Publication details for Professor Erika RackleyRackley, Erika. (2007). From Arachne to Charlotte: An Imaginative Revisiting of Gilligan’s In a Different Voice. William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law 13(3): 751-774.
- Publication type: Journal papers: academic
- ISSN/ISBN: 1081-549X
- Keywords: Care; Carol Gilligan; Connection; Different Voice
- View online: Online version
- Durham research online: DRO record
Author(s) from Durham
Almost 25 years after its gentle narrative first captured the imagination of its readers, Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice remains one of the most influential feminist works of all time. Its articulation of different ways of understanding moral conflict and self gave a voice, literally, to women who felt excluded or silenced by the monophonic and abstracted hierarchy of traditional moral reasoning and psychological theory. And yet to some, the voice Gilligan articulates is not just unintelligible but also dangerously misguided. Its sinister presence stalks conversations about difference, luring the participants into the quagmire of essentialism. As they dice with the fate of Arachne, Gilligan’s webs of care and connection are increasingly seen as out-dated places of entrapment and even death. However, love it or hate it, the haunting omnipotence of its narrative ensures that it continues to have operative effects. Indifference is not an option; evasion is futile. So viewed, it is perhaps time to revisit its taken-for-granted familiarity and the habitual dismissals of its insights; to look again at the possibilities offered by a different voice.
Taking the application of In a Different Voice to law as its starting point and backdrop, this paper seeks to utilise the aching familiarity and impending doom that pervades and threatens to stifle conversations ignited by attempts by feminist legal scholars to articulate a different voice in law. As these efforts to identify (with varying degrees of success) the woman lawyer’s different voice fall silent, it seems that, at least in terms of everyday practice, a different voice is more mythical than real. Neither a eulogy nor an epitaph, the paper goes on, through an exploration of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, to offer an alternative understanding of Gilligan’s different voice as a fictional device or myth. It is suggested that its ongoing promise to law (and other academic disciplines) lies not in its difference per se (as previously imagined), but rather in its ability to render contingent particular, but dominant, forms of reasoning and decision-making.