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The Eye of the Beholder: Sexual Difference, Scientific Narrative, and the Female Gaze in Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud

Laubender, C (2016) 'The Eye of the Beholder: Sexual Difference, Scientific Narrative, and the Female Gaze in Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud.' Harts & Minds: The Journal of Humanities and Arts, 3 (1). 1 - 16.

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Abstract

Drawing together the concerns of both feminist theory and science studies, this article pairs the scientific writings of Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud in order to demonstrate how both of their origin stories-one of species-life and the other of psychology-are grappling with the status of sexual difference as it is constituted through narrative. Reading Charles Darwin’s 1871 The Descent of Man for its narrative about sexual selection and Sigmund Freud’s account of the origins of sexual difference, I reveal the way that these two great scientific thinkers interestingly route both of their narratives of sexual difference through the interplay of a specifically female gaze. Both Darwin’s and Freud’s scientific observations deal with sexual difference and its consequences, and both unexpectedly develop a narrative that positions the female as the watcher, the observer, the looker. This article thus has three main aims: firstly , it affirms a genealogical approach to scientific narratives that understands Darwin’s natural science as a significant antecedent to Freud’s human psychology. Secondly , it maintains the importance of understanding narrative as central to the process of scientific knowledge production. Thirdly , it argues that both of these narratives articulate theories of sexual difference by and through the operations of a specifically female gaze. By emphasising the centrality of narrative to Darwin’s and Freud’s thought, this article participates in the recent feminist turn toward new materialism and science studies, offering an important reconsideration of the narratological base of all knowledge production, scientific or otherwise.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0500 Psychoanalysis
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2018 15:00
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2018 15:00
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/23194

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