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Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity [Paperback]

Judith Butler
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 12 2006 0415389550 978-0415389556 1

One of the most talked-about scholarly works of the past fifty years, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble is as celebrated as it is controversial.

Arguing that traditional feminism is wrong to look to a natural, 'essential' notion of the female, or indeed of sex or gender, Butler starts by questioning the category 'woman' and continues in this vein with examinations of 'the masculine' and 'the feminine'. Best known however, but also most often misinterpreted, is Butler's concept of gender as a reiterated social performance rather than the expression of a prior reality.

Thrilling and provocative, few other academic works have roused passions to the same extent.

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Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity + Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex + The History of Sexuality: An Introduction
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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


'Rereading this book, as well as reading it for the first time, reshapes the categories through which we experience and perform our lives and bodies. To be troubled in this way is an intellectual pleasure and a political necessity.' - Donna Haraway

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars DENSE March 25 2001
When will these theory writers learn to make their work more accessible? It toubles me to think that a large portion of Butler's intended audience ("women," although she may cringe at my use of this term) would get lost in her language and ignore the important message of the book. Are white, upper-middle class, educated females the only women who deserve to subvert patriarchy? Judging from the way this book is written stylistically, yes. While I have no problem with Butler's message, I do chastise her for overflowing this book in elevated language and an expectation of education she should not demand out of her readers.
The first three quarters of the book recapitulate the popular theoretical (and only popular if you read theory) underpinnings of Wittig, Freud, De Beauvoir, Feucault, and others. Even having read most of these other theories, I get lost in Butler's language. Further, her recapitulation offers her opportunity to spend too much of the book critiquing the works of others instead of explaining her own theory. This tactic gets old, and it gets old fast. The beauty of this book is not found until the FINAL subchapter of the FINAL chapter, where Butler explains her theory of "performativity." If it were not for this short subchapter, this book would be rubbish, and, quite honestly, I feel cheated by not having the knowledge to skip to the end. I give this important information to you. Please use it. I simply cannot believe this book is considered indispensable in feminist theory. Further, I wish writers like Butler would write for women and not at them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sokal didn't get it all right March 27 2001
To the previous reviewers who criticize Butler's work as evidence of postmodernism's failure to communicate to those not of the academy, or to those poor girls who have not yet learned to read, I would submit that you are profoundly missing the point. The strength of Butler's text should not be judged on its ability to "help" people; she is an academic whose work was one of the, if not the, seminal text in the area of postmodern feminist theory. Stop using the Sokal debacle as proof of the inapplicability of Butler's work to people's "real" lives. The drag queens certainly wouldn't appreciate it. Rather, Butler is writing in and responding to, highly complicated texts that have preceded her and that demand a vocabulary which challenges its readers. Either meet the challenge or stop blaming it all on postmodern nomenclature which, though difficult, has offered an important and necessary body of literature to academia. Sokal's article (while indeed funny) made its point that postmodernism can sometimes get carried away with itself. But it also demonstrated the refusal of reactionaries to take seriously the essentialism and shortcomings of structuralist theory. When those poor girls learn how to read (and for all you know Butler could have spent twenty years as a literacy volunteer), I'll be sure to hand them a copy of Gender Trouble before sending them off on their merry way to subvert the dominant paradigm.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars essential reading March 23 2004
By lvdh
Although many ideas in Gender Trouble are not entirely new or anything (please do read the first 30 pages of Teresa de Lauretis 'Technologies of Gender', which contains in more accessible prose many of the arguments put forward in Gender Trouble), this book seems to have appeared at just the right time; over the last 10 years it has had a major influence on thinking about gender in a wide variety of scholarship, and for this reason alone it is worth reading. Don't be disencouraged by all the stuff on Freud and Lacan in the second chapter, just read on: it's worth the effort. Butler's reading of Kristeva, however, seems somewhat unfair, one-sided if you will; don't be fooled in thinking Kristeva is not worth reading. But in all, Gender Trouble
is a must read for anyone interested in gender/queer theory, feminism, or politics in general!
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4.0 out of 5 stars difficult, but important June 29 2003
By A Customer
Though I agree with what others have written of Butler's prose, I think her approach to the ubiquitous "nature versus nurture" question of gender is an important one (politically, socially, culturally, psychologically...) At times her rhetoric is questionable & her ideas somewhat biased (to the point of bordering on... well, less than practical). However, that should not, by any means, dissuade anyone from reading her work. Despite the difficulties it might present, "Gender Trouble" is challenging, thoughtful and thought-provoking-- an enlightening experience for anyone willing to put forth some effort.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a mind bender March 12 2003
By A Customer
I read this book when I was taking a class with Judith Butler at Johns Hopkins years ago, and it opened my mind and changed the way I think about the world. Butler's writing is dense, but her ideas are crystalline. She is a brilliant person, and, after taking several of her classes, I consider myself a devoted acolyte.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Preface to a Critique on Gender July 9 2001
By tamiii
I'm no expert but I'm reminded of what a friend once confessed to me: it's hard talking about gender without it turning into a freak show. To her credit, Judith Butler speaks sincerely, with great subtlety, about a very touchy subject. Nevertheless, when you consider that words like "sex," "heterosexual," and "homosexual" are hardly a century old, you have to ask why do they seem so certain, so meaningful, so permanent and timeless? Why is it so hard to consider these words as concealing rather than revealing? In the tradition of Marx and Foucault, Butler begins to demystify their credibility and reveals how gender is something which is 'performative'. By this, she does not mean like a role which is donned (though those who don reveal) but rather as a repetitive, cultural activity from which identity is derived. This work is thought to be the beginning of 'queer theory.'
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