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    From the performance of identity to the law of desire: (mis)readings of Lacan in queer theory

    Valle Junior, Luiz Artur Costa do (2022) From the performance of identity to the law of desire: (mis)readings of Lacan in queer theory. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Abstract

    Queer theory has always had a fraught relation to psychoanalysis, and the few queer thinkers who have tackled Jacques Lacan’s work have offered partial and misleading assessments of it. This thesis evaluates the merits and failings of the most important readings available, notably Judith Butler’s and Lee Edelman’s, and attempts to reconsider their shortcomings. I argue that attending to Lacan with the queer concern for the subversion of identity in mind might yield important insights for what has been recently called queer universalism. First, I offer a brief contextualisation of queer theory in its relation to the 19th century invention of the homosexual and to 20th century LGBT+ politics, and argue that queer theory has failed to offer a convincing alternative to what scholars in the field call ‘homonormativity’ – the historically novel appearance of a set of norms of propriety for LGBT+ existence, dignity, and politics pursuant to a growing acceptance of homosexuality. This critique sets the stage for my consideration of the queer readings of Lacan. I argue that Judith Butler’s reading, which sees in psychoanalysis an insidious heteronormative bent, offers a static representation of Lacan that does not contextualise its sources as part of an ongoing theoretical elaboration. Specifically, Butler mispresents Lacan’s concept of desire, upon which he erects the ethics of psychoanalysis. Lee Edelman’s reading of Lacan’s ethics, in turn, recognises the concept of desire only to subsume it under that of jouissance. In contrast, I show that Lacan’s ethics privileges desire and that jouissance figures in Lacan’s system primarily as sublimation. Finally, I focus on Lacan’s political moments – first, his reading of Marx, then his institutional thought – and argue that Lacan’s work may provide the basis for a renewed queer universalism, one capable of reinvigorating queer theory’s capitulation before LGBT+ particularity.

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    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2022 14:00
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:39
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/48936
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.18743/PUB.00048936

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