wittig
 
   
 

Monique Wittig was born in the Haut Rhin department in Alsace.  She moved to Paris in the 1950s, where she studied at the Sorbonne.  Her first novel, L'Opoponax, published by Minuit in 1964, immediately drew attention to her when it was awarded the Prix Médicis by a jury that included Nathalie Sarraute, Claude Simon, and Alain Robbe-Grillet.  Praised by such influential writers, the novel was quickly translated into English, where it also won critical acclaim.

Wittig became very involved in the events surrounding the revolt of students and workers in May of 1968.  Like many others, she realized that the radical men leading the revolt were not inclined to share leadership.  Wittig was one of the first theoreticians and activists of the new feminist movement. It was in this atmosphere of radical political action that she completed what is often considered her most influential work -- Les Guérillères – published  in 1969.  Revolutionary both in form and content, this novel has been widely translated, debated, and used as a source of ideas by many major feminist and lesbian thinkers and writers around the world.

In May 1970, Wittig co-published what can be described as the manifesto of the French feminist movement.  Ever since, Wittig's works have included both fiction and non-fiction essays evolving i an ongoing dialogue between theory and literary practice.     
Throughout the early '70s, Wittig was a central figure in the radical lesbian and feminist movements in France.  She was a founding member of such groups as the Petites Marguérites, the Gouines rouges, and the Féministes révolutionnaires. 

In 1973 she published Le Corps lesbien (translated into English in 1975 as The Lesbian Body), and in 1976 Brouillon pour un dictionnaire des amantes (translated into English in 1979 as Lesbian Peoples: Material For A Dictionary), co-authored by her partner Sande Zeig.  In 1976 Wittig and Zeig moved to the United States.

From that time on, Wittig turned her attention increasingly toward theoretical works, and a number of her most famous essays date from the late '70s and early 80s.  In a variety of genres ranging from the philosophical essay ("The Straight Mind") to the parable ("Les Tchiches et les Tchouches") she explored the intersections of lesbianism, feminism, and literary form.   Most of these essays were published in two journals.  She became part of the editorial collective of France's major theoretical journal, Questions féministes, and she was advisory editor to an American journal, Feminist Issues, founded in part to make available in English the important works being published in France, notably in Questions Féministes.  Her work became truly bi-lingual, as she translated her own work from English into French, and vice-versa.  She also translated Djuna Barnes's Spillway as La Passion. Earlier translations include Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man and the Portugese The Three Marias’ Nouvelles lettres portugaises.