Bodies That Matter
On the Discursive Limits of Sex
Routledge – 2011 – 226 pages
Series: Routledge Classics
In Bodies That Matter, renowned theorist and philosopher Judith Butler argues that theories of gender need to return to the most material dimension of sex and sexuality: the body. Butler offers a brilliant reworking of the body, examining how the power of heterosexual hegemony forms the "matter" of bodies, sex, and gender. Butler argues that power operates to constrain sex from the start, delimiting what counts as a viable sex. She clarifies the notion of "performativity" introduced in Gender Trouble and via bold readings of Plato, Irigaray, Lacan, and Freud explores the meaning of a citational politics. She also draws on documentary and literature with compelling interpretations of the film Paris is Burning, Nella Larsen's Passing, and short stories by Willa Cather.
"As a philosopher of gender [Judith Butler] is unparalleled." – Village Voice
"Butler gives us a new way to think about the materiality of the body in the discursive performity operative in the materialization of sex. Following a common move in postmodern feminism, Butler sets out to demolish the sex/gender distinction that has formed the mainstay of the de Beauvorian and radical feminism's notion that gender, as a cultural construction, could be critiqued and politicized against the givenness of the body's biological sex. . . .What is new in Bodies That Matter is Butler's attempt to write more directly about race." – Signs
"Extending the brilliant style of interrogation that made her 1990 book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity a landmark of gender theory/queer theory, Butler here continues to refine our understandings of the complexly performative character of sexuality and gender and to trouble our assumptions about the inherent subversiveness of dissident sexualities. . . . indispensable reading across the wide range of concerns that queer theory is currently addressing." – Artforum
"What the implications/limitations of 'sexing' are and how the process works comprise the content of this strikingly perceptive book. . . . Butler has written a most significant and provocative work that addresses issues of immediate social concern." – The Boston Book Review
"A brilliant and original analysis." – Drucilla Cornell, Rutgers University, USA
"…a classic." – Elizabeth Grosz
Preface Acknowledgements Part 1: 1. Bodies that Matter 2. The Lesbian Phallus and the Morphological Imaginary 3. Phantasmatic Identification and the Assumption of Sex 4. Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion Part 2: 5. 'Dangerous Crossing': Willa Cather's Masculine Names 6. Queering, Passing: Nella Larsen Rewrites Psychoanalysis 7. Arguing with the Real 8. Critically Queer. Notes. Index
Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature and the Co-director of the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. She is presently the recipient of the Andrew Mellon Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in the Humanities.