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An original critique of queer theory, from a psychoanalytic perspective.
In The World of Perversion, James Penney argues that antihomophobic criticism has nothing to loseand indeed everything to gainby reclaiming the psychoanalytic concept of perversion as psychic structure. Analyzing the antagonism between psychoanalytic approaches to perversion and those inspired by the work of Michel Foucault, Penney explores how different assumptions about sexuality have determined the development of contemporary queer theory, and how the universalizing approach to homosexuality in psychoanalysis actually leads to more useful political strategies for nonheterosexual subjects. Having established this theoretical context, Penney focuses on works by Georges Bataille, Blaise Pascal, Denis Diderot, and Jacques Lacan, tracing the implications of various sexual and moral understandings of the term perversion, and illustrating how a psychoanalytic approach to the question of perversion enables politicized readings that are foreclosed by a Foucauldian methodology.
“The author offers illuminating chapters on the bizarre enthrallment of a medieval audience to the confessions of the sodomite murderer Gilles de Rais; the works of Pascal, Diderot, and Lacan; and the future of queer theory. Penney’s reasoning is complex and the book is dense … but the enterprise is worthwhile—particularly to scholars interested in the history of ideas, queer theory, gender, and cultural studies.” — CHOICE
“The World of Perversion promises to be an extraordinarily important book, a major intervention in the worlds of queer theory, psychoanalysis, and French philosophy. Moving far beyond a psychoanalytic critique of queer theory, Penney persuasively and compellingly shows how a psychoanalytic understanding of perversion inheres in late medieval, early modern, and modern French philosophical and juridical thought. Penney also offers a refreshingly new and subtle understanding of the old knotting of power-knowledge-sex, one that effectively displaces paradigms set by critics like Jonathan Dollimore, Eve Sedgwick, and Judith Butler. The result is a fascinating and persuasive book that transforms how we can conceive philosophy, the history of sexuality, and gay politics.” Graham L. Hammill, author of Sexuality and Form: Caravaggio, Marlowe, and Bacon
James Penney is Assistant Professor in the Cultural Studies Program at Trent University.
Table of Contents
1. Epistemologies of Perversion
Perversity and Perversion
Perversion as Power
Perversion as Structure
Fetishism, Sexual Difference, Homosexuality
Worlds of Perversion: A Reader’s Guide
2. Confessions of a Medieval Sodomite
Meet Gilles de Rais
The Spectacle of Perversion
The Tragedy of History
An Innocent Transference
Radically Evil? The Perverse Sacrifice
3. Cleopatra’s Nose
The Tragic Absolute From Sin to Infinity
Ideological State Automatons
A Distracted Dialectic
Grace, or the Act of Faith
4. This Whole World of Perversion
Dialogue and Dialectic
The Cynical Other
A Revolt against the Negative
Wealth and Power
The Beyond of Perversion
5. The Guardian of Criminal Being
Lacan contra Hegel
The Real of Destiny
Suffering for Beauty
6. Concluding (Un)Queer-Theoretical Postscript
Perversion and Its Discontents
A Dynamic Perversion
The Minoritarian Temptation
Hysteria in the Shadow of the State
The Paradox of Desublimation
The Subject of Sex