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A term coined by the American feminist theorist Alice Jardine as part of her attempt to bring together certain post-structuralist ideas with those of feminist criticism in her book Gynesis: Configurations of Woman and Modernity (1985). Writing partly under the influence of Julia Kristeva (some of whose works she translated) and of other leaders of ‘French’ feminism, she suggested that the contemporary crisis in Western thought was intimately related to the emergence of new concepts that could be gendered as feminine (e.g. ‘madness’ in the work of Michel Foucault). In this extremely abstract sense, ‘woman’ (not to be confused with any real woman) was undermining old intellectual certainties. This may help to elucidate Jardine's definition of gynesis (which, etymologically, should mean ‘woman-process’) as the ‘putting into discourse of “woman”’. In practice, neither the term nor Jardine's argument achieved any lasting circulation.

Subjects: Literature.

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