Becoming Undone

Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art

Becoming Undone

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 1 illustration Published: September 2011

Author: Elizabeth Grosz

Politics > Political Theory, Science and Technology Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

In Becoming Undone, Elizabeth Grosz addresses three related concepts—life, politics, and art—by exploring the implications of Charles Darwin’s account of the evolution of species. Challenging characterizations of Darwin’s work as a form of genetic determinism, Grosz shows that his writing reveals an insistence on the difference between natural selection and sexual selection, the principles that regulate survival and attractiveness, respectively. Sexual selection complicates natural selection by introducing aesthetic factors and the expression of individual will, desire, or pleasure. Grosz explores how Darwin’s theory of sexual selection transforms philosophy, our understanding of humanity in its male and female forms, our ideas of political relations, and our concepts of art. Connecting the naturalist’s work to the writings of Bergson, Deleuze, and Irigaray, she outlines a postmodern Darwinism that understands all of life as forms of competing and coordinating modes of openness. Although feminists have been suspicious of the concepts of nature and biology central to Darwin’s work, Grosz proposes that his writings are a rich resource for developing a more politicized, radical, and far-reaching feminist understanding of matter, nature, biology, time, and becoming.


"[A] provocative, thoroughly researched, and beautifully written exploration of the question of difference in its material, political, and aestheticdimensions. . . . Becoming Undone is a fascinating project, not only because of its invaluable contribution to the discourses of posthumanism and material feminism, but also due to its convincing interpretation of Darwinian theory as an intricate philosophical worldview." — Vera Coleman, Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature

“Grosz’s book is well written and easily accessible even for someone who does not know a great deal about the theorists with whom she engages.” — Lasse Thomassen, Perspectives on Politics

Becoming Undone allows us to hear with new ears the words of Bergson, Irigaray, Uexküll, Deleuze and Guattari, and especially Darwin. The result is a surprising and exciting feminism in conversation with biophilosophy and art practice. Elizabeth Grosz offers a rich, provocative, not-quite-materialist philosophy of life, matter, and the creative cosmos.” — Jane Bennett, author of Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things

“With a passionate call for philosophy and feminism to embrace the transformative power of life as difference, Becoming Undone describes with elegant arguments the unexpected legacy of Darwin in the ontology of Bergson, Deleuze, and Irigaray, as well as their promise for an as yet unforeseeable future.” — Paola Marrati, author of Gilles Deleuze: Cinema and Philosophy


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Elizabeth Grosz is Professor of Women’s Studies and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of several books, including Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth, as well as The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely and Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii


Part 1. Life: Human and Inhuman Becomings

1. The Inhuman in the Humanities: Darwin and the Ends of Man

2. Deleuze, Bergson, and the Concept of Life

3. Bergson, Deleuze, and Difference

Part 2. Disturbing Differences: A New Kind of Feminism

4. Feminism, Materialism, and Freedom

5. The Future of Feminist Theory: Dreams for New Knowledges

6. Differences Disturbing Identity: Deleuze and Feminism

7. Irigaray and the Ontology of Sexual Difference

Part 3. Animals, Sex, and Art

8. Darwin and the Split between Natural and Sexual Selection

9. Sexual Differences as Sexual Selection: Irigarayan Reflections on Darwin

10. Art and the Animal

11. Living Art and the Art of Life: Women's Painting from the Western Desert



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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5071-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5053-8
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