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Kathleen Lennon


Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble has been one of the most influential theoretical works of the past twenty-five years. Both within and without philosophy, it is a touchstone for discussions of subjectivity and identity of all kinds. In her writings, and in conversation, Butler has made clear her indebtedness to the phenomenological and existential tradition, while revising it within a poststructuralist framework. In this article, I explore just one strand of that indebtedness by comparing the performative account of gender identity, which she offers in Gender Trouble, with the imaginary personages which form the basis of Sartre’s account of individual and social identities. I suggest that some of the problems encountered by performative accounts are a consequence of this inheritance.

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Alienation and Affectivity

Beauvoir, Sartre and Levinas on the Ageing Body

Kathleen Lennon and Anthony Wilde

In this article, we explore Beauvoir’s account of what she claims is an alienated relation to our ageing bodies. This body can inhibit an active engagement with the world, which marks our humanity. Her claims rest on the binary between the body-for-itself and the body-in-itself. She shares this binary with Sartre, but a perceptive phenomenology of the affective body can also be found, which works against this binary and allows her thought to be brought into conversation with Levinas. For Levinas, the susceptibility of the body is constitutive of our subjectivity, rather than a source of alienation. If we develop Beauvoir’s thought in the direction of his, an ontological structure is suggested, distinct from Sartre – a structure which makes room for her pervasive attention to affectivity.