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Essman, E. (2006). Giving an Account of Oneself By Judith Butler, New York: Fordham University Press, 2005; 149 pp.. Fort Da, 12(2):88-93.

(2006). Fort Da, 12(2):88-93

Giving an Account of Oneself By Judith Butler, New York: Fordham University Press, 2005; 149 pp.

Reviewed by
Eric Essman, M.A.

[T]he magnitude of the subject goes far beyond the scope of my memory and the power of reasoning.

Franz Kafka to his father, 1919/1987

A recurrent theme and vital tributary of Judith Butler's work is how psychoanalytic theory contributes to the understanding and representation of modern and postmodern subjectivity. With respect to narrative representation, Giving an Account of Oneself argues what psychoanalysis well knows: that beginnings and origins are two different things. Beginnings pertain to the conventional once-upon-a-time or vital statistics of a life, origins to the multi-contextual circumstances of narration itself: generational, psychological, rhetorical, social, and political. If speaking in the name of X connotes that one is speaking with an understanding of X from a place of inherited, derived, acquired, or at least attributed authority, how is it that speaking in one's own name can be problematic? Under what circumstances is one called upon to speak as and for oneself, and how would it be possible to do so non-authoritatively? Butler examines self-representation from various standpoints but consistently returns to the theme of the subject's lack of reflexive transparency as the ground of ethical and therapeutic action.

Butler addresses the question of self-accountability in four often interrelated and intertextual domains: ontological, juridical, psychoanalytic, and ethical.

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