June 2, New Materialism Society Seminar #5

A Specular View of Matter: Reading Luce Irigaray with Judith Butler




In Chapter One of Bodies That Matter, Judith Butler launches her exploration into the materiality of bodies by going back to the notion of matter in Classical Greece mediated through the work of Michel Foucault and Luce Irigaray. Foucault’s Discipline and Punish offers Butler a way to “understand the schema of bodies as a historically contingent nexus of power/discourse”. However, Foucault misses, according to Butler, what is excluded from materialization, a question taken up by the feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray.

The long middle section of Chapter One is dedicated to Butler’s rehearsal of Irigaray’s reading of Plato in her audacious book Speculum of the Other Woman. In this talk, I will introduce Irigaray and some of the core ideas in Speculum and the Other Woman, in in which she questions the dominant paradigms in epistemology, metaphysics and psychology. Irigaray’s radical argument offers both a diagnosis of the impasse that she says has prevented women from being subjects and a strategy for subverting what she calls the phallogocentric economy.

Butler takes her cue from Irigaray, but offers an alternative reading of Plato’s Timaeus as instituting a taboo that constitutes what she calls the “heterosexual matrix.” I will also touch on Butler’s response to Irigaray and her critique of grounding politics in matter.


Seminar hosted by Charmaine Carvalho

Charmaine Carvalho is a PhD candidate at the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University. Her research interests are gender studies, feminism, popular culture and the construction of selfhood. She is working towards a dissertation on the fashioning of the “single Indian woman” in Indian chick lit novels.


Time: 3:00-5:00 pm, June 2, 2016

Venue: Room 628, Sir Run Run Shaw Building, Ho Sin Hang Campus, Hong Kong Baptist University




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