chapter  4
13 Pages

The Eye and the Other

In a brief but salient essay, “The Gaze of Orpheus,” Maurice Blanchot recounts that pivotal moment in Greek mythology when Orpheus, having descended to Hell, looks at Eurydice and ensures his doom. Blanchot, never a doyen of understatement, maintains that “the act of writing begins with Orpheus’ gaze,” and there are several feminist implications around this notion that are, perhaps, more progressive than this categorical assertion. One emerges in Blanchot’s comment that Orpheus’ “impulse” is to see Eurydice “in her nocturnal darkness, in her distance, her body closed, her face sealed, which wants to see her not when she is visible, but when she is invisible, and not as the intimacy of a familiar life, but as the strangeness of that which excludes all intimacy; it does not want to make her live, but to have the fullness of her death living in her” (100). Here, Blanchot names a condition of what he calls “inspiration” without exploring the problem of seeing itself in Western discourse, indeed without contemplating what this might mean for women’s subjectivity. While much critical work has supported the idea that there is some form of scopic drive which impels the gaze of man I want to consider what this might look like from, as it were, the Other end of the eyeball; in particular, for “acts of writing” which, in their attempts to answer the gaze, produce not only a trenchant epistemology of womanhood in Egyptian fiction. but also a feminist riposte to those Eurocentric eyes that would have woman in the dark, in the distance, invisible.