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The Invention of Heterosexuality Paperback – June 15, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0226426013 ISBN-10: 0226426017

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 305 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (June 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226426017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226426013
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Katz (Gay American History) argues that heterosexuality is a social construct rather than a natural, unambiguous given. He notes that the terms heterosexual and homosexual were coined in 1868 by German sex-law reformer Karl Maria Kertbeny and did not gain wide currency until the early 20th century. Katz contends that heterosexuality as a universal, presumed, normative ideal was invented by men, such as Kertbeny, Sigmund Freud and German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Prior to the late 19th century, he maintains, the social universe was not polarized into "hetero" and "homo." The examples he cites in support of his thesis-ancient Greece, the new England colonies (1607-1740) and the U.S. between 1820 and 1850-do not substantiate Katz's claims. Nevertheless, this often provocative work challenges rigid notions of gender identity, building on the ideas of French historian Michel Foucault and on feminist critiques of heterosexuality by Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, Adrienne Rich and others.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Although we take for granted that heterosexuality is and has always been the sexual norm, historian Katz reexamines the constructions of sexual identity and postulates that heterosexuality has a history that has heretofore never been analyzed and that "such privileging of the norm accedes to its domination." Tracing the first appearance of the terms heterosexual and homosexual in 1868 in Germany, the author of Gay American History (LJ 12/15/76) analyzes the changes in usage in dictionaries, medical journals, and a wide variety of other published sources. Carefully building his argument using Richard von Krafft-Ebing's and Sigmund Freud's seminal theories in the creation of heterosexuality, he goes on to challenge such influential figures as Alfred Charles Kinsey, Betty Friedan, and Michel Foucault. This provocatively original research, recalling similar problematizations of race, gender, and other seemingly immutable, ahistorical constructs, is complemented by Gore Vidal's foreword and Lisa Duggan's afterword. For informed readers.
James E. Van Buskirk, San Francisco P.L.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Hugo Schwyzer on August 22, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Though I confess to some sympathy towards the "queer essentialist" side of the ledger, Katz's "Invention of Heterosexuality" is a clever, daring, and wonderfully readable account of the construction of heterosexual identity. This is a fine text for undergraduates new to the study of historical sexuality, perhaps so much so because it is both scholarly and accessible.
Katz does a fine job of skewering Foucault for "his highly abstract level of discourse, his elusive prose, and his unwillingness to clarify his meaning with sufficient concrete examples." As a historian of sexuality who is a bit tired of our late French friend, Katz's words elicited a hearty "amen" from me!
All things considered, a worthy (and brief) contribution to the field, with a daring new angle.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Young on August 10, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Jonathan Katz is a scrupulous, witty historian who gets better with every book. In "The Invention of Heterosexuality," Katz takes up one of the most neglected tasks in scholarship on sexuality, which is to look directly at what is considered 'normal', how it got to be considered normal, and how that norm has changed over time. This book is deceptively easy to read, given how challenging it is to dominant assumptions about sexuality. I recommend it highly!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dr Mew on November 21, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
For those who believe that heterosexuality and homosexuality are timeless orientations, this book is a useful eye-opener. Katz traces the development of the idea of a homosexual identity, paying attention to the role played by psychoanalysis and sexology. This is a readable book, not off-puttingly jargon-filled.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on July 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If this book had been named 'The Invention of Heterosexuality in the United States', it would probably be worth 5 stars. Great book, but not sufficiently up-front about its limited scope. Anyone looking for a broad-ranging history of homophobia and its causes would do better with Greenberg's 'The Construction of Homosexuality'. Anyone interested in an American perspective should buy Katz. (I am American, so it's not a matter of anti-Americanism; I simply didn't find what I was looking for with Katz.)
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