Sunday, 22 September 2013

Virginia Woolf & Judith Butler

I suppose my own initial inculcation in to the English literary canon could be considered a vindication of Judith Butler's theory of performativity, albeit in an abstracted sense, in that though I represented a hyper-mechanistic male phenotype, my reception landscape was markedly hypo-mechanistic and 'feminized'.  
This was because my elder sister was reading English literature at Delhi University and I got into the habit of flicking through her course books and joining in the discussion when her College friends came to visit. True, some of her friends were rather low brow in their tastes- preferring 'the Mill on the Floss' to 'Middlemarch', for example, or Charlotte Bronte to Mrs. Gaskell- but there were others whose intellectual horizons were already spiraling towards the vertiginous mise en abyme of Spivak's Derrida, though not, at that time, the strong meat of Judith Butler.
It is interesting that my sister's friends, though prepared to take my devotion to Joyce and D.H.Lawrence at face value (I should mention, Joyce was particularly well taught at my School because it was run by the Irish Christian Brothers) expressed a sullen incredulity at my cult of Virginia Woolf. ''Flush' is a charming book, they'd say, 'but you can't tell me you liked 'the Waves' or 'to the Lighthouse'? 'He does too like 'the Waves'.' my sister would loyally reply, taking umbrage on my behalf, 'Vivek is very intelligent. He drew a picture of Leonard Woolf constructing a specially big typewriter so Virginia could get her paws on the keyboard and type out her masterpieces while still tearing the heads off chickens and devouring rabbits with her slathering fangs.'
To my mind it is that aspect of the divine Virginia which Judith Butler's theorizing fails to grasp.

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