Lecture 15 - The Body and the Face


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Fifteenth lecture for my students in English 192, "Science Fiction," summer 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/m13/

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Lecture 15 - The Body and the Face

  1. 1. Lecture 15: The Body and the Face English 192 Summer 2013 28 August 2013 “Although we struggle for rights over our own bodies, the very bodies for which we struggle are not quite ever only our own. The body has its invariably public dimension. Constituted as a social phenomenon in the public sphere, my body is and is not mine. Given over from the start to the world of others, it bears their imprint, is formed within the crucible of social life; only later, and with some uncertainty, do I lay claim to my body as my own, if, in fact, I ever do.” — Judith Butler, “Mourning and Melancholia,” ch. 2 of Precarious Life (26)
  2. 2. Is The Left Hand of Darkness a feminist novel? q What do we take “feminism” to mean? q What kinds of projects are feminist projects? q What kind of project is it to write a book? q What kind of project is it to write a work of fiction? – Of science fiction? q What are the aims of feminist writing? q And of fictional feminist writing?
  3. 3. “If ‘women’ are constructed and defined by their unique ability to bear live children, such beings are absent from Le Guin’s novel. That is, there is no separate group of individuals who are marked by their ability to produce live children . … all people are both men and women.” — Kathy Rudy, “Ethics, Reproduction, Utopia: Gender and Child-bearing in Woman on the Edge of Time and The Left Hand of Darkness” (2004; p. 32) Some critical responses
  4. 4. “Tim Libretti (who disagrees with such an assessment) sums up the complaint: ‘Because the novel features a male protagonist it necessarily replicates the standard male quest narrative and thus reproduces patriarchal ideology.’” — William Marcellino, “Shadows to Walk: Ursula Le Guin's Transgressions in Utopia” (2009; p. 208)
  5. 5. Is The Left Hand of Darkness a Utopian novel?
  6. 6. “‘Is the book a Utopia? It seems to me that it is quite clearly not; it poses no practicable alternative to contemporary society, since it is based on an imaginary, radical change in human anatomy.” — Ursula K. Le Guin, “Is Gender Necessary? Redux” (1989; p. 16)
  7. 7. Judith Butler (1956–) q Professor of rhetoric, comparative literature, and philosophy at UC Berkeley. q Best known for her post- structuralist work in gender theory, including Gender Trouble (1990) and Bodies That Matter (1993). q Recent work focuses on the relationship between Jewish philosophy and notions of state violence. Butler receiving the Theodor W. Adorno Prize in 2012.
  8. 8. “the structure of address itself” (129) “to respond to this address seems an important obligation during these times. […] It is about a mode of response that follows upon having been addressed, a comportment toward the Other only after the Other has made a demand upon me, accused me of a failing, or asked me to assume a responsibility.” (129) “we come to exist, as it were, in the moment of being addressed, and something about our existence proves precarious when that address fails.” (130) “No one controls the terms by which one is addressed, at least not in the most fundamental way. To be addressed is to be, from the start, deprived of will, and to have that deprivation exist as the basis of one’s situation in discourse.” (139)
  9. 9. Media credits The photo of Judith Butler (slide 7) has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported license by its creator, Wikipedia user Dontworry. Original source: q https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ador no-preis-2012-judith-butler-ffm-303.jpg
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