Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

Synopsis

Since its publication in 1990, Gender Trouble has become one of the key works of contemporary feminist theory, and an essential work for anyone interested in the study of gender, queer theory, or the politics of sexuality in culture.

Excerpt

Ten years ago I completed the manuscript of Gender Trouble and sent it to Routledge for publication. I did not know that the text would have as wide an audience as it has had, nor did I know that it would constitute a provocative “intervention” in feminist theory or be cited as one of the founding texts of queer theory. The life of the text has exceeded my intentions, and that is surely in part the result of the changing context of its reception. As I wrote it, I understood myself to be in an embattled and oppositional relation to certain forms of feminism, even as I understood the text to be part of feminism itself. I was writing in the tradition of immanent critique that seeks to provoke critical examination of the basic vocabulary of the movement of thought to which it belongs. There was and remains warrant for such a mode of criticism and to distinguish between self-criticism that promises a more democ-ratic and inclusive life for the movement and criticism that seeks to undermine it altogether. Of course, it is always possible to misread the former as the latter, but I would hope that that will not be done in the case of Gender Trouble.

In 1989 I was most concerned to criticize a pervasive heterosexual assumption in feminist literary theory. I sought to counter those views that made presumptions about the limits and propriety of gender and restricted the meaning of gender to received notions of masculinity and femininity. It was and remains my view that any feminist theory

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