Paper 1- Theory

Paper 1- Theory - Deirdre Mulligan Professor Diana Reese...

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Deirdre Mulligan Professor Diana Reese FGSS 202 22 February 2008 The Role of Theory in Wittig and Hooks The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word “theory” as both “a belief or principle that guides action or assists comprehension or judgment,” and simply “a conjecture,” among several other definitions. In science, a theory is an explanation, supported by evidence, of why a certain phenomenon occurs. In mathematics, a theory is a set of principles pertaining to a specific topic. It seems that there are as many definitions of “theory” as there are theories themselves; a word that is often so precise in context (theory of evolution, music theory, number theory) has been adopted to mean so many things. Also, individual theories themselves mean different things to different people - some are oppressed by theories and the actions that they inspire, others are liberated, and still more remain unaffected and indifferent. In Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center , bell hooks discusses feminist theory in this light. She asserts that while feminism as a theory and a practice thus far has been beneficial to white bourgeois women, it has systematically ignored the plight of minority women, who often choose to reject it as a result. This theory, then, must and can be changed in order to become all-encompassing. Monique Wittig, in her essay “One is Not Born a Woman,” discusses long-held theories about who women are and why we are oppressed, criticizes them, and calls to attention a somewhat radical theory, echoing Simone de Beauvoir, that the term and entity “woman” is a dangerous social construct. These two authors effectively employ different definitions of and outlooks on “theory,” while criticizing two drastically different theories to assert and validate their own.
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Mulligan 2 While both hooks and Wittig talk extensively about the effects of theories, Wittig does not give a definition of “theory.” However, what she means when she uses the word can be inferred due to the fact that she uses “theory” and “idea” interchangeably. Concerning the view that biology determines womanhood, Wittig writes that “this conception… holds onto the idea that the capacity to give birth (biology) is what defines a woman. Although practical facts and ways of living contradict this theory …” (Wittig 10). She goes on to say that lesbianism destroys this conception, but what is important about this passage in the discussion of theory is that the word is used synonymously with “idea.” Also, Wittig later writes, while discussing Marxism, that the class struggle between men and women “concerns the theoretical (ideological) level” (Wittig 18). Again, “theory” and “idea” seem to have the same meaning. An idea is, in its most simple yet most accepted definition, a thought or a way of thinking. “Idea” also has a connotation of being innovative; all change, all inventions, must start with an idea. Whether Wittig attributed “idea” and “theory” with this implication is not directly stated, though it is
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course FGSS 2020 taught by Professor Reese,d during the Spring '08 term at Cornell.

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Paper 1- Theory - Deirdre Mulligan Professor Diana Reese...

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