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Subversive Bodily Acts

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Sophia Softky

on 19 November 2013

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Transcript of Subversive Bodily Acts

Subversive Bodily Acts
Butler's Project
To interrogate the work of Kristeva, Foucault and Wittig, point out contradictions internal to their theories, and use them to to explore intelligibility and limits of the body, gender, Sex and sexuality.
Kristeva
Posits the "semiotic" order of maternal, poetic language as a subversive alternative to Lacan's patriarchal Symbolic.
Poetic language is evidence of pre-cultural "multiplicity" of libidinal drives.
The semiotic cannot be sustained within culture without causing breakdown and psychosis.

Foucault and the story of Alexina/Herculine
That sexuality and power are co-extensive is central to Foucault's theory, yet in his introduction to the diaries of French hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin, he contradicts himself by insisting that Herculine's sexual polymorphousness or multiplicity, and "happy limbo of non-identity" are nevertheless beyond or prior to the Law.
Wittig
The female/feminine term only exists within the heterosexual matrix, the only "sexed" position is female, and to be a lesbian is to be not a woman.
Women, lesbians and gays might "speak" their way out of Sex by lesbianizing the whole world and making the female POV universal, thus destroying the category.
Butler's Critique
Wittig refuses the possibility of "resignifying" or subverting heterosexuality through "plays" on gender, such as is found in various queer subcultures.
Ignores possibility that homosexuality might be conditioned by the heterosexual matrix as well.
Butler's Critique
Kristeva reinscribes tropes of the maternal as pre-cultural, natural, and participating in a "univocal and unilinear teleology", does not question the assumption that the paternal is central to the foundation of culture.
Obscures the fact that the Semiotic is attached to the Symbolic and in fact made possible by it. Paternal law is both prohibitive and discursive, makes possible the discursive production of the maternal body as "prediscursive".
Butler's Critque
Butler counters that Foucault does not acknowledge the naive "emancipatory ideal" of sexual pleasure in his own work, or the fact that pleasure is always already generated by and embedded in Law.
Herculine may be "outside" the law, but s/he is
inside
the discourse that generates it.
Butler's Conclusions
A theory of gender as a constant, performative "doing", rather than something one "is" or "expresses" allows for new strategies of subversive appropriation and redeployment
The power of parody
"Stylistics of Existence" and styles of the flesh
http://fuckyeahdragracegifs.tumblr.com/post/64290767985
http://fuckyeahdragracegifs.tumblr.com/post/67111296029/ralatrilabee-the-winners-reactions
Full transcript