Agency In Gender And Performativity

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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"Performativity must be understood not as a singular or deliberate "act"� but rather as a reiterative and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects it names"� there is no power that acts but only a reiterated acting that is power in its persistence and instability"� Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter.

In Judith Butlers essay, Bodies That Matter, she states that the power in performativity comes from reiteration rather than a singular authority. She also brings up the question of whether agency can exist within the strong confines of reiteration and performativity. One of Howard Pinters characters in the play Homecoming, Ruth, is caught in a position where she is subject to the performativity of her gender and the question of whether or not she has agency in the situation seems ambiguous.

Ruth, the only woman in the play, acts as the mother, whore, wife, and daughter to the men around her, she is being subjected to the utmost performativity of her gender.

Ruth's submission to the construct of these desired roles appears to be reactionary which brings up the question, does Ruth has agency or if she is a marionette in the fulfillment of masculine desires. The proposal is that Ruth, paradoxically, has the most agency and power among the characters in Homecoming precisely because she is so completely performed by her gender.

The blood family in the play consists entirely of males, a coarse father whose wife is dead, his compliant brother, and the fathers three children, a boxer, a taxi driver, and Ruth's husband Ted (who has been away from the family since he got married) When Ted and Ruth arrive at the fathers house he immediately disassociates from her and realigns himself with the family dynamic.

The males in the family , at...



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