At any rate, I would say that if an idea cannot be expressed with simple grammar and familiar words then communication is being sacrificed for something else.

Khadimir said...

Though I do not wish to dwell on the topic, I would like to point to the heart of the matter.

Dr. Brister wrote:
"At any rate, I would say that if an idea cannot be expressed with simple grammar and familiar words then communication is being sacrificed for something else."

I would disagree with this statement, and I think that the key word is "communication." If the word had been "simplicity" in a straight-forward sense, then I would have been in agreement. If the word had been "clarity," then I would hesitantly accede. However, concerns for "communication" are precisely why good, non-provocative Continental philosophy is written in the more literary style that it is. (I add the non-provocative qualifier because you are correct in that some Continental writers care as much or more about performance or provocaton than communication, i.e. later Derrida, Deleuze, etc.)

To speak to my own appropriation of more literary styles, I find that the analytic convention of argumentation implicitly or explicitly grounded on formal logic to be useful for certain realms of discourse or for certains kinds of accounts, but not all. The conceptual structure provided by that style of argumentation does not bear the full fruit in the study of the phenomenon, hermeneutics, subjectivity, or other areas not fully opened by logical-formal thinking.

But, I suspect that these are familiar words on both sides. For me, it is sufficient to note that analytic does employ certain styles and have certain expectations--in which I can and do often write--but there are other styles. At the moment, I have been thinking about what would be appropriate for my dissertation in American thought. Notably, American thought is comfortable with "verbalizing our nouns" as it is said, though for different reasons than one in the Heideggerian tradition. (i.e., All experience is activity, hence everything in experience is active, etc.)

Khadimir said...

I guess the take-home point of my new response is that Continental styles often open new ways of making inferences that may includes those of traditional logic, but are not reducible thereto. One without training in these stylistics would not be served to think of them in traditional terms, though I bet that rhetorical/literary analysis would be more appropriate. For instance, Continental relies heavily on the use of very, very complex conceptual metaphors that often have been developed within particular traditions in the field. Hence, Heideggerian revealing/concealing, Heideggerian hermeneutic circle, Gadamerian hermeneutic circle, Hegelian dialectic, Marxian dialectic, critical theory dialectic, etc. These usages are so complex that one must study the whole tradition of their use to be confident in their subsequent employment by others and oneself. Without such training ... yeah it might be obtuse. But so is formal logic or even ordinary language philosophy to those untrained. On the down side, I see much poor continental writing that is impoverished, I suspect, because the writer spends too much time stylizing the writing rather than saying something. This may hold even for the best philosophers (especially in presentations).

Evelyn Brister said...

Khadimir, what bothers me about the stance you take is the idea that one must "study the whole tradition" of the use of certain terms in order to understand what philosophers have to say.

There's no doubt that deep understanding does sometimes require quite a lot of training, whether it's understanding logic, or ecology, or medicine, or ethics.

But I am concerned when the training that is required is so long and so esoteric that the audience of people able to engage the thinker is practically non-existent.

I used to teach a piece by Luce Irigaray even though I and the students were often frustrated in parsing the text. At the time, I felt like she was a central figure in feminist theory.

But then I read an interview with her in which she claimed that no one could even begin to make sense of her message until they had read Hegel, Nietzsche, etc etc AND worked through YEARS of psychoanalytic training.

Well, if an author thinks that of her own writing, then it's certainly not worth teaching to undergrads, and it also is not going to lead to concrete changes in women's conditions.

Khadimir said...

Ah, then potentially we have a very deep disagreement on our hands.

I think that a professional philosopher should study much of the tradition in which a work is written, for otherwise much of the nuanced meaning and situatedness of a text is lost. I note that while continental philosophy trades heavily on the tradition for this and other reasons, analytic does not in comparison.

As for concerns of the audience, of course much continental thought is written for professional philosophers. Those who think that they deserve a wider audience fool themselves. The same is true for analytic, though it is easier since it trades less heavily in stylistics and much less in history/tradition.

I am not at all surprised by your anecdote about Irigaray. And, I do not see a problem with her comments. However, as you rightly point out, the material might only be appropriate for undergraduates who have already had some training. Even then, it might serve to acquaint them rather then educate them. That is doing them a service if they plan to be professional philosophers, but perhaps not so otherwise.

As for your last comment, I do not think that professional philosophy will lead to much change for anyone insofar as it is professional and academic. Moreover, it should not per se. Rather, it is the person who lives knowledge that changes conditions. Yet the person may only make use of the knowledge that can be made one's own--I do not expect undergraduates to make use of advanced continental texts (Or many graduates on many such texts).

You won't see many such priumary texts in my undergraduate syllabi--possibly none in low-level courses. Maybe secondaries.