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3.7 out of 5 stars
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge Classics)
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88 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2001
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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130 of 147 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2008
Of course Butler's books on gender are breathtaking classics and receive 5 stars from me in their print editions. I assign them all the time in my Gender Studies class. But this Kindle edition is messy. This is the problem I keep finding with the Kindle editions. It's insulting of Amazon to assume that Kindle readers don't care about clean editing and formatting. As a PhD student in Literature I am looking for a better tool for amassing my huge reading list. Students in every field would be ecstatic with a Kindle that actually served our needs. I also think Kindle is underestimating the common reader who also appreciates careful editting and presentation. We need to know more information about the Kindle editions--i.e. who edits and Introduces the volumes and whether they are exact replicas of their print editions. We also need to be able to cite actual page numbers from known editions for quotes, essays, papers and dissertations. I hope Kindle fixes this in the next generation. At the moment I'm making due with the messiness because of the convenience of carrying 300 volumes in one light device. But I'd be out shouting Kindle's praises in the streets (and to the classrooms full of college undergrads I teach) if Kindle would just pay attention to these few details. The search tool can be so helpful as to be heavenly. The dictionary tool should be expanded to include philosophical and theoretical terms also! Come on Kindle!
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2003
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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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2007
Readers who are willing to tolerate labyrinthine sentences and brain-cramping scholarly vocabulary and who already have a working understanding of Freud, Lacan, Foucault, and deconstruction will find in Butler a challenging, highly stimulating theorist of sex, gender, and sexuality.

Readers looking for a breezy and accessible discussion of gender roles in modern society should definitely look elsewhere.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2009
Most of the existing reviews give a good idea of how this book has come across to Amazon readers. I decided to create a review because I had a couple of points to add. The first is a reiteration - Butler's prose is, in places, exceedingly difficult to read without a lot of former practice in reading feminism, philosophy, linguistics, and literary criticism. This is the main reason for loss of one star. She makes such wonderful deconstructive arguments showing how categories of not only gender but sex itself are constructed. Having said that, even if you only pick up about 50% of the meaning, the rephrasing and recouching of multiple ideas from different standpoints conveys the basic ideas the author wishes to convey. The second point is that one may be left wanting more. As Butler says in her updated preface (1999 - the original was 1990) - if she were writing this book today she would also include a discussion of transgender and intersexuality and surgical intervention. I believe such a discussion would bring a valuable contribution to feminism, as feminism brings so much to any consideration of transgender and intersex issues.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2010
This is an academic text, make no buts about it, despite what she says in her intro that she feels it's accessible to everyone. Butler has also won awards for bad academic prose, so be careful--the thing is dense and wordy beyond belief and she references every major thinker of the past hundred or so years, so if you haven't read the entire works of Foucault, Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, and others, you might feel a little lost. The first 3/4ths of the book is basically responding to and debunking everything everyone else has said or tried to establish about gender. But it's still really good, and her final major thesis, the idea of performativity, is amazing; I might even venture to say life changing. So if you just want the cliff's notes, read the intro, the last chapter (even just the last section of the last chapter), and the conclusion, and you'll get the gist of it (and an idea how tough she can be to read) without having to slog through the whole thing. If you want to tackle the whole thing, be my guest, but I'd only recommend doing so if you really plan on using her for a specific purpose (like me, writing a term paper using her theory).
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41 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 1999
Gender Trouble is simply the best available survey and critique of the philosophical work of the leading theorists of French intellectual feminism from Beauvoir on down to Irigaray, Wittig, and Kristeva. Her work owes a significant debt to Michel Foucault's work on discourses of power, a debt which is chiefly acknowledged in the simple fact that everyone except Foucault takes a serious bashing. Beyond the pleasures of intellectual fireworks, the book is politically important for two reasons. First, it shows where many feminist positions fall into the traps of categories which reproduce the conditions they seek to evade; second, she addresses the question of action. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron warned twenty five years ago that real feminism needs two parts: a theory of women's oppression and a plan of action. Butler, unlike many feminist intellectuals, proposes a plan of action. The book is ideal as a cap to a course of readings in feminist theory. One final note: recent attacks on Judith for her obscure language are unfair and misguided. Would you attack cancer researchers for their obscure language? What about the engineers whose obscure calculations enable us to drive the highways or take an elevator with relative safety? Judith is a specialist who has mastered the language of her field. She is simply the best we have. The book requires patience, but the rewards of thoughtful reading and re-reading are great. Thanks, Ms B.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2001
after reviewing what other customers thought of gender trouble, i decided that it was time someone spoke in pain english.
butler's feminist text is a brilliant critical examination of gender, a must for any reader interested in feminist or queer theory. the language is difficult, yet richly rewarding...go slow, let your mind explore the many avenues butler leads her reader down. after reading gender trouble, you may like the text, you may dislike it, but there is NO way that you won't learn a great deal and be introduced to a variety of original and provocative thoughts on feminism and gender studies.
there is a reason why butler's gender trouble is widely considered one the revolutionary texts on feminist theory...so i encourage you to endure the "difficult" writing and broaden your horizons.
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27 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 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
on November 13, 2013
Butler gets a lot of flak for being a dense writer, and has "won" some award for being the most indecipherable to read; it's a lot of hype. She is not easily accessible but with some work you can get at it. This isn't the place for a full on analysis, review & such, that you can find elsewhere alongside critiques. Bottom-line if you're interested in postmodern/poststructural approaches in a gender/queer theory discourse this is a good book to read.
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