by Elizabeth Anthony
IN A DOZEN fluid essays of informal argument in Returning Words to Flesh: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Resurrection of the Body (Oxford University Press, 255 pages, $28.50 cloth), Naomi Goldenberg, a professor of the psychology of religion and coordinator of women`s studies at the University of Ottawa, gives us an engaging critique of our "backwards" culture. Calling on gospel truth, she turns St. John`s "And the Word was made flesh" on its nouns, recalling us to the very human truth that it is flesh that makes words.
Goldenberg talks her way (the "talking cure` is one of the methodologies she cites as common to both feminist consciousness-raising groups and psychoanalysis) through the disembodying strategies of both our technologies and of patriarchal religions of transcendence (among which she includes Jungian archetype theory). At about half-time she indulges in a devotedly Freudian spoof of sport reduced to pucks and patsies, sticks, holes, and goals. In the concluding chapters she argues for renegotiating our being in the world based on the experience of embodiment, as emphasized in feminist thought and in the object-relations theory of psychoanalysis.
While Goldenberg defines body broadly, as always in social relationships and inclusive of emotions and histories, her "Goddess depth" goes only as deep as history. She denigrates all theories "not dependent on human or social contingency." The compensatory nature of her argument is timely and applaudable; unfortunately, her arguments themselves are not always well informed. Jung in particular is done a disservice when presented as an exemplar of a patriarchal "anti-body." The published version of a talking cure surely warrants greater accuracy.