By | March 14, 2012

Phallogocentric. Fun to say. Perhaps not so fun to get your head around. All week we'll be blogging up definitions from our new book Key Terms in Literary Theory – designed to make difficult terms, concepts and theorists accessible and understandable. This is one of my favourite literary words, what's yours?


Phallogocentric refers to a combination of phallocentric and logocentric systems of thought. Jacques Derrida describes Western metaphysics as logocentric, centered on logic and on the spoken word as guarantor of presence and identity. An example of logocentrism is the Biblical account of the creation of the world: “In the Beginning was the Word.” From a logocentric perspective, speech is the original form of language and writing is merely the transcription of speech; the power of speech is associated with consciousness, selfhood, and rational thought. Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction is a critique of this philosophical stance. He accuses Jacques Lacan of being both phallocentric, in naming the Phallus as the center of the Symbolic Order, and logocentric, in naming the Phallus as the source and origin of language, the transcendental signified, and names this stance “phallogocentrism.” Hélène Cixous and post structural feminists also critique phallogocentric Western philosophy for its subordination of the feminine to the masculine.

– the definition above is taken from Key Terms in Literary Theory by Mary Klages, now available to buy in the UK (and publishing in the US in May 2012).

Jenny Tighe

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