Being Passive/Passive Being: Passivity as Self-Expression in Gothic Literature

  • Dana Wight
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Postmetaphysical Thought book series (PSPMT)


Psychoanalytic interpretations of subject development generally associate passivity with the negative set of hierarchized binary pairs that include male-female, active-passive and subject-object, in which the passive feminine object is defined against the active masculine subject. Interpretations of passivity focus on its contingency: the passive feminine object is acted upon, determined by an external agency, and submitted to limitations and suffering. Theories of subjectivity rarely acknowledge possible active or strategic forms of passivity: for example, the non-participatory, the uncooperative and the inert. Following Luce Irigaray’s position that the purpose of a larger, feminist, psychoanalytic project is not simply to contribute towards reforming an imaginary in which the woman is subject rather than object — which could merely reproduce a sort of dichotomy — but to destabilize the mechanism of subject formation at its core, passivity must be considered independent of a binary position in order to permit the emergence of a feminine subjectivity that is neither contingent upon nor subordinate to masculine activity. In particular, passivity must be reinterpreted outside the phallogocentric symbolic order, and the resultant connotations of mere receptivity and contingency which associates activity with visibility and presence, so as to blur the borders of subject formation that exclude femininity and feminine agency.


Mutual Recognition Relational Identity Oxford English Dictionary Symbolic Order Subject Development 
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© Dana Wight 2015

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  • Dana Wight

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