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Phallocentrism

Related: penis - phallus

Term used in: critical theory - psychoanalytical film theory - deconstruction

The paradox of phallocentrism in aIl its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world. --Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

Definition

In critical theory and deconstruction, phallogocentrism (or, originally and more narrowly, logocentrism) is a neologism coined by Jacques Derrida, which refers to the perceived tendency of Western thought to locate the center of any text or discourse within the logos (a Greek word meaning word, reason, or spirit) and the phallus (a represention of the male genitalia).

It is also the tendential privileging of the signified over the signifier, asserting the signified's status as more natural or pure. This is manifested in the works of Plato, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ferdinand de Saussure and Claude LÚvi-Strauss in a privileging of speech over writing, writing being seen as the supplementary "bastard-child" of speech.

Logocentricism deals with Western Philosophy's preoccupation with truth, reason and the word. And a belief that this gives us access to what is behind reality. It also identifies the way in which human thought often operates in binaries such as reality/appearance, presence/absence, heterosexual/homosexual, literal/metaphorical, transcendental/empirical, or signified/signifier.

An integral part of this is Phonocentrism, which is the prioritising of speech over writing. This is explored in Derrida's analysis of The Phaedrus (by Plato) in his essay "Plato's Pharmacy". --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phallogocentrism [Jan 2006]

Definition

PHALLOCENTRISM OR PHALLOGOCENTRISM: The privileging of the masculine (the phallus) in understanding meaning or social relations. This term evolved from deconstructionists who questioned the "logocentrism" of Western literature and thought, i.e. the belief in the centrality of logos, understood as cosmic reason (affirmed in ancient Greek philosophy as the source of world order and intelligibility) or, in the Christian version, the self-revealing thought and will of God.

The term is also associated with Lacanian psychoanalysis, which understands the entrance of subjects into language as a negotiation of the phallus and the Name of the Father. Feminists illustrate how all Western languages, in all their features, are utterly and irredeemably male-engendered, male-constituted, and male-dominated. Discourse is "phallogocentric" because it is centered and organized throughout by implicit recourse to the phallus both as its supposed ground (or logos) and as its prime signifier and power source; and not only in its vocabulary and syntax, but also in its rigorous rules of logic, its proclivity for fixed classifications and oppositions, and its criteria for what we take to be valid evidence and objective knowledge. --Dino Felluga via http://www.sla.purdue.edu/academic/engl/theory/genderandsex/terms/phallocentrism.html [Nov 2004]

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