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On ne naît pas femme: on le devientThe Life of a Sentence$
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Bonnie Mann and Martina Ferrari

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190608811

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190608811.001.0001

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The Floating “a”

The Floating “a”

(p.143) 8 The Floating “a”
On ne naît pas femme: on le devient

Debra Bergoffen

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that both the H.M. Parshley and the Borde and Malovany-Chevallier translations of: “On ne naît pas femme: on le devient” lead to dead ends. By omitting the “a,” the new translation erases the diversity of women and negates their capacity for liberation. By inserting it, the older translation obscures the ways the material realities produced by the myth of woman subvert the emergence of a woman and haunts the lives of women who challenge the myth. For the nuances of the French to cross the language divide we need to let the “a” float between these English translations. Read as “One is not born but becomes (a) woman” the sentence speaks to the phenomenological ambiguities, and current political realities of being (a) woman—the subject of Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and of this particular sentence.

Keywords:   Key words: H.M. Parshley, Borde and Malovany-Chevallier, phenomenology, materiality, Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

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