The journal issue I am recycling today is a boundary 2 from 1990. Specifically, boundary 2 17:2. It is of course available in JSTOR. I kept it because I always wanted to read all of it, and because I liked the way I had marked up Nancy Fraser’s article “The uses and abuses of French discourse theories for feminist politics.”
Now I have torn that article out as though it were an offprint, and recycled the rest of the faded journal. Fraser is explaining why she has no positive references in any paper to Lacan, Kristeva, Saussure, or Derrida, and she does not think Lacan can be used to feminist purposes. Lacan is used to theorize the discursive construction of subjectivity in film and literature, but she relies on alternative models of language because she thinks Lacan and also Kristeva are antifeminist.
Very basically, she says that Lacan’s model does not account either for the complexity of the subject or for that of the world. “The speaking subject is simply a grammatical ‘I’ wholly subjected to the symbolic order; it can only and forever reproduce that order. The Lacanian ego is an imaginary projection….” (92)
One of Fraser’s problems with Kristeva is her aestheticizing bent: avant-garde aesthetic production is inherently revolutionary and other forms of discourse are not. (95) Another problem is that “the semiotic” is not located within culture and society but beneath them, so it cannot become a political practice. (98)
There is more: idealization of the maternal, the assumption that the goals of feminism have been achieved, the idea that “women” don’t exist and that collective identities are dangerous fictions. (96)
Fraser is interested in a pragmatic theory of discourse over structuralist ones. Pragmatic theories allow the subject agency (it is not a mere effect); they do not assume a single, coherent “symbolic system”; and there is more. (93-94, 96-97)
I kept this article all this time because I thought it was useful for my study of Vallejo, and I still do.