Lisabeth During presents "The Chastity Plot," with Simon Critchley

June 30, 2021, 7:30 PM

Lisabeth During joins us to present The Chastity Plot, in conversation with Simon Critchley. This program will take place on Zoom. Register here: 

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In The Chastity Plot, Lisabeth During tells the story of the rise, fall, and transformation of the ideal of chastity. From its role in the practice of asceticism to its associations with sovereignty, violence, and the purity of nature, it has been loved, honored, and despised. Obsession with chastity has played a powerful and disturbing role in our moral imagination. It has enforced patriarchy’s double standards, complicated sexual relations, and imbedded in Western culture a myth of gender that has been long contested by feminists. Still not yet fully understood, the chastity plot remains with us, and the metaphysics of purity continue to haunt literature, religion, and philosophy. Idealized and unattainable, sexual renunciation has shaped social institutions, political power, ethical norms, and clerical abuses. It has led to destruction and passion, to seductive fantasies that inspired saints and provoked libertines. As During shows, it should not be underestimated.

Examining literature, religion, psychoanalysis, and cultural history from antiquity through the middle ages and into modernity, During provides a sweeping history of chastity and insight into its subversive potential. Instead of simply asking what chastity is, During considers what chastity can do, why we should care, and how it might provide a productive disruption, generating new ways of thinking about sex, integrity, and freedom.

Lisabeth During teaches philosophy, aesthetics, and gender studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Trained as a theologian, she discovered film theory in the 1980s and is still devoted to the intellectual glamour of that decade's Marxist-structuralist-psychoanalysts. Author of The Chastity Plot (University of Chicago Press, 2021), she has written on Antonin Artaud, Simone Weil, George Eliot, André Breton, Hegel, Freud, and Robert Bresson. Her current project is a book called She Did It in Her Sleep: Comatose Rape and the Problem of Knowledge, another history of the many ways in which heterosexuality gets things wrong.

Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research. His books include Very Little…Almost Nothing (1997), Infinitely Demanding (2007), The Book of Dead Philosophers (2009) and The Faith of the Faithless (2012). Recent works include a novella, Memory Theatre, a book-length essay, Notes on Suicide and studies of David Bowie and Football and Apply-Degger (Onassis, 2020). His most recent book is Tragedy, The Greeks and Us (Pantheon, 2019). He is series moderator of ‘The Stone’, a philosophy column in The New York Times and co-editor of The Stone Reader (2016). He is also 50% of an obscure musical combo called Critchley & Simmons. A new book, called Bald, was recently published by Yale.