In a new introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition of Gender Trouble
--among the two or three most influential books (and by far the most popular) in the field of gender studies--Judith Butler explains the complicated critical response to her groundbreaking arguments and the ways her ideas have evolved as a result. Nevertheless, she has resisted the urge to revise what has become a feminist classic (as well as an elegant defense of drag, given Butler's emphasis on the performative nature of gender). The book was produced, according to Butler, "as part of the cultural life of a collective struggle that has had, and will continue to have, some success in increasing the possibilities for a livable life for those who live, or try to live, on the sexual margins." An attack on the essentialism of French feminist theory and its basis in structuralist anthropology, Gender Trouble
expands to address the cultural prejudices at play in genetic studies of sex determination, as well as the uses of gender parody, and also provides a critical genealogy of the naturalization of sex. A primer in gender studies--and sexy reading for college cafés. --Regina Marler
From Library Journal
Radical feminist Butler investigates the theoretical roots of an ontology of gender identity to show their political parameters. She questions traditional and feminist sex/gender distinctions, arguing that the basic concepts in this discourse are themselves produced by relations of power. The result is a subversive and sometimes original work drawing on Foucault, Lacan, Sartre, etc. Unfortunately, Butler's style is often difficult and unreadable, like the French philosophers who've influenced her, and her controversial ideas will try the patience of all but the most sympathetic scholars. Too bad. Her numerous critics would have had a field day with this variation of gender-is-culture argument, based on De Beauvoir's The Second Sex. Yet Butler is not as convincing as De Beauvoir, despite 19 pages of footnotes. For specialists only.- Mark P. Maller, Cicero P.L., Ill.
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