“Les Sorcières-Théoriciennes” : an encounter between theory and domestic space.
Documentary work based on the study of the text « Ranger/Déranger », from the 12th issue of the feminist periodical Sorcières, (1978), in the framework of the workshop "L.i.p Collective" initiated by Le Signe - Centre National du Graphisme in Chaumont and the common-interest collective (Corine Gisel and Nina Paim), April-May 2020.

Tidy up and disturb is the loop of actions so well known by housewives. By exhausting themselves, even if they are blind to the task, it is no longer a question of thinking, reflecting or even theorizing: "She who does not theorize squints her weak and myopic eyes, made for the crumb and the anecdote." In 1978, Marianne Alphant wrote a short text for the literary and feminist review Sorcières, whose bimonthly and then quarterly publications nourished a nascent network of women artists, theorists, writers and even housewives. This text, entitled "Ranger/Danger", closes a corpus of texts dedicated to "Theory", the theme of this issue, whose editorial reveals the disagreements and debates that marked its publication: halfway through the 24 opuses of the review Sorcières, the issue "Theory" breaks an editorial balance that had hitherto been "differentialist", i.e. defending a difference between the sexes that should be valued as such, particularly in the field of arts and literature. Feminine" writing would be the result of a biological and social condition, and would allow the emergence of new forms of writing, far from the masculine carcass of "speaking straight, with square words, with straight sentences, in orthodoxy". However, while the ten texts that precede it revolve around a "making theory" that has already been defined (by men, long ago, we no longer know), "Ranger/Danger" moves the theory into a space that is unknown to it: the domestic space.

“Ranger/Déranger" are the words that bridge the gap between domestic space and theoretical space. To tidy and disturb are gestures produced by housewives as much as by theorists: "a theory is no other thing: first of all a tampering, a different arrangement, a ranger, an inventive practice in the inhabited space: mathematics or the house, the drawer, philosophy, words or threads". Marianne Alphant turns domestic space into a theoretical breeding ground, theory into a set of trivial gestures and practices. When the domestic space meets theoretical practice, an expanse opens up to nurture new ways of doing, speaking, writing and thinking. In 1978, this text does not mark its time, yet it embroiders a fabric of knowledge and questions that still resonate today: how do we theorize the anecdotal, the domestic, vernacular life, women's gestures? How has theory been concealed between cake dishes and the iron in feminine intellectual spaces? How does one get rid of the household to start writing? How does one publish in feminist magazines between dishwashing rounds?

Many questions emerge from this reading - the bitter taste of a domesticity that is always focused on women's practices, and yet the enthusiasm for a "theory on/from the domestic space" - but above all, it is an immense interest in the side-effects, the context, the conditions of existence of this text, how it lives in its time, what it derives from and what results from it, that have guided this research and documentation project. The table presented here is an intermediate format for the creation of a web-based tool for classifying the harvested content. These contents are organized by categories extracted from the reading of "Ranger/Danger" and offer a personal vision of the encounter between theory and domestic space.
Living the domestic space

Link to textual content
Theory from domestic spaceLink to visual content

Theory about domestic space
No link

From cleaning to writing
Art as domestic crafts
Catherine Beecher, Treatise on Domestic Economy, 1840

E. Weiss, "Machines à laver la vaisselle", La Nature N°2608, 29 Mars 1924

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, 1929

Paulette Bernège in her kitchen in 1930
Paulette Bernège, Quand une femme construit sa cuisine (When a women builds her kitchen), 1933

Marguerite Duras bought her house in Neauphle-le-Château in 1958, and her son Jean Mascolo took photos of this place so dear to the writer.
Roland Barthes, “Cuisine ornementale”, Mythologies, Paris, Seuil, 1957.

French version :

Roland Barthes, “
Ornamental Cookery”, Mythologies, Paris, Seuil, 1957.

English version :
Documents Arts Ménagers, Les sauces 3, n°23, 1960.
La vie matérielle (@notoriousbigre), tweet on May 26, 2020 :"Le bonheur, Agnès Varda (1965)".
Manifesto for Art Maintenance of Mierle Laderman Ukeles, 1969. Les guides pratiques de la Redoute, no 1, La vie quotidienne, 1971. (Practical guide about daily life, produced by a famous distance selling french compagny).Sandra Ogel, Ironing, From Womanhouse, 1972. Performance about the role of women in domestic space : Ironing endless sheets.
Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford Wash: Washing, Tracks, Maintenance — Outside and Inside, 1973.
La grève des femmes, JT 20h du 9 juin 1972, archives INA (Women strike in a french News report)
Hélène Cixous developped the concept of feminine writing (écriture féminine) in "The Laugh of Medusa" (Le rire de la Méduse), 1975. Publication of Sorcières, 1976 – 1982 John Giorno,
Exiled in Domestic Life

I’m standing
in the hall,
I pushed
the button,
and I’m waiting
for the elevator;
you are alone,
you are unstable,
and you’re not sure
it’s OK
in domestic
exiled in
domestic life
exiled in domestic life.
Nobody does
it for you,
you got to
do it
all by yourself,
and I’ve been
and I’ve been brutalized
and I’ve been brutalized
and I’ve been brutalized.

I would rather
be dead,
than be 18
years old,
and a poet,
and if I can
do that,
I can sit
on somebody’s
I can sit on
somebody’s face
I can sit on somebody’s face,
and feed.

I want to
hugging someone
over and
over again
I want to sleep hugging
someone over and over
and cuddling
in the morning,
cause it’s
my body
in my heart,
it’s safe
to be married
these days
it’s safe to be married
these days.

When you got
lots of negative
they are big,
and powerful
and wonderful
they are big, and powerful
and wonderful
they are big,
and powerful and wonderful,
it’s their
to get it up,
it’s not
your problem.
If it isn’t
it’s not
and it’s not going
to work,
you don’t feel
a razor blade
you don’t feel a razor blade,
and I like juice,
your skin
smells like
an old sponge
soaked in
and this place

A hundred
years ago,
the geophysical
that made petroleum
from primordial
maybe 100 million
years from now,
will transform
the plastic
in our garbage
into something
than diamonds.

The reason
it’s good,
is cause
I work
all the time,
and I’ve been spending
the rest
of my time,
laying on
the bed
with my girlfriend
watching TV,
and I want her
to tell me
when she doesn’t
know she is
and I want her to tell
me wisdom
when she doesn’t know
she is
and I want her to tell me
wisdom when
she doesn’t know she is.

What are you
slapping your
together for,
do you want
me to slap
your face?

Frances Gabes' self-cleaning house goes on sale for $50,000.
Marguerite Duras, « La maison », dans : La vie Matérielle, 1987, « Souvent les provisions étaient là, achetées du matin, alors il n’y avait plus qu’à éplucher les légumes, mettre la soupe à cuire et écrire ».

"Often the provisions were there, bought in the morning, so all that had to be done was to peel the vegetables, put the soup to cook and write".
Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Woman Feeding Bird), The Kitchen Table Series, 1989-90
Eugène Savitzkaya, En vie, Paris : Editions de Minuit,1995.
Jean-Claude Kaufmann, Le cœur à l’ouvrage : théorie de l’action ménagère, Nathan.La cuisine de Marguerite, Paris: Benoit Jacob, 1999. A collection of texts by Marguerite Duras accompanied by Marguerite Duras' recipes and transcriptions of radio interviews.bell hooks, All About Love : New Visions, 2000.

"In The Knitting Sutra, Susan Lydon describes the labor of knitting as a freely chosen craft that enhances her awareness of the value of right livelihood, sharing: “What I found in this tiny domestic world of knitting is endless; it runs broader and deeper than anyone might imagine. It is infinite and seemingly inexhaustible in its capacity to inspire, excite, and provoke creative insight.” Lydon sees the world that we have traditionally thought of as “woman’s work” as a place to discover godliness through the act of creating domestic bliss. A blissful household is one where love can flourish."
Myriame EL YAMANI, Médias et féminismes. Minoritaires sans paroles, Paris : L'Harmattan, 2005.

Sondra Hale, Terry Wolverton, From Site to Vision: The Woman's Building in Contemporary Culture, Los Angeles : Otis College of Art and Design, 2011.
Mona Chollet, Chez soi. Une odyssée de l'espace domestique, Paris : Zones, 2015.
Fashioning Yourself! A Story of Home Sewing, National Women's History Museum (online exhibit).
Judy Chicago on WomanHouse, National Museum of Women in the Arts, 2017.
A Short history of Bridge, Online Story, National Women's History Museum (Slides)
Christine Delphy, L'exploitation domestique, Paris, Syllepse, 2019.

Gabrielle Stemmer, Clean with me (after Dark), La Fémis, 21 min, 2019.
E. Weiss wrote an article about dishwasher, for the journal La Nature in 1924.
Diagram of the organisation of household by Paulette Bernège
Roland Barthes, “Saponides et détergents”, Mythologies, Paris, Seuil, 1957.

French version :

Roland Barthes, “Soaps-powders and Detergents”, Mythologies, Paris, Seuil, 1957.

English version :
Miriam Chapiro, Expode, 1972.
Les cahier du GRIF, "Faire le ménage c'est travailler" ("To Clean is to work"), n°2, février 1974.
Chantal Akerman, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (movie)

Full movi
e :
Sorcières, n°1, n°2, n°3, n°4, n°5, n°6 Sorcières, n°7, n°8, n°9, n°10 Sorcières, n°11, n°12, n°13, n°14, n°15Sorcières, n°16, n°17, n°18Sorcières, n°19, n°20, n°21Sorcières, n°22, n°23Sorcières, n°24Maïté et la cuisine des mousquetaires (broadcast from 1983), INA
Patents filed by Frances Gabe :,428,085.PN.%2526OS=PN/4,428,085%2526RS=PN/4,428,085
Michelle Perrot, Traverses, n° 40, avril 1987 :

« Plus qu’à l’écrit interdit, c’est au monde muet et permis des choses que les femmes confient leur mémoire. Non aux prestigieux objets de collection, affaire d’hommes soucieux de conquérir par l’accumulation de tableaux ou de livres la légitimité du goût. Au XIXe siècle, la collection, plus encore la bibliophilie, sont des activités masculines. Les femmes se rabattent sur plus humble matière : le linge ». L’historienne et militante féministe précise : « Le trousseau, soigneusement préparé dans les milieux populaires, ruraux surtout, est "une longue histoire entre mère et fille". La confection du trousseau, c’est un legs de savoir-faire et de secrets, du corps et du cœur, longuement distillés. L’armoire à linge est à la fois coffre-fort et reliquaire. L’épaisseur des draps, la finesse des nappes, le marquage des serviettes, la qualité des torchons prennent sens dans une chaîne de gestes répétés et festonnés. »

"More than the forbidden written word, it is to the mute and permissive world of things that women entrust their memory. No to prestigious collector's items, the business of men anxious to conquer the legitimacy of taste through the accumulation of paintings or books. In the 19th century, collecting, and even more so bibliophily, were male activities. Women fell back on a more humble material: linen". The historian and feminist activist explains: "The trousseau, carefully prepared in working class circles, especially in rural areas, is "a long history between mother and daughter". The making of the trousseau is a legacy of know-how and secrets, of the body and the heart, distilled over a long period of time. The linen cupboard is both a safe and a reliquary. The thickness of the sheets, the fineness of the tablecloths, the marking of the napkins, the quality of the tea towels make sense in a chain of repeated and scalloped gestures."
"Cynthia A. Brandimarte, To Make the Whole World Homelike"": Gender, Space, and America's Tea Room Movement, Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Spring, 1995), pp. 1-19
Audre Lorde, "Story Books on a Kitchen Table" [1976], in: Audre Lorde, The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, New York/London: W. W. NORTON & COMPANY, 1997.

Out of her womb of pain my mother spat me
into her ill-fitting harness of despair
into her deceits
where anger re-conceived me
piercing my eyes like arrows
pointed by her nightmare
of who I was not
Going away
she left in her place
iron maidens to protect me
and for my food
the wrinkled milk of legend
where I wandered through the lonely rooms of afternoon
wrapped in nightmares
from the Orange and Red and Yellow
Purple and Blue and Green
Fairy Books
where White witches ruled
over the empty kitchen table
and never wept 
or offered gold
nor any kind enchantment
for the vanished mother
of a black girl. »

Diagram of the temporal evolution of the French feminist press, in: Myriame EL YAMANI, Médias et féminismes. Minoritaires sans paroles; 2005.
Ana Bordenave, « Artistes femmes et arts visuels dans la revue Sorcières (1975-76 - 1982) », mémoire de Master I en Histoire de l’Art, Art contemporain, Université Paris IV Sorbonne, sous la direction de Larisa Dryansky, 2015. "Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life, Durham: Duke University Press, 2017, p. 63.

About the movie The Hours (dir. Stephen Daldry, 2002), where Laura is an unhappy housewife in the 1950s:

"What happens when domestic bliss does not create bliss? Laura tries to bake a cake. She cracks an egg. The cracking of the egg becomes a common gesture throughout the film, connecting the domestic labor of women over time. To bake a cake ought to be a happy activity, a labor of love. Instead, the film reveals a sense of oppression that lingers in the very act of breaking the eggs.
Not only do such objects not make you happy; they embody a feeling of disappointment. The bowl in which you crack the eggs waits for you. You can feel the pressure of its wait. The empty bowl feels like an accusation. Feminist archives are full of scenes of domesticity, in which domestic objects become strange, almost menacing. An empty bowl that feels like an accusation can be the beginning of a feminist life."
Collection of pictures showing women ironing over the centuries, Amanta Scott.
Dorothy Canfield, The home-maker, New York : Harcourt Brace, 1924.
Chart of weekly household, by Paulette Bernège
Roland Barthes, “Astrologie”, Mythologies, Paris, Seuil, 1957.

French version :

Womanhouse, a large-scale cooperative project executed as part of the Feminist Art Program at CalArts under the direction of Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, 1971–72.
Publication of Les cahiers du GRIF, 1973 – 1997Audre Lorde, "Kitchen Linoleum" [1993], in: Audre Lorde, The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, New York/London: W. W. NORTON & COMPANY, 1997.

"The cockroach
who is dying
and the woman
who is blind
not to notice
each other’s shame."

Rachel Whiteread, Modern Chess Set, 2005.
Remediating Mama Pina's Cookbook, Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda, 2015.
Saul Pandelakis, « Note pour le design des cuisines déviantes ​», lecture au colloque Espaces Genrés Sexués Queer à l’ENSA Paris La Villette et ENSA Belleville.
Twitter account La vie Matérielle, described as "material culture/consommation • contenu de collation • nos outils, nous-mêmes", 2015–.
Documents Arts ménagers, n°3, "Le Repassage au fer" (Ironing), 1957.
WomanHouse Catalog, 1972.
Birgit Jürgenssen, Hausfrauen – Küchenschürze [Housewives’ KItchen Apron], 1975.

The artist describes the imprisoned housewife, who finally melts into the objects she uses every day.
Dire brouillon, Les cahier du GRIF, n°12, 1977. Xavière Gauthier, Sorcières, n°7 : « C’est curieux, les femmes, en général, reconnaissent qu’elles ont un corps sexué, un
corps de femme, lorsqu’elles font des enfants, lorsqu’elles font l’amour, lorsqu’elles ont
leurs règles, etc., mais pas lorsqu’elles écrivent… […] Elles accréditent ainsi une
conception complètement mystifiée et mystifiante de l’écriture, qui serait l’oeuvre de
purs esprits, des anges sans doute ! Bien sûr, l’écriture n’est pas la traduction,
transcription directe, immédiate, simple, analogique du corps masculin ou féminin. Des
sexes différents, cela ne signifie pas des délimitations anatomiques, mais bien plutôt, des
temps, des rythmes, des scansions, des économies pulsionnelles différentes. Les liens
entre corps et écritures sont multiples, tordus ou torsadés, complexes et bien d’autres
facteurs interviennent – en particulier les processus historiques. Tout ou presque tout,
est encore à découvrir, à explorer – et dans de multiples directions – des rapports des
femmes à l’écriture. ».
Nicole Echard, Anecdote interdite, Sorcière, n°12 :

"Dans l'ethnologie (française) tout se passe "comme" (?) s'il y avait une spécificité du travail féminin, une répartition des thèmes en fonction des sexes, bref un cantonnement partiel de la quasi généralité des femmes chercheurs dans certains domaines ou jardins considérés comme mineurs (femmes, enfants, traditions orales, sous groupes sociaux..), parfois dans certains espaces conceptuels (mais là l'exemple est britannique , la souillure étudiée par Mary Douglas) et dans certaines pratiques (empirisme forcené, art de la description, micro -analyse ... ). Cette maniaquerie quasiment ménagère a été productrice de travaux d'une remarquable précision au plan des données, d'une vigilante rigueur quant à l'analyse de celles-ci et d'une incroyable prudence pour ce qui est de leur interprétation, toutes qualités que l'on souhaiterait rencontrer plus fréquemment dans des recherches dont les résultats font loi. Les pratiques étant les garants de l' "objectivité", ces ouvrages féminins et leurs auteurs sont ainsi repliés à l'abri des perspectives théoriques qui s'affrontent avec fracas".

"In (French) ethnology, everything happens "as if" (?) if there were a specificity of female work, a distribution of themes according to gender, in short a partial confinement of almost all women researchers in certain fields or gardens considered as minor (women, children, oral traditions, social subgroups...), sometimes in certain conceptual spaces (but here the example is British, the defilement studied by Mary Douglas) and in certain practices (frantic empiricism, the art of description, micro-analysis...). This almost domestic mania has produced work of remarkable precision in terms of data, vigilant rigour in the analysis of the data and incredible caution in the interpretation of the data, all qualities that one would wish to see more frequently in research whose results are the law. Practices being the guarantors of "objectivity", these women's books and their authors are thus sheltered from the theoretical perspectives that clash with each other in such a way as to make the research more objective".
Marguerite Yourcenar was invited by Bernard Pivot in the french Talk Show Apostrophes on December 7, 1979 and January 16, 1981, INA Archives.
Marguerite Yourcenar was admitted to the Académie française on March 6, 1980 (To date, of the 731 "Immortals" that the Académie française has had since it was founded in 1635 by Richelieu, only 9 women have occupied one of the 40 seats).Heresies #11, Making Room – Women and Architecture, Vol.3, no 3, 1981

Selected articles
: Kitchen Dramas (Nan Bauer Maglin), Kitchen Culture/Dialectic Kitchen (Joan GreenBaum),
Antoinette Fouque on the triple working day, intervention at the Estates General against misogyny, national debate, Sorbonne.
Diane Wood Middlebrook, "Housewife into Poet: The Apprenticeship of Anne Sexton, The New England Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Dec., 1983), pp. 483-503
Frances Gabe's model for her Self Cleaning House
Documents Arts Ménagers, n°4, Les sauces, 1957
Abécédaire quotidien et tout en désordre, Les cahier du GRIF, n°12 Claude Boukobza-Hajlblum, « Sorcières… nos traversées », Sorcières « Ecritures », n°7, Paris, Albatros,
n.d. (1977), pp. 7-8, « Quand une femme se met à écrire, ça lui colle à la peau. Pour se séparer de son texte
autrement que comme d’un morceau de son corps, il faut qu’elle fasse un détour, qu’elle
se demande où ça « s’arrime », cet acte d’écrire ; qu’est-ce qu’elle en fait, de ce système
de théories, de connaissances, déjà constitué. ».
Maryvonne Daguenet-Teissier, "Le concret c'est de l'abstrait rendu familier par l'usage", Sorcière, n°12, " Un jour peut-être, un(e) étudiant(e) aura un coup de foudre pour une théorie, sans se souvenir du jeu qui l'intriguait enfant. Et si cela n'est pas, du moins ces jeux auront-ils permis d'entretenir une prescience latente, merveilleusement exprimée par les miniatures, décors de palais, parquets et jusque dans les milieux les plus modestes par les filets, broderies, tissages, vanneries, cannages, carrelages, que ce soit en Chine, Egypte, France, Roumanie, Perou ou dans le monde musulman".

"One day perhaps, a student will fall in love at first sight with a theory, without remembering the game that intrigued him as a child. And if not, at least these games will have made it possible to maintain a latent prescience, wonderfully expressed by miniatures, palace decorations, parquet floors and even in the most modest environments by nets, embroidery, weaving, basketry, wickerwork, tiles, whether in China, Egypt, France, Romania, Peru or in the Muslim world".
Gloria Feman Orenstein, « Paris Salon is Magnet for Artists and Writers », Women Artists Newsletter, Vol. 5, no 5, 1er novembre 1979.
Creation of the Librairie des voix (Library of Voices), at Editions Des femmes (collection of audio books).

Antoinette Fouque : « Ma mère, qui ne savait pas lire et avait grandi avec le cinéma muet, a été libérée par l’arrivée du cinéma parlant. Je voulais avec le livre audio apporter une libération semblable aux femmes illettrées et à celles qui, entre interdit et inhibition ne trouvent ni le temps, ni la liberté de prendre un livre. »

Antoinette Fouque: "My mother, who could not read and had grown up with silent cinema, was liberated by the arrival of talking cinema. With the audio book, I wanted to bring a similar liberation to illiterate women and to those who, between prohibition and inhibition, find neither the time nor the freedom to take a book. »
Le Monde, « Des œillets et du yaourt » ("Carnations and yogurt"), 5 avril 1982.
Frances Gabe and her Self Cleaning House Model
Les travaux d'aiguille, Les cahier du GRIF
French adaptation of "Our Bodies Ourselves" (Notre Corps Nous Même) by the Boston Collective to the french context.Chantal Chawaf, Sorcière n°12, Interview par Françoise T. Clédat : " Il y a trois langages possibles : la poésie [...], le langage théorique et l'autre langage, le langage de l'impossibilité de travailler l'écriture et d'en faire une oeuvre d'art parce que c'est le cri élémentaire, brut, immédiat qui sort".Publication of Parole, 1 issue, 1979Yves Stourdzé, « Autopsie d’une machine à laver », Culture et Technique, n° 3, 1980 :

Prenez, je vous prie, une machine à laver et autopsiez-la ! Avec beaucoup de soin, comme il se doit. […] Pour quelles raisons, vous demandez-vous, cette autopsie mécanique ? Mais précisément pour analyser en profondeur les contraintes qu’une société et une époque imposent aux instruments les plus quotidiens. En ce sens, une machine à laver, dans sa banalité, comme dans sa simplicité, constitue une plaque sensible. »

"Please take a washing machine and autopsy her! With great care, as it should be. [...] For what reasons, you ask, this mechanical autopsy? But precisely to analyse in depth the constraints that a society and an era impose on the most everyday instruments. In this sense, a washing machine, in its banality, as in its simplicity, is a sensitive plate."
"Anne Sexton, Housewife

Some women marry houses.
It's another kind of skin; it has a heart,
a mouth, a liver and bowel movements.
The walls are permanent and pink.
See how she sits on her knees all day,
faithfully washing herself down.
Men enter by force, drawn back like Jonah
into their fleshy mothers.
A woman is her mother.
That's the main thing.
Nathalie Sarraute, Fenêtre sur | A2 | 05/03/1976, Anne (Rivière ?), Sorcières, n°7, 1977, « Le jour où il nous sera accordé une « écriture féminine », elle risque fort de se retrouver du côté de la dentelle et de la tapisserie » ("The day when we will be granted a "feminine writing", she is likely to find herself on the side of lace and tapestry.")
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #84, 1978.
Le Monde, "Un style Sorcières" (A Witches Style), June 1979.
When the magazine Sorcières changes publishers for the second time, they find themselves without premises and therefore have to gather at each other's homes.
Advertisement Mr Muscle, 1976 :
Heresies, Women's Traditional Arts – The Politics of Aesthetics, Vol. 1, no 4, 1978.
Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1979.
Creation of the tearoom Le Lieu-Dit, in Paris in 1976, by the writter Yolaine Simha.

Here is a text I wrote about this place :
Marianne Alphant, Ranger/Déranger, Sorcières, no 12, 1978. Dominique Reisenthel, "Aspirateur" , Sorcières, no 19, 1979.
Suzanne Tardieu, Le mobilier rural traditionnel français (Traditional French country furniture), Paris : Aubier-Flammarion,1976.
"Je fais de l'art avec une femme qui fait la vaisselle" (I'm making art with a woman who does the dishes), Interview of Chantal Akerman, Clap, 17 janvier 1976.