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Layton, L. (1997). Reply to Judith Butler. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(4):521-524.

(1997). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(4):521-524

Reply to Judith Butler Related Papers

Lynne Layton, Ph.D.

I hope the following remarks capture the pleasure of conversing with Judith Butler. I was delighted by Butler's wish to create dialogue among various psychoanalytic discourses, and, in the spirit of participating in such dialogue, I want to address two points raised by Butler: the question of what I meant when I seemed to separate experience from discourse, and the difference between my views on subjectivity and coherence and what I understand to be Lacanian views.

The distinction that I drew between discourse and personal experience is not a distinction between a discursive and an experiencing self, where the experiencing self would be figured as outside of culture. The distinction is rather between a cultural category that presents itself as a seamless identity position that suppresses heterogeneity, for example, “bourgeois femininity” or “woman” as she appears in certain essentialist political theories, and that complex negotiation between cultural norms and fantasy that Butler identifies as at the heart of subjectivity and agency. While I draw this distinction, my sense is that the dominant construct “bourgeois femininity” is as much contested by other versions of femininity on the political level as it is on the psychic level. But the mechanisms of contestation may be somewhat different on each level—or maybe not; this is an important area for further investigation. On the psychic level, those mechanisms that negotiate among various gender representations, which include all the defenses that the psyche deploys, are rooted in the meanings we make of our conflicting relational commitments and perhaps in something like temperament.

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