Monique Wittig, French writer, poet and social theorist, born July 13, 1935 in Alsace, France, died January 3, 2003 in Tucson, Arizona. Wittig's first novel, The Opoponax (1964), brought her major critical acclaim and the coveted Prix Medici. As a founding leader in the French feminist movement, Wittig's literary and theoretical works were recognized as essential contributions to feminist thought in Europe and the U.S. and to the emerging movement for lesbian and gay rights. After moving to the U.S. in the mid-1970s, Wittig held a number of university teaching positions, and was currently a professor in Women's Studies and French at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
Wittig's work has had a fundamental impact upon feminist theory and lesbian and gay theory worldwide. Her novels, including Les Guérillères (1969), The Lesbian Body (1973), Lesbian Peoples: Materials for a Dictionary (co-authored with Sande Zeig, 1975), and Virgile, non (1984, translated as Across the Acheron in 1987) combine a sensitivity to the nuances of language and style with a powerful illustration of her philosophy of lesbian materialism, a theoretical position she set forth in a series of essays collected in The Straight Mind (1992), a term she coined. Her work has been translated into a dozen languages, including German, Dutch, Finish, Japanese, and Spanish. Her collaboration with Zeig resulted in the imaginative staging of her play The Constant Journey (1985) in the U.S. and in Paris, and most recently a feature film based on her short story, The Girl (2001), directed by Sande Zeig.
Wittig is survived by her partner, Sande Zeig, mother, Maria Wittig, sister, Gilberte Wittig, and niece, Dominique Samson.