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Reproductive power; menstruation, magic, and taboo

In Western culture menstruation is considered to be a curse, an illness, or at least an aspect of feminine “nature” best suppressed. In this thesis I argue that the menstrual taboo has been oppressive to women. Through a closely reading of Sigmund Freud’s writing on femininity, I argue that Freud depicts a monstrous aspect of femininity, connected with the mother and female castration, which he believes must remain repressed. I propose that he is unable to detect a direct connection between female castration and menstruation, because he is himself unconscious of the operations of the menstrual taboo. / I draw on Freudian theorist Claude Dagmar Daly who critiques Freud’s negligence regarding the menstrual taboo, and pinpoints a “menstrual complex” at the heart of Freud’s Oedipus complex. In fleshing out the monstrous menstruating mother at the heart of the Oedipus complex I work with French feminist theorists Julia Kristeva, LuceIrigaray, and Hélène Cixous and trace this figure to the hysteric. Drawing on French feminist Catherine Clément’s writing on the hysteric, I reveal a marginalised space of feminine Nature that opens up in the splitting of the hysteric from the sorceress. I argue that the figure of the sorceress presides over an extremely important aspect of feminine Nature associated with women’s “blood magic.” / I use the term “blood magic” to describe a periodic magical power that is an aspect of feminine Nature, which has been repressed in Western culture. The roots of the term “blood magic” are in anthropological accounts of menstrual rituals. My use of the term Nature denotes the possibility of the expression of a femininity by women, where as “nature” is evidence of the colonisation of femininity by the dominant phallocentric culture in the West. A sacred space of feminine Nature that resides on the borders of culture cannot be accessed and returned to culture until it has been dislodged from the patriarchal depiction of menstruation as a monstrous threat to civilization. / I find that the hysteric provides an historical instance of feminine disorder linked to the sorceress that allows me to explore the domain of the sorceress and what I have referred to as “blood magic.” In order to develop this positive reconstruction of the menstrual taboo I draw on several case studies in which women’s menstrual cycles are ritualised for women’s empowerment. It is in relation to this sacred ritual space of femininity that I call for women to write their own feminine imaginaries, in connection with their menstrual cycles. Moreover, I argue that this constitutes the expression of an authentic account of female sexuality by women, which is dually the writing of a menstrual dialectic. Authenticity in these terms refers to the expression of the menstrual aspect of female sexuality by women. It therefore requires that women recognise the value of articulating the menstrual aspect of female sexuality.
Date January 2010
CreatorsDyer, Natalie Rose
Source SetsAustraliasian Digital Theses Program
Detected LanguageEnglish
RightsRestricted Access: Open Access Awaiting Permissions and Assignment

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