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This article investigates how female sexuality and desire can be refigured beyond dynamics of fear and subjugation. By offering a close reading of A.L. Kennedy’s novel Original bliss through the theories of He´le`ne Cixous and Luce Irigaray, this work highlights the relationship between violence and Western religious notions of divinity, sexuality and the female body. Kennedy’s novel portrays, in violent detail, that the way in which the religious dimension has been conceptualised and articulated enforces negative views of female sexuality and justifies violence against the body. Rather than merely confronting the religious denigration of feminine sexuality, however, Kennedy’s novel also attempts to refigure the connection between eroticism and divinity, and points toward the possibility of renewed relationships that cultivate ‘horizontal transcendence’ between women and men.


Originally published in the Journal of Gender Studies, 20(4) 383–396, December 2011