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An Ethics of Gender? - A seminar co-sponsored by the ICLA Committees on Gender and Religion, Ethics, and Literature

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Organizer: Kitty Millet

Co-Organizer: Liedeke Plate

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Is there an ethics of gender ­— of doing or undoing gender, in binary or non-binary ways? And how does literature stage the dilemmas and choices that arise, repositioning subjects in unfamiliar or novel conditions, opening up textual spaces that offer alternatives to the understood stability of religious dogma? This seminar explores the construction of gender within literature, to tease out the ethical dimensions of the textual and transformative spaces in which subjects imagine themselves liberated from the constraints of a socially determined world. It focuses on the ways in which literature suggests possible “transformations” of the binary codes grounding religious epistemology and the challenges it provokes to its adherents by creating imagined opportunities for subjects to question their beliefs, their identities, and the conditions of their existences. And it inquires into the ways in which literature reveals the tensions between who I am “determined to be,” the “social determinism” highlighted by Judith Butler in Gender Trouble, and who “I imagine myself to be,” the conclusions reached by Daniel Boyarin in Unheroic Conduct. Consequently, this seminar asks if literature proposes “an ethics of gender” that might impose various obligations opposed to or even beyond the purview of religion and literature in their singular deployments in order to introduce a novel, intuitive dimension of existence. We seek papers that analyze literature comparatively and in relation to literature’s intervention not only in the construction of gender, but also in its revelation of the ethical obligations that are generated by its intervention. Thus we hope for papers that address other ways of thinking about religion, ethics, and literature, in relation to gender.

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