This paper combines feminist theory and literary criticism in order to reveal the patriarchal qualities of French feminist thought in the context of Margaret Atwood's Surfacing. Examining the narrator's complicated relationship with power, this paper employs Freudian psychoanalysis and Judith Butler's Foucauldian theory of power internalizations in order to analyze the ways in which the narrator's melancholic repression sequesters her from the Lacanian Symbolic and results in her reliance on a system of gender-based dichotomies. Viewing the world within strict binaries, the narrator unwittingly follows many of the regressive tenets of French feminist thought. Through a critique of the theories of Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva, this paper argues that the French feminist ideals of mysticism and irrationality within a constructed pre-cultural realm ultimately only act as an oppressive facet of the patriarchy. However, the narrator's inability to maintain a pure femininity culminates in her failure at French feminist thought, which, in accordance with Judith Halberstam's theory on the beneficial nature of failure, allows her to refuse patriarchal constructs of femininity and supplies her with the potential for an alternative feminist paradigm.




English Language and Literature

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2012 Jordan E. Farrar