Literature of Sexuation

Eugene Lang College Lib Arts: Literary Studies

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students
Literature of Sexuation
Fall 2023
Taught By: Emma Lieber
Section: A

CRN: 15928

Credits: 4

In the past few decades, contemporary culture (in at least some of its faces) has come to embrace the notion that gender and sexuality are radically complex sites for the human subject. From Judith Butler, we have learned that gender is a performance, and also that the sex/gender distinction is a false one; we have come to think about the complex circuit between the subjective and the social or cultural that informs one’s enactments of gender and sex; we employ models like that of the spectrum, or fluidity, to describe the varieties of gendered and sexual expression and experience; we think about how language does or doesn’t account for the life of the body in questions like pronoun and name choice. The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan employed the term “sexuation” to refer to these matters, and he proposed that sexuation in the human subject is a kind of logic: that is, that we are each inscribed into a logical system informed by our positions vis-à-vis language and difference, and that this particular inscription determines how we place ourselves with respect to gender and sexuality. As well, that there is something radically unsymbolizable at the heart of these matters: an unassimilable gap in representation when it comes to sexuation and sexual difference, and as they inform one’s experience and enactment of gender and sexuality. If sexuation is a kind of inscription or writing, then there is something central that also cannot be written. In this class, we will examine these issues through not only theoretical but also literary readings that seek to express something of the logic of sexuation, under the assumption that literature also knows something about the relationship between body and language, as well as about what can and cannot be written within that nexus. By reading theoretical texts by Butler, Lacan, Eve Sedgwick, Sigmund Freud, Paul Preciado, and other psychoanalytic and gender/queer/trans theorists, as well as literary works by Leo Tolstoy, George Elliot, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Haruki Murakami, Carmen Maria Machado, and Clarice Lispector, we will explore how questions of sexuation and sexual difference are given shape in critical thought and literary text. We will ask how gender and sexuality, as they are theorized by the thinkers above, are ways of expressing and experiencing something inarticulable about the body. And we will study Lacan’s formulae of sexuation (yes, he expressed sexuation in mathematical equations) and see how they can be applied to literary texts, paying particular attention to the ways that different authors give shape to the radical gap that is sexual difference.

After the first week of the semester, permission of the instructor will be required in order to register for this course.

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)

Department: Literary Studies (LIT)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: September 11, 2023 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 19, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 1:34pm EST 2/29/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Tuesday, Thursday
Times: 10:00am - 11:40am
Building: Johnson/Kaplan 66 West 12th
Room: 602
Date Range: 8/29/2023 - 12/14/2023