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Wittig, Monique (1935-2003)  
page: 1  2  

But perhaps most disturbing for general readers--and some lesbian readers--is the book's powerful eroticism and intimacy.

In 1976, Brouillon pour un dictionnaire des amantes was published in France. Written in collaboration with Sande Zeig, it was translated by the authors as Lesbian Peoples: Material for a Dictionary.

In contrast to The Lesbian Body, Lesbian Peoples has a light touch. It is an imaginative take on history that chronicles by keywords, sometimes in strange juxtaposition, the passage of a mythic people to the utopian "Glorious Age."

As much a period piece as a rewriting of historical periodization, key figures of lesbian feminism make cameo appearances. Jill Johnston's "Lesbian Nation" is cited as the last nation to exist before the beginning of the Glorious Age.

Wittig's most recent book of fiction was published in France in 1985 as Virgile, Non, and two years later in English as Across the Acheron. Elements of all of her previous writing are present: parody--of Dante's Divine Comedy; revolutionary utopia--paradise is across the Golden Gate Bridge; and Wittig's unconventional namings--the central character is none other than "Wittig."

This book is the least well-known of her published works, perhaps because the idea that lesbians (and women) existing in the "straight" world are living in a kind of purgatory is not as popular as it once was or, perhaps, because this is the least "universal" of her books.

Monique Wittig immigrated to the United States in 1976. Once in North America, she turned her pen to theoretical essays on feminism, language, and literature. In these essays, mostly written in English and published in Feminist Issues, Wittig developed her ideas about what she described as "materialist lesbianism," where lesbians represent the possibility of escaping the category of "woman" by refusing her "role" and rejecting the "economic, ideological, and political power of a man."

In these essays, Wittig also finally began to explain the linguistic manipulations in her complex fictions, with which many readers struggled. Some of these essays, including "One is Not Born a Woman," "The Category of Sex," and "The Mark of Gender," have become canonical in Women's Studies; in the emergent field of Lesbian and Gay Studies, "The Straight Mind" has particular significance. Her essays have recently been collected and published under this title.

On January 3, 2003, Wittig died of a heart attack in Tucson, Arizona, where she had taught in the University of Arizona's Women's Studies Program for twelve years. She is survived by her partner and collaborator, Sande Zeig.

Monique Wittig's linguistic brilliance and political courage made her truly one of the avant-garde. To date, only one book-length study of her work has been published, but the importance of her books and essays for several generations of thinkers in the areas of gender and sexuality will make her the subject of many more.

Julia Creet

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Birkett, Jennifer. "Sophie Ménade: The Writing of Monique Wittig." French Erotic Fiction: Women's Desiring Writing. Alex Hughes and Kate Inc, eds. Oxford: Berg, 1996. 93-119.

Günther, Renate. "Are Lesbians Women? The Relationship between Lesbianism and Feminismin the Work of Luce Irigaray and Monique Wittig." Gay Signatures: Gay and Lesbian Theory, Fiction, and Film in France, 1945-1995. Owen Heathcote, Alex Hughes, and James S. Williams, eds. Oxford: Berg, 1998. 73-90.

Ostrovsky, Erika. A Constant Journey: The Fiction of Monique Wittig. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.

Shaktini, Namascar. "Displacing the Phallic Subject: Wittig's Lesbian Writing." Signs 8 (1982): 29-44.

"Special Monique Wittig." Vlasta 4 (1985).

Stambolian, George, and Elaine Marks, eds. Homosexualities and French Literature. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1979. 353-377.

Wenzel, Hélène Vivienne. "The Text as Body/Politics: An Appreciation of Monique Wittig's Writings in Context." Feminist Studies 7 (1981): 264-287.


    Citation Information
    Author: Creet, Julia  
    Entry Title: Wittig, Monique  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 6, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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