return to list of speakers

Confessional Sins and Postmodern Practice:
Re-Reading Marie Cardinal and Annie Leclerc

Emma Webb

In this paper I discuss the works of two French women writers whose texts were acclaimed as feminist manifestoes during the 1970s. Marie Cardinal's Les Mots pour le dire (1975) and Annie Leclerc's Parole de femme (1974) were written in the first person voice and are both broadly autobiographical. The texts deal with female centred experience including menstruation, desire, pregnancy and abortion in a bold and unabashed voice. Cardinal and Leclerc shocked critics and became instant best-sellers. The overwhelming popular response seems to suggest that their texts fulfilled a political function leading women to re-evaluate their social positions and identities. Yet what role can these texts have today when the preoccupation with 'difference' makes it difficult to speak of a collective women's experience and where 'speaking for' other women is to be avoided at all costs? Referring to my own experience of coming to feminism through these texts in the 1990s, and engaging with Nancy Miller's (1991) idea of personal criticism, I raise the question of whether the personal can be political today.

return to conference