CuSPP Seminar Series 2022 - A matrix of becoming: Women’s friendship in 20th century American novels

A matrix of becoming: Women’s friendship in 20th century American novels

Few women would disagree with the idea that female friendship is—alongside the romantic and familial—one of the social pillars upon which their life is built. Certainly, women’s writing throughout space and time reflects its significance. However, women’s friendship has been largely academically ignored with some key exceptions and a peak of interest in 1970s and 80s feminist writing. Since Aristotle, when friendship is studied, it is most often by men and, although not announced as such, when male scholars write of ‘friendship’ they tend to universalise the specifics of male friendship.

This presentation presents the work of my thesis to address the question, ‘What is friendship to women in literature?’ I present an original contribution drawing on Bracha Ettinger’s work on the matrixial to argue for a new theorisation of female friendship through the close reading of novels written by American women in the 20th century.

In my understanding, female friendship is a space between two or more women co-created and co-constrained by its participants. Female friendship is produced by psychic (re)encounter and requires a play of closeness and distance in a way that is specific to female friendship and differentiates it from women’s other relationships.


Louisa Browne Kirk is a PhD candidate in literature at the ANU. She is an intersectional feminist and a writer and researcher on women’s textual friendship.

Date & time

Thu 24 Mar 2022, 4.30–6pm


Conference Room #128, AD Hope Building, Australian National University


Louisa Browne Kirk, PhD candidate in Literature (ANU)


Russell Smith


Updated:  17 March 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications