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Title: Matterphorics: On the Laws of Theory
Authors: Gandorfer, Daniela
Advisors: Cadava, Eduardo
Brooks, Peter
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: Feminist Theory
Legal Theory
Neo Materialism
Process Philosophy
Science and Technology Studies
Subjects: Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation, Matterphorics: On the Laws of Theory, articulates a mode of doing theory – in particular legal theory – that attends closely to material-discursive practices of meaning and knowledge production. In doing so it builds mainly on process (Whitehead, Deleuze and Guattari) and feminist philosophy (Barad, Haraway, Povinelli). The first chapter (“Ethics Of Immanent Thought : Doing Theory Matterphorically”) lays out the theoretical argument and claims that thinking and being are inseparable, shifting both the ideas of what theory is and the response-ability of a mode of thinking that is not only in but of the world. In order to demonstrate the stakes of the chapter, I point to the dangers of remaining with the Cartesian mind and matter dualism as contemporarily exemplified by transhumanism and the racist, neo-colonialist, and extractive logic at its very core. The second chapter (“Forces of Law: Falling for Theory”) introduces so-called “matterphorical legal case studies” as an alternative to common modes of analysis. Rather than understanding law as a written set of rules and obligations, I propose looking at the entanglement of law, matter, and physical and nonphysical force(s) in order to develop a sensibility for a concept of law that exceeds the written and representational forms usually associated with law and legal matters. The case studies presented are the stratosphere jump of the Austrian parachutist Felix Baumgartner and the fall and dive of the diver in Friedrich Schiller’s eponymous ballad. The last chapter (“Cutting-Edge Theory: Writing Life, Reading Law”) interrogates the concepts of life and non-life from various disciplinary perspectives, and questions one of the most crucial legal concepts in Western law: the “right to life.” I show how the potentially violent cut between life and non-life is reproduced by both our modes of legal reasoning and autobiographical modes of narrating and reading. The latter I demonstrate by looking at how Kafka’s famous short story “The Cares of a Family Man” has been approached by means of different theoretical strands, which, despite their differences, reinscribe the Cartesian cut and thereby the impossibility of thinking life differently.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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