Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Auxier, Randall


The problem of sexual difference remains a priority for feminists working within the continental tradition, with Luce Irigaray leading among those who affirm fundamental differences between masculine and feminine forms of subjectivity. I take up the problem of feminine subjectivity, but my approach is distinct from that of Irigaray in terms of method and focus. Irigaray primarily works to uncover the absence of a place for the expression of feminine subjectivity within Western discourse. Accordingly, she focuses on the critical analysis of major texts in the history of philosophy and psychoanalysis. By contrast, I construct a critique that operates as a positive account of feminine selfhood through a process of historical reflection anchored by an ontological and phenomenological orientation toward the development of culture. I build my critique of spirit through the philosophies of Henri Bergson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Johann Bachofen and especially the classicist Jane Ellen Harrison. With the exception of Bergson, these philosophers of culture are united by a phenomenological attendance to the domains of art, mythology and ritual. Bergson‟s philosophy, which deals more closely with nature than culture, supplies ontological insights which can be used to organize and deepen the phenomenological content available in the thought of the other figures. The dissertation synthesizes and critically expands the work of these individuals in order to produce a critique of spirit and the work of spirit in the genesis of Western patriarchy. I argue that this critique of spirit is the philosophical account of "soul." I argue that soul is a form of order constitutive of the feminine self, which is obscured by the dominance of spirit from classical antiquity forward.




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