Entries in irigaray (2)


Happy Birthday Tim Berners-Lee; Gemini post-modern philosophers 

    A birthday greeting to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, born 8 June 1955, creator of the blogosphere. Unavoidably, cyber-presence, the binary code, everything mediated, is owed to the Twins.     Gemini, the Third sign, is preeminently the sign of communication of information. First is the dot, Second the dash, Third is the flash of the difference, the current that leaps from the negative to the positive, meaning constituted by the binary, the digital, the iterative, the multiplicative, the network  the Web.  (Later in the zodiac come the spiders.)

    Naturally, Geminis have contributed significantly to post-modern communication concepts. Theimg.888012.jpg current privileging of the term “discourse” itself is introduced to contemporary discourse in the work of the French linguist Emile Benveniste (8 June 1902). Lechte, in the indispensible  50 Key Contemporary Thinkers (1994) writes: that "B. sees language as essentially a dialogue between two or more parties, unlike a signal system.    . . . this means that human language has an undeniable poetic and fictive character to it." 

    The communications theorist Jurgen Habermas (18 June 1929),  urges that dialogue itself  “calls for participants to engage in interpretation at all levels, thus heightening the degree of each person’s self-understanding as this derives from his or her interaction with others.” We all have an “intersubjective recognition” of the validity of the other’s utterance. Habermas’s development of the idea of “intersubjectivity”as a counter to both solipsism and scientistic objectivity has been indispensable to recent thinking about identity. He stands on a high mountain range separating Modernism and Post-Modernism, fortifying the borders of the Enlightenment. He has confidence that the "reasonably human can prevail". In the title of his seminal work Knowledge and Human Interests (1968) a dichotomy is suggested and the word "interests"  calls attention to itself with its implied betweenity. The question raised is how to balance the powerful weight, Knowledge: the scientific and technological exploitation of the globe, against the concerns of being human.  Gemini is the associate of borders. Habermas wishes us to maintain the border, but to cross it freely. In fact, he says: "The borders of truth are movable."


    "Interest" comes from the latin inter esse, to be between. This Gemini experience of being as a twoness, or a multiplicity, or a passage, and the associated curiousity of the child, restlessness of the adolescent, energy of the youth, this vivacity and wit to connect, is Gemini's continual gift to life.

    No aspect of post-modern thought has a more urgent claim to examination fundamentalimg.888019.jpg assumptions about communication than feminism, as it grapples with the psychosocial and historical irreducibility of gender binarism.  French linguistic philosopher Luce Irigaray enriches the feminist debate with the experience of Gemini consciousness, beginning with her tour de force deconstruction of gender binaries in the 1974 Speculum of the Other Woman. [Note the mirror, the Geminian doubling]. Her 1994 book To Be Two, opens with a rhapsodic prologue in which she attempts to describe her awareness of her own birth process, including the moment of her acceptance of her astrological imprint:

img.888015.jpg“You, my stars, masters of the universe, are my guardians and my peace, the font of my duties and of my fortunes. Bound to you in some mysterious way, I try to be faithful without understanding. I welcome your commands. Attentive, I am sometimes amazed, sometimes terrified, even though, in a certain sense, I put more faith in you than in myself. When decisions frighten me I search for a sign, not knowing if you are to guide me or if I am to guide you. I do not even know how to respect you in carrying out my own becoming.”

    Another major figure of French post-structuralist feminism, the poet Helene Cixous (5 June 1937)  obsessively explores the idea of a specifically female writing, to strip the mask of gender neutrality from communication itself.  She too at one point reaches to stars:


“How far it is from a star to a self, O what inconceivable proximity between one species and another, between an adult and a child, between and author and a character what secret proximity? Everything is far away, not everything resides only in distance, everything is less distant than we think, in the end everything touches us, touches us.” ('The Author in Truth', in Coming to Writing).

tannen-book113.jpg    On another level entirely, the oeuvre of American sociolinguist Deborah Tannen (7 June 1945)  reiterates the gendered dyadics of discourse: You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation;  Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work;  That's Not What I Meant! How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships; Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends; I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You're All Adults;  You're Wearing That?: Mothers and Daughters in Conversation.

    The sociologist Erving Goffman (11 June 1922) is worth noting in this context, for titles like:  Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction;  Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior; Strategic Interaction and Forms of Talk.

    Finally, to link the post-modern back to the digital binarism of Berners-Lee, take the figure of the late Jean Baudrillard (20 June 1929, according to the London Times and numerous other sources, although Wikipedia has July 29. Baudrillard was evasive about his biography; like Irigaray, he prefered "to be without a background”.) Baudrillard noted that the reduction of information to digital binarism enables the proliferation of the perfect copy, and therefore a by-passing of the real, and into the experience of hyperreality (his coinage). Baudrillard’s nightmarish vision of the simulacrum (cf, the copy, the double, the twin) is in fact a version of Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web,  in which the easily-accessed deliria of passive specularity, have, seemingly overnight, hollowed out the civitas, which now implodes under the vitality of a counterbalancing religious terrorism. This puts Baudrillard in the company of Gemini’s icy anarchic extremists: de Sade, Bakunin, Celine, the Unabomber, Drs. Kervorkian and Guillotin.  Of the pitiless heart of dualism Baudrillard writes: “No one seems to have understood that Good and Evil advance together, as part of the same movement. The triumph of one does not eclipse the other—far from it. . . Good does not conquer evil, nor indeed does the reverse happen, they are at once both irreducible to each other and inextricably interrelated.” (The Spirit of Terrorism, 2002). As an addendum, a few more Baudrillard titles which make me think he's a Gemini, whatever Wikipedia says: The Mirror of Production, Symbolic Exchange and Death, The Evil Demon of Images, Simulacra and Simulation, The Twin Towers.

"Deep down, things have never functioned socially, but symbolically, magically, irrationally, etc."                                                                                                                 J. Baudrillard







Gemini Women of Letters

Gemini Women of Letters 

        Siblings and gender issues are said to play a special role in the lives of those born under the sign of the Twins.
        Barbara Pym, (b. 6/2/1913) Spent most of her life with her sister Hillary, and they are buried together. The relationship is examined in several of her novels.

 Compton-Burnett-2-books114.jpg       Ivy Compton-Burnett (b. 6/5/1884) She had eleven siblings, among which "her favourite brother, Guy, died of pneumonia; another, Noel, was killed on the Somme, and two sisters died in a suicide pact on Christmas Day. Not one of the twelve siblings had children,Compton-Burnett%202%20books114%20copy.jpg and all eight girls remained unmarried." (Wiki). Her first successful novel, Brothers and Sisters (1929; 18 of her twenty novels have similarly dyadic titles) introduces a favorite theme: incest. She signed her writing "I. Compton-Burnett" as she wished the reader to regard her as neuter (as well as dual).

        Novelists Joan and Jackie Collins are sisters: Joan is the Gemini. Author of five best-selling novels, five life-style books and two memoirs, in 1996 she was awarded 1.3 million dollars in damages from her publisher Doubleday. She is perhaps even better known as an actress, and starred in two movies based on novels written by her sister.

    oates-twins117.jpg    Joyce Carol Oates (b. 6/16/38). Her preoccupation with siblinghood spills over into obsession in her series of thrillers (Double Delight, Snake Eyes, Lives of the Twins, etc) written under the alternym Rosalind Smith (Smith is her husband's name), which explore the criminal psychology of twins. Her signature 1966 short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is about a teenager named Connie: "Everything about her had two sides to it." (It's dedicated 'to Bob Dylan', also a Gemini (b. 5/24/41). Oates has written, "Eventually, I would regret the dedication: too many people have asked me, 'Why?' Who knows why?").

Oates's biographer, Greg Johnson, writes of:

"The extraordinary fates of Caroline Oates's two daughters--both born on June 16 [eighteen years apart] and virtual twins in physical appearance, but one brilliantly gifted, the other severely [autistic]--contributed to Joyce's fascination with twins . . . and her lifelong interest in the theme of 'doubleness' in human nature."

One can't discuss J. C. Oates and Gemini without noting her brilliantly-imagined 738 page bio/fantasmagoria Blondeoatesblonde118.jpg (working title: Gemini), in which she downloads her mythos of twentieth century American female experience onto her uncannily opposite alter ego, the historical Marilyn Monroe (b. 6/1/1926), replete with contemplations of twins, mirrors, gender and identity. One of the book's great set-pieces is the antepenultimate chapter, 'Happy Birthday, Mr. President', recreating the unforgettable 1962 Madison Square Garden event for Pres. Kennedy (as well a Gemini) []. Replaying tragedy as farce, Gemini Beverly Sills breathily sang the song at Gemini Henry Kissinger's birthday a few years ago.


oates-contraries121.jpgOates published a book of literary essays called Contraries in 1981. The title recalls Mary McCarthy's 1961 volume On the Contrary. Mary McCarthy (b. 6/21/1912) has as her remarkable-sibling-experience: the distinguished actor Kevin McCarthy.mccarthy%20contraries122.jpg

        Lillian Hellman (b. 6/201905) had a lifelong personal and literary relationship with anotherimg.888016.jpg Gemini, the writer Dashiell Hammett (b. 5/27/1894). She refered to him as her twin. She was involved in a vicious literary feud with Mary McCarthy, who accused her of duplicity.

        Lady Mary Wortley Montague (b. 5/26/1689) rescued her sister, the mentally deranged Countess of Mar, from a cruel husband. Noted for her scintillating and informative letters from Turkey, where her husband was English consul, she was perhaps the first foreign correspondent and female travel writer. She was involved in a vicious literary feud with Gemini poet Alexander Pope, who imputed Sapphism.  

hedda        Hedda Hopper (b. 5/2/1885) famed Hollywood gossip columnist, was born Erda Furry, third of eight Furry siblings. After marrying Mr. Hopper, she was advised by a numerologist to change her first name to Hedda. Double-lettered names seem to stimulate Geminian achievement.


        Harriet Beecher Stowe (b. 6/14/1811), author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and, according to Abraham Lincoln, 'the little lady who started this war', was the seventh of thirteen siblings. The next in age was Henry Ward Beecher, the fiery abolitionist preacher whose trial (for adultery) was one of the most famous of 19th century America. Four other Beecher siblings were prominent political activists. Harriet and Henry were particularly close and collaborative throughout their lives.


        Marguerite Yourcenar (b. 6/8/1903) lived intimately with her translator, Grace Frick, for fifty years, until her death in 1979. Her first novel, Anna, Soror, introduced the theme of brother/sister incest, which along with male homosexuality (for instance, in the figures of the Emperor Hadrian, Mishima and Cavafy, about whom she wrote biographies) recurs in her work. Her mother died in childbirth, and no man ever replaced her aristocratic father, who raised her with quasi-incestuous intensity. She was the first female member of the Academie Francaise.

        Djuna Barnes (b. 6/12/1892), American journalist and modernist writer, was daughter and granddaughter of polygamists. She raised her eight younger siblings, and was subjected to incest and rape. Flamboyantly bisexual, her work explores intra-familial passions.


anne-frank.jpg        Anne Frank (b. 6/12/1929) and her older sister, Margot. Their relationship deepened during their confinement. Margot also kept a diary, believed to have been lost. They died within days of each other in Bergen-Belsen.



    "Interest" comes from the latin inter esse, to be between. This Gemini experience of being as a twoness, or a multiplicity, or a passage, and the associated curiousity of the child, restlessness of the adolescent, energy of the youth, this vivacity and wit to connect, is Gemini's continual gift to life.