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Saveanu, R.V. (1990). Sowing the Body Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women by Page duBois Women in Culture and Society Series. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, xv + 227 pp., $29.95. Psa. Books, 1(1):85-89.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Books, 1(1):85-89

Sowing the Body Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women by Page duBois Women in Culture and Society Series. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, xv + 227 pp., $29.95

Review by:
Radu V. Saveanu, M.D.

Page duBois's new book, written from the vantage point of feminine critical thinking, has a dual purpose: to undertake a new examination of women in Ancient Greek society and to provide a critique of psychoanalytic theories of gender. As the author develops her arguments, she makes use of deconstructive, Marxist, psychoanalytic, feminist, and classical theories.

From the beginning of the book, she takes strong issue with Freud and Lacan and their “traditional” view of women as symbolically castrated, and therefore deficient, men. She argues that both Freudian and Lacanian gender theories are embedded in the Western metaphysical tradition (“fathered” by Plato), which only acknowledges sameness: therefore, women are no different from men except that they lack a phallus. Using an argument similar to Jacques Derrida's, Professor duBois claims that any kind of binary opposition (in this case the presence or absence of the phallus) carries within it an implied and disguised hierarchy. Derrida's findings, adopted by duBois, have been unsettling: our Western philosophical tradition has been primarily based on detecting oppositions, and in so doing it has assigned an unequal value to the two sides of the binary construction, speech having been privileged over writing, signifier over signified, presence over absence. Taking this argument one step further, the author claims that for over two millennia being male in our culture has meant “being better” and being in a privileged position of power, domination, and control. Being a woman, on the other hand, has been seen as marked by lack, an absence of the phallus; in other words, as wounded, weak, deficient, and inferior (a view also sanctioned by Freud and Lacan).

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