AbstractSaul Bellow's Herzog provides a platform through which the concept of subjectivity can be discussed. For some theorists, the subject is something that can be grounded. Martin Heidegger for instance employs ontology in order to present a stable, authentic subjectivity. In contrast, Judith Butler argues that this subject does not exist. Rather it is an illusion carried out through performances. Research on Heidegger's idea of authenticity and Butler's notion of performativity provides insight into Bellow's treatment of subjectivity. The characters in Herzog both reject and fail to uphold Heideggerian standards of authenticity. However they do participate in performativity. The identities that they attempt to convey are actually performances that create illusions of a grounded subject. Through analyses of Bellow's central characters, it is evident that he rejects the Heideggerian view and that the Butlerian model of subjectivity (or anti-subjectivity) is a more appropriate means of exploring subjectivity in the novel. Therefore viewing literary characters as performers (in the Butlerian sense) reveals Bellow’s tendency to present characters who do not have stable identities, but instead fluid illusions of identity.
AffiliationKatherine Reese Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
DescriptionPresentation given at the CURS Brown Bag Seminar Series on March 27, 2015.