Grace Elisabeth Lavery — Pleasure and Efficacy: Of Pen Names, Cover Versions, and Other Trans Techniques - with Paul Saint-Amour — at Conn Ave

Upcoming Event
Sunday, June 25, 2023 - 3:00pm

In Pleasure and Efficacy, Grace Lavery investigates gender transition as it has been experienced and represented in the modern period. Considering examples that range from the novels of George Eliot to the psychoanalytic practice of Sigmund Freud to marriage manuals by Marie Stopes, Lavery explores the skepticism found in such works about whether it is truly possible to change one's sex. This ambivalence, she argues, has contributed to both antitrans oppression and the civil rights claims with which trans people have confronted it. Lavery examines what she terms "trans pragmatism"--the ways that trans people resist medicalization and pathologization to achieve pleasure and freedom. Trans pragmatism, she writes, affirms that transition works, that it is possible, and that it happens.

With Eliot and Freud as the guiding geniuses of the book, Lavery covers a vast range of modern culture--poetry, prose, criticism, philosophy, fiction, cinema, pop music, pornography, and memes. Since transition takes people out of one genre and deposits them in another, she suggests, it should be no surprise that a cultural history of gender transition will also provide, by accident, a history of genre transition. Considering the concept of technique and its associations with feminine craftiness, as opposed to masculine freedom, Lavery argues that techniques of giving and receiving pleasure are essential to the possibility of trans feminist thriving--even as they are suppressed by patriarchal and antitrans feminist philosophies. Contesting claims for the impossibility of transition, she offers a counterhistory of tricks and techniques, passed on by women to women, that comprises a body of knowledge written in the margins of history.

Grace E. Lavery is associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. Her book Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan (Princeton) won the NAVSA Best Book of the Year prize from the North American Victorian Studies Association. A noted scholar and prominent trans activist, she is the author of the transition memoir Please Miss.

Lavery will be in conversation with Paul Saint-Amour. Saint-Amour is Walter H. and Leonore C. Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Copywrights: Intellectual Property and the Literary Imagination (2003) and Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form (2015). A scholar of the novel, war, law, and environment, he was named a 2022 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

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This event is free with first come, first served seating.


5015 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
Non Fiction
Pleasure and Efficacy: Of Pen Names, Cover Versions, and Other Trans Techniques By Grace Elisabeth Lavery Cover Image
ISBN: 9780691243931
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Princeton University Press - May 30th, 2023