Names and Names

Towards the end of the chapter "Subjection, Resistance, Resignification", Butler writes about the subversion (inversion) of pejorative terms into progressive usage. She argues that this is "a progressive usage that requires and repeats the reactionary in order to effect a subversive reterritorialization" (100). During this section of the reading, I remembered a personal experience with the muddiness of these distinctions.

Turns and Overturns

Butler's theory of psychic formation plays on the trope of 'the turn' throughout numerous writers' works on identity, power, conscience, interpellation, etc., and the general idea seems to be that interiority always requires a turning-in-on or turning-back-on or a turning-back-of-power of/from a 'self' that actually isn't one before the convolutions of these turns.

when are we not subjects?

A quick clarification/pondering: If we accept Butler's definition of 'the subject' as NOT interchangeable with 'the individual' or 'the person,' but instead as "the linguistic occasion for the individual to achieve and reproduce intelligibility" (p12), at what point or in what instance, might one not be considered a 'subject'?

Is this so new?

Perhaps this is my utter ignorance of the chronology of this postmodern strain of critical theory, but there is something in Butler's central thesis that strikes me as not especially revolutionary. She writes as if no one, to date, has made the connection between political power and domination of the psyche. Indeed, she offers this most in depth exploration into the theoretical underpinnings of the ways in which Freud and Foucault can be navigated to create a theory that acknowledges power's supression on a psychic level.

Hyperconformity and Signifyin'

While reading's piece on Kayne West as one of the sexiest men alive, I came accross a hyperlink to this performance:

Butler & Freud on melancholy

Butler repeatedly asks how a subject could internalize lost attachment to an object prior to the constitution of interior/exterior distinctions. I guess I'm not sure about Butler's relationship to Freud: did Freud give melancholy its founding, originary role, or did he conceive of it as one possible psychic phenomenon among many? Is the paradox Butler seizes on inherent to Freud, or is it the result of her own understanding of melancholy as the founding turn of subjectivation?

Dial 'M' for Metaphor

Was anybody else surprised to hear that Althusser killed his wife?

Are pleasure and pain intertwined or separate entities?

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I thought the discussion of Freud's prohibition of desire is very similar, if not identical, to the argumentative structure of Foucault's discussion of sexuality. Butler states how the prohibition of desire "does not seek to obliterate prohibited desire; on the contrary, prohibition seeks to reproduce prohibited desire and becomes intensified through the renunciations it effects" (56).


The discussion of "negative narcissism" is another one of the several examples Butler provides that possesses a very contradictory nature. Negative narcissism deals with the counteractive effect of "regarding oneself as excrement." It is this negative experience that creates a disparity from actually identifying with the excrement. Therefore, a mediator, like a priest, is needed where "everything that the abject consciousness offers, that is, all of its externalizations, including desire, work, and excrement, are to be construed as offerings, as paying penance" (51).

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