Beyond What I Knew

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

Imagine this: you are working on a complex jigsaw puzzle, placing piece after piece at ease, when you suddenly realize you have absolutely no idea what goes where next. I felt this initial shock when I first reached the third paragraph of a Judith Butler article I was reading for the Telluride Association Summer Program. What on earth is the language of discursive construction? I thought. What does Butler mean by creating a body “ex nihilo from the resources of discourse”?

But as much as I analyzed and diagrammed, there was still some gaping hole in the puzzle that prevented me from seeing the larger picture of Butler’s argument. I could go no further alone. Pulling myself out of my seat, I began wandering the halls of the Telluride House for inspiration, when I ran into fellow TASPer Yichao Hao and asked him, “Did you understand this reading?” We sat down, and I handed him my marked-up book.

His eyes swiftly roamed over the pages and his lips parted to say, “Yes… she’s describing how language actually acts on a body.”

“But what does that actually mean?” I pursued, stuck in my preconceptions. “Is she referring to a physical transformation?”

“Sometimes. See, you’re assuming that all actions have to be physical. But really, one...

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