“The King’s Two Anuses: Trans Feminism and Free Speech” critically examines the discourses of trans feminism and free speech absolutism as they have converged in a number of public controversies in the wake of the 2016 election of Donald Trump. It argues that the crisis of democratic institutions precipitated by that election revealed the surprising susceptibility of the dominant strains of critical and queer theory to cooptation by the far right and exposed the inadequacy of institutionalized rhetorics of trans affirmation, which generally comprise defenses of indeterminacy or gender ambivalence—the very conditions many trans people contest. Drawing on the late work of Michel Foucault and the private writings of Ernst Kantorowicz, “The King’s Two Anuses” articulates a critique of the Lacanian account of subjective sexuation (in the work of Judith Butler, Joan Copjec, and Slavoj Žižek), which it holds especially influential and especially inadequate to the task of accounting for the diversity and assertiveness of trans accounts of personhood.
The King’s Two Anuses: Trans Feminism and Free Speech
grace lavery is an associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is affiliated with the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Program in Critical Theory, and the Center for Japanese Studies. Her primary research interests are Victorian literature and culture, contemporary popular culture, and trans feminism, and she has also published work on Kant, Adorno, psychoanalysis, and analytic philosophy. She is the author of Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan (Princeton University Press, 2019), as well as essays in elh, Modernism/modernity, novel: A Forum on Fiction, Comparative Literature Studies and forthcoming in Critical Inquiry, Victorian Literature and Culture, and pmla.
Grace Lavery; The King’s Two Anuses: Trans Feminism and Free Speech. differences 1 December 2019; 30 (3): 118–151. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-7974030
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