An Examination of Irigaray's Commitment to Transcendental Phenomenology in The Forgetting of Air and The Way of Love


  • Anne Van Leeuwen


Although sexual difference is widely regarded as the concept that lies at the center of Luce Irigaray's thought, its meaning and significance is highly contested. This dissensus, however, attests to more than merely the existence of a recalcitrant conceptual ambiguity. That is, Irigaray's discussion of sexual difference remains fraught not because she leaves this concept undefined but because the centrality of sexual difference in fact marks a complex and unstable nexus of phenomena that shift throughout her work. Consequently, if Irigaray is indeed the preeminent thinker of sexual difference, this is not in virtue of her recurrent appeal to a monolithic, readily digestible concept but rather somehow despite the absence of precisely this gesture. In this paper, I will attempt to elucidate the peculiar preeminence of sexual difference in Irigaray's work by identifying her persistent, though largely unexamined, commitment to transcendental phenomenology. Indeed, I attempt to show that the complex of phenomena of sexual difference emerges in L'oubli de l'air and The Way of Love as a modulation of Heidegger's own revision of transcendental phenomenology. In this sense, the peculiar preeminence of sexual difference does not mark the centrality of a concept but Irigaray's amplification of this Heideggerian gesture.