Writing, reading, watching, listening.

Writing, reading, watching, listening.
Life In : Recommendations, my own creations, and a place for a conversation.

Books I Have Read

I'll start the page going backwards through my reviews.
I guess I'll link them to Powell's because it is Indie and to Amazon.

In Property, a book by the excellent writer Valerie Martin (The Confessions of Edward Day, Italian Fever), the author describes the state of women as possessions at the time of slavery in the United States. She offers an original slant in her dive into a white female slave-owner’s psyche and situation as this woman, Manon, tells her life story, interweaving it with her relationships with her black female slave, Sarah. While Manon tries to release herself from the greedy possession of her husband’s hold, she is unaware of repeating the pattern of ownership and property in her own connection with Sarah. She goes as far as seeing Sarah as her enemy due to the abusive sexual behavior of her own husband, although neither she nor the slave have any power to confront and resist him. The author doesn't give us any easy solutions, only a view of the meaning of human property and how it destroys lives. We learn about both women only through her eyes, and the gap between what she tells and what the reader can read out of it is more meaningful than the related facts.
The book is slim, well-written and fast going. 
Property on Amazon

Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" by Judith Butler

In Bodies that Matter Judith Butler replies to the criticism of her earlier book Gender Trouble. She argues with the feminist thinkers who see the body as matter--a material body with a sexual specification. According to her the body does not exist beyond a cultural construction. It serves as a site for the feminist theory independently of such a pre-discursive definition. In her introduction she explains:
For surely bodies live and die; eat and sleep; feel pain, pleasure; endure illness and violence; and these “facts,” one might skeptically proclaim, cannot be dismissed as mere construction. […] But their irrefutability in no way implies what it might mean to affirm them and through what discursive means. Moreover, why is it that what is constructed is understood as an artificial and dispensable character? (xi).

The construction of bodies is a constitutive constraint, and bodies are understood through it. She states again that both body and gender are parts of discourse. The only way to reach the matter beyond discourse is through discourse itself. After all, it is the discourse that defines the body as a matter existing beyond it. Inspired by Foucault, she contends that discourse is based on power relations and manipulated by those who control the sources of knowledge. The definition of what is natural is manipulated as well. Henceforth, the materiality of the body is discursive. The material body, its boundaries and its sexuality, materialize through the repetition of policing norms. The norms attribute meaning to it. Even the body limits are the product of social codes according to which certain practices are allowed and others are not.Butler goes back to the concept of performativity and confirms that repeatedly performed acts normalize an attributed gender, as well as marks of race, class and sexuality. Discourse defines certain bodies as natural, thus marginalizing others. This alludes to the fact that the accepted body does not owe it to its biological characteristics but to cultural signs. Based on Luce Iragaray’s Lacanian analysis, Butler also investigates the political coherence for which certain bodies are not legitimized. Through her own and Iragaray’s analysis of Platos’ work Timaeus, she reaches the conclusion that the marginalized bodies are related to homosexuality. She concludes that deconstruction cannot be based on already constituted references. Only a truly open debate can bring change.
Bodies that Matter at Powell`s
At Amazon


Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity 

by Judith Butler has been one of the most cited and influential text in gender studies since its publication in 1990. Butler introduces problems resulting from the identification of gender with the biological difference between men and women, analyses the power relations in the basis of the concept of gender, describes methods of controls and suggests that deconstruction can lead to change.
According to the scholar, gender-based classification is constructed by discourse with the objective of recreating hegemonic paradigms and perpetuating current power relations. Former feminists have noted the importance of exposing the interests behind conventions. Butler goes further: defining Women and Men as universal categories disguises the interest it serves.
She writes, “Signification is not a founding act, but rather a regulated process of repetition that both  conceals  itself  and  enforces  its  rules  precisely  through  the  production  of substantializing effects” (185). She states that analysis (or deconstruction) provides tools for the socially oppressed to fight against the existing social order.
 In the author’s view, the category of Women from which the feminist struggle arises is different from the political, hierarchical myth based on biology. The assumption that there is a pre-discursive body with a pre-determined sexuality and gender sustains oppression against subjugated and marginalized subjects. Disconnected from the body, she suggests, gender can include more than two versions.
            In the first chapter, titled “Subjects of Sex, Gender, Desire”, Butler introduces woman as a subject of feminism and distinguishes between sex and gender. In the second she discusses heterosexuality within psychoanalytical and structuralist theories. Lastly, “Subversive bodily acts” deals with the category of biological sex and ends with Butler’s theory of gender-related performance and performativity.

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