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Performativity and Expression: The Case of David Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, Gender Studies.
2016 (English)In: Bodies, Boundaries and Vulnerabilities: Interrogating Social, Cultural and Political Aspects of Embodiment / [ed] Lisa Folkmarson Käll, Springer, 2016, 153-174 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Through a reading of David Cronenberg’s 1993 film M. Butterfly, this chapter brings Judith Butler’s idea of the performativity of gender into conversation with Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s writings on the expression of embodied subjectivity. The chapter brings out how the portrayal of the two protagonists in Cronenberg’s film, Song Liling and René Gallimard, on the one hand illustrates Butler’s contention that gender identity is performatively constituted through a stylized reiteration of bodily acts that produce the illusion of an inner core on the surface of the body and on the other hand points to the limitations of a strictly performative framework. The character of Song Liling is portrayed in such a way as to also provoke questions of how to account for subjectivity or a felt sense of self that cannot be captured by third-person descriptions nor reduced to a product of reiterated performative imitation. Challenging Butler’s simplistic account and dismissal of expression, the chapter turns instead to the account of expression offered by Merleau-Ponty and argues that this provides a non-reductive way of understanding subjectivity as embodying both a first- and a third-person perspective in interrelation and of rethinking the relation between interiority and exteriority without reducing one to the other.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2016. 153-174 p.
, Crossroads of Knowledge, ISSN 2197-9634
Keyword [en]
performativity, judith butler, m butterfly, david cronenberg, expression
National Category
Gender Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-129012DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-22494-7_9ISBN: 978-3-319-22493-0ISBN: 978-3-319-22494-7OAI: diva2:918940
Available from: 2016-04-12 Created: 2016-04-12 Last updated: 2016-04-13Bibliographically approved

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