Judith Butler Questions for English 256 Intro to Theory, Chapman University Fall 2012

JUDITH BUTLER QUESTIONS FOR E256 INTRO TO THEORY AND CRITICISM

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Assigned: From Gender Trouble (2540-53, from Ch. 3. "Subversive Bodily Acts").

"Subversive Bodily Acts," Ch. 3 from Gender Trouble

From "Preface to Gender Trouble"

1. On 2540-41, what point does Butler make about the way "power" may work? How is it best not to understand the operations of power? And how does she invoke de Beauvoir, Nietzsche and Foucault in the service of her argument?

From Chapter 3: "Subversive Bodily Acts": Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions

2. On 2540-42, what criticism does Butler make even of Foucault with respect to the assumptions he makes about the relationship between the human body and the realm of culture, politics, and history? In what sense does Foucault's main assumption about the body limit his ability to deal with gender issues, in Butler's view?

3. On 2544-47, how does Butler address the role that the binary logic at work in paired terms such as "inside/outside" plays in gender-based (and other) oppression? How does such binarism contain the seeds of its own destruction, so to speak? (Suggestion: look up "binary logic" on the internet for a definition.)

From Chapter 3: "Subversive Bodily Acts": From Interiority to Gender Performatives

4. On 2547-50, Butler offers an explanation as to how we come to see even gender (remember that "gender" isn't the same as "biological sex" or " anatomy") as something essential and fixed, something that comes from deep within. What cultural mechanism or force encourages us to understand it that way?

5. On 2550-2553, what alternative to binary gender logic does Butler set forth? What does she apparently mean by "a corporeal style" (2551)? What does the term "performativity" mean in her lexicon? {Suggestion: don't take this word in the usual sense; look it up -- study how J. L. Austin uses it in the selection "Performative Utterances" from 1289-31 of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2nd. ed.)

6. General question: to what extent do you find Butler's notion that gender can be made to seem "incredible" (2553) practical or achievable? If you say "yes," what's the basis of your optimism? If you say "no" or " not anytime soon," how might Butler's argument nonetheless be valuable?

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2010. ISBN 978-0-393-93292-8.