There are two sets of questions that prompt my preliminary exploration of the encounter between Kristeva's and Levinas's work. The first one refers to the possibility of feminist ethics: What would constitute such ethics and what would it mean in the context of post-structuralism? How would this ethics intersect with feminist politics? Such conjunction of ethics and politics orients us toward a signification of female alterity and to the analysis of violence inherent in thematization of that alterity. The other set of questions concerns the issue of essentialism that seems to reappear on the horizon of numerous feminist debates, especially whenever an inquiry into the specificity of female sexuality is undertaken. In the wake of Lacanian psychoanalysis, attempts to rewrite the symbolic order, to change the signification of sexual difference, and to retrieve the specificity of female sexuality from phallic domination seem to risk essentialism (if only strategically), that is, a search for female sexuality outside language and culture.) By juxtaposing Kristeva with Levinas, this paper hopes to articulate female specificity in ethical terms, to look for ways of thinking female alterity without essentialism. Although both issues-essentialism and alterity-
orient us toward a certain outside, or a beyond, with respect to the signifying system, they ultimately speak about different locations of exteriority and give rise to two different kinds of logic. Essentialism posits a true identity outside a repressive phallocentric system and seeks its eventual recovery through an undistorted representation. The emphasis on alterity, however, indicates an outside only as an excess which should not be recuperated within representation. According to Levinas, such desire to represent the other is itself an act of violence rather than recovery.