Skirting the Issue: Essays in Literary Theory

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What is the relation of criticism to literature? What does it mean to call oneself a woman? What does a (feminine) coming to writing la venue a l'ecriture, in Cixous's phrase imply? How may feminist strategies of reading appropriate the literary theory developed in France since the 1960s? What is involved in reading like a woman? These are some of the questions Mary Lydon explores in Skirting the Issue.Identifying with a series of French literary theorists, she adopts their manner rather than their putative method as she responds to selected French artists and writers of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The result is a suite of readings that show what has come to be known as French theory in operation: readings that are a la Derrida, Lacan, Barthes, Foucault after them in the sense that a drawing might be described as after Leonardo rather than a rehearsal of their thought. Operative rather than explicative, Lydon's approach illuminates writers and theorists alike while challenging the validity of trying to keep the two categories sharply distinct. Arguing, after Barthes, that the same desire to write animates both, she makes literature theoretical, theory literary, and the reader excited to be in the presence of the two in dialogue. Because of this, Skirting the Issue, which is as witty and elegant as it is lucid, will interest all students of modern literature and thought.