Gayle Salamon earned her Ph.D. from the Rhetoric Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and is assistant professor of English at Princeton University.
23rd Annual Lambda Literary Award Winner
Assuming a Body
“In this remarkable book, Gayle Salamon makes original use of the notion of the bodily schema (from phenomenology) and the bodily ego (from psychoanalysis) to argue in the most persuasive and deft terms that the body’s materiality assumes a form through a schema that provides for its articulation. Unlike other work in this burgeoning and important field, Salamon’s book focuses on the intersubjective construction of transgender, on how ‘address’ functions in transsexual self-production, and how the gaze of the Other-anticipated and solicited-works to ‘build’ a bodily schema. Salamon’s work has a singular lucidity and philosophical elegance that is rare to find in cultural theory and offers incisive philosophical reflection on what transgender implies for the materiality of the body itself.”
— Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
“A very original project that marks a major contribution to contemporary literature on transpeople and trans identity. Gayle Salamon provides an excellent critical survey of existing scholarship and offers a new, compelling account of the importance and diversity of non-normative bodily experiences.”
— Gail Weiss, George Washington University
“Engaging with a broad range of audiences, Salamon makes a convincing case that the lens offered by transgendered embodiment and subjectivity reconfigures entrenched theoretical positions in gender studies, psychoanalysis, and continental philosophy.”
— Penelope Deutscher, Northwestern University
We believe we know our bodies intimately–that their material reality is certain and that this certainty leads to an epistemological truth about sex, gender, and identity. By exploring and giving equal weight to transgendered subjectivities, however, Gayle Salamon upends these certainties.
Considering questions of transgendered embodiment via phenomenology (Maurice Merleau-Ponty), psychoanalysis (Sigmund Freud and Paul Ferdinand Schilder), and queer theory, Salamon advances an alternative theory of normative and non-normative gender, proving the value and vitality of trans experience for thinking about embodiment. Salamon suggests that the difference between transgendered and normatively gendered bodies is not, in the end, material.
Rather, she argues that the production of gender itself relies on a disjunction between the “felt sense” of the body and an understanding of the body’s corporeal contours, and that this process need not be viewed as pathological in nature. Examining the relationship between material and phantasmatic accounts of bodily being, Salamon emphasizes the productive tensions that make the body both present and absent in our consciousness and work to confirm and unsettle gendered certainties.
She questions traditional theories that explain how the body comes to be–and comes to be made one’s own–and she offers a new framework for thinking about what “counts” as a body. The result is a groundbreaking investigation into the phenomenological life of gender.