The Nature of Performativity (2017/18)

Course Description: 

The course examines the concept of performativity, one of the important terms in our research of gender and sexuality. The course traces its development in philosophy, its introduction to feminist and queer inquiry, and examines its complicated relationship to the concept of nature: we will look at the development of the concept of performativity in speech act theory and deconstruction which enabled its productive work in Gender Studies exemplified by the work of Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick who look at ways in which performativity helps us better understand gendered embodiment and affect. We will also trace the queerness of performativity to discussions of femininity and theatricality. We will close with readings from new materialism to see how performativity helps reconfigure the concept of nature.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will be familiar with the development and the genealogy of the concept of performativity in poststructuralist thought and its immediate connection to and implications in Gender Studies. Students will also gain basic competence in affect theory and new materialism. The oral and written assignments help students to improve their skills to articulate their thoughts as academic questions and problems and to make scholarly arguments.


Class participation: You are required to attend class consistently. Please come to class having read, and bringing with you, the assigned texts. Your active participation (listening as well as speaking) will be expected. Generally, the more active class participation is in a class, the more intellectually stimulating it becomes, so I hope that you will always share your thoughts during discussion. You may miss one class without formal documentation of illness or any other case of vis major. Please let me know in advance if you know you won’t come to class.


At the beginning of most classes, we’ll spend 15-20 minutes in groups. During this time you can discuss your impression of the texts and suggest questions for general class discussion.  At the end of the class we will discuss a limited selection of these points and questions. For this component of the course to work well it is very important that you arrive to class on time.

Written assignments:

3 reaction papers

You have to write 3 reaction papers during the course (each reaction paper focusing on one text we read in the course). You have to submit a reaction paper before or at the end of week 4, the 2nd before the end of week 9 (on a text discussed between Week 4 and 9), the 3rd no later than the end of Week 11 (on a text we discussed between Week 8 and 11). You choose the texts you want to write on and you can submit them after we discussed them in class. Here are the guidelines for a reaction paper: