Darings of the Feminine

  • Drucilla Cornell


Intergenerational stories between women are not simply passed down. They are also created and re-created when they are claimed as the legacy of the writer, especially when the writer consciously assumes her inheritance and accepts that it places an ethical demand on her that can be met only in her telling of the story. My legacy is reflected in my struggle to develop the words and ideas to represent the gaps and silences in my mother and grandmother’s relationship. As I strove to understand the moral and psychic space that had never been given to my mother, I developed my conception of the imaginary domain. Through my mother and grandmother, I learned to live with the emotional impact of the feeling of respect that confronting the dignity of another person demands.1 They are never just with me in the arguments I consciously introduce and defend as reasonable. The story I told in the introduction will go through me and on to my daughter, Sarita Graciela Kellow Cornell. As a Latina adopted from Paraguay, Sarita will bring to it twists and turns that are still unknown. The story will change as she takes responsibility for its perpetuation and as it grows in her, meshing with her understanding of who she is. In her discussion of “keepers and transmitters,” Trinh T. Minh-ha evokes such responsibility between generations:

Every woman partakes in the chain of guardianship and transmission.... Tell me and let me tell my hearers what I have heard from you who heard it from your mother and your grandmother, so that what is said may be guarded and unfailingly transmitted to the women of tomorrow, who will be our children and the children of our children. These are the opening lines she used to chant before embarking on a story. I owe that to you, her and her, who owe it to her, her and her. I memorize, recognize, and name my source(s) not to validate my voice through the voice of an authority (for we, women, have little authority in the History of Literature, and wise women never draw their power from authority), but to evoke her and sing. The bond between women and word.2


Symbolic Order Structural Moment Oedipal Complex Psychic Life Mirror Stage 
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  1. 2.
    See Trinh T. Minh-ha, “Grandma’s Story,” Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989 ), pp. 121–122.Google Scholar
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    See Ruddick, “Injustice in Families: Assault and Domination,” Justice and Care: Essential Readings in Feminist Ethics, pp. 215–217.Google Scholar
  3. 22.
    Marie Cardinal, The Words to Say It, trans. Pat Goodheart, preface and after-word by Bruno Bettelheim (Cambridge: VanVactor and Goodheart, 1983 ), pp. 5–6.Google Scholar
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    For excellent modern discussions of Kantian moral philosophy, see Christine M. Korsgaard, Creating the Kingdom of Ends ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996 ).Google Scholar
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    See Drucilla Cornell, “Spanish Language Rights: Identification, Freedom, and the Imaginary Domain,” Just Cause: Freedom, Identity and Rights ( Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000 ), pp. 129–153.Google Scholar
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    See Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism and the Problem of Domination ( New York: Pantheon Books, 1988 ).Google Scholar
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    See Drucilla Cornell, The Imaginary Domain: Abortion, Pornography, and Sexual Harassment ( New York: Routledge, 1995 ).Google Scholar
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    See John Rawls, “The Idea of an Overlapping Consensus,” in Political Liberalism ( New York: Columbia Press, 1993 ), pp. 134–172.Google Scholar
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    See Elisabeth Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity, and the Aesthetic (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), pp. 34–35. In addition, Elisabeth Bronfen and I differ from Lacan’s reading of Heidegger.Google Scholar

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© Drucilla Cornell 2002

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  • Drucilla Cornell

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