Flexner Book Club Blog

2011 Mary Flexner Lecturer: Judith Butler

Academic Alliances

When I began this blogging journey back in July, I could not have anticipated how dynamic the conversations we’ve had in this digital realm would be. Looking over my own entries, it’s exciting to see the range of issues touched on: gay marriage, Occupy Wall Street, childhood sexuality, the Libyan conflict, cohabitation and women’s colleges, and cyber bullying, just to name a few. In my own conversations with Judith Butler over the course of her residency, I was able to talk with her about work on temporality and queer studies in my Lesbian Immortal course one day and another day get her perspective on Lady Gaga. (Some illuminating tidbits regarding the latter: “I’m glad she’s bringing 80s dance music back…the VMA performance was a problem…no, I don’t identify as a monster, but I like some of her lyrics.” See picture below as well.) Each of these issues explored in the blog or in discussion were examined through a lens offered by Judith Butler, which I think helps support this idea that some of my fellow bloggers have explored: activism and academics aren’t enemies, but are in alliance with one another. Strengthening these alliances can only enhance the work the both are capable of achieving.

After the Lady Gaga conversation, I asked Judith Butler to sign my t-shirt. This may or may not be my new favorite article of clothing.

Understanding this alliance has been an integral part of my work in English. Each class I’ve taken has been allied with theory, history, and critical lenses that have shown me how my work in English is practical, engaged with political issues, and has real world implications. Literature is a site where cultural work occurs, and I’m interested in how conceptualizations of gender, sexuality, and race are instantiated in literature. Throughout my major, I have been drawn to courses that are allied with gender and sexuality studies, and moving forward, I imagine myself seeing what other alliances can be built through examining unanticipated or underexplored intersections. The English department has already helped me understand why this work matters, and Butler’s visit has helped strengthen this understanding and has helped me become even more excited about my future academic work, as well as how this work can be utilized in realms beyond the academy.

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