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Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety [Paperback]

by Marjorie Garber
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 27, 1997 0415919517 978-0415919517 0
Beginning with the bold claim, "There can be no culture without the transvestite," Marjorie Garber explores the nature and significance of cross-dressing and of the West's recurring fascination with it. Rich in anecdote and insight, Vested Interests offers a provocative and entertaining view of our ongoing obsession with dressing up--and with the power of clothes.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the "transvestite theatre" of Shakespearean England and Japan's kabuki to Peter Pan, Boy George and female Elvis impersonators, cross-dressing is a pervasive social phenomenon, claims Garber, director of Harvard's Center of Literary and Cultural Studies. She states that "there can be no culture without the transvestite," who, she argues, calls attention to cultural, social or aesthetic dissonances. The weight of her thesis is carried by such figures as Liberace, Divine, Oscar Wilde and David Bowie, yet her witty, consistently provocative study demonstrates effectively how cross-dressing is wrapped up with recognition of the power of women, androgyny, responses to gay identity and anxiety over economic or cultural dislocations. Garber also looks at transsexuals, drag performances, plays and movies. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Do clothes really make the man? What do Elvis and Liberace have in common? Why is Peter Pan always played by a woman? These are just a few of the questions of sexual and sartorial politics raised by Garber. From the sumptuary laws of medieval Europe to "vogueing" in New York City in 1991, she traces Western society's inconsistent and often arbitrary views regarding the clothes we wear and how they affect class structure, gender stereotyping, and our own self-image. Garber boldly asserts that transvestism makes culture possible by deliberately confusing the constructs of gender identification and challenging the social control they seek to maintain. Well documented and thoroughly researched, Garber's book is a serious work that is not without a piquant feel for the ironic, especially as she details the lengths to which both men and women have gone to hide their gender in order to get ahead in the world. Often raising more questions than it answers, this is nevertheless a fascinating book about an equally fascinating subject. Highly recommended.
- Jeffrey Ingram, New port P.L., Ore.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (November 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415919517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415919517
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #873,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars crossdressing & acadamic insight April 25, 2000
By A Customer
first off, i can't say i would recommend this book to someone who doesn't have a more academic background, flitting as it does from foucault to freud & back again, but i have to say that it's critique & thesis are well-reasoned, well-argued, & definitely well-referenced! it's like a cross dressing field guide in some ways... i found myself making up a list of movies/books to check out. even moreso, it's a great book for anyone wanting to study gender construction in general... as it gets at that shadowy figure inbetween the genders, who belies/affirms all the constructs...
thank you marjorie garber!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I read the original 1992 hardcover edition. Which means, this book is dated. Definitely missing yet is for example the concept of metrosexuality. The newest films analyzed are Tootsie (1982) and Yentl (1983), already a decade old when this book was published.

Marjorie Garber uses a very rich vocabulary, some of which I was even able to stump internet dictionaries with. On the other hand, she uses unintended racist vocabulary. She may have known better in 1992.

Many parts of the 390-paged book (+ 35 pages of footnotes and 38 picture pages, some of which are in color) are very interesting to read. Usually, when playing topsyturvy with our Western concepts of gender. For example that the pink-blue baby colors were reversed before WWI. When and in what circumstances Muslim societies appear to harbor more gender freedoms than the West. (Though the author doesn't mention everything possible.) Many history lessons are to be learned, e.g. that Joan of Arc wasn't tried under the inquisition for heresy, but transvestism.

Lengthy chapters are reserved for classic films, sumptuary laws, Peter Pan, Salome, detective stories, M. Butterfly, the posthumous Harold Washington scandal, Josephine Baker and the image connection among Valentino, Liberace and Elvis. With most of these chapters I had the feeling that they were somewhat arbitrary or that separate long articles, worthy as they may be individually, were compiled for a book, which often loses sight of its overall coherence. Even though I liked reading about all of that, it felt too much like a patchwork text instead of clear messages.

If you are interested in gender studies, don't miss out on this one. Just make sure, this will not remain the only one.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Ragnar
This book tends to be incredibly essentialist, overly generalizes and homogenizes all trans* people, focuses too much on transsexualism that's essentialist, reiterates the rhetoric of how transsexualism isn't a viable gender identity/presentation, and uses ciscentric, cissexist and transphobic language. Not terrible, but be aware of what you're reading.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars CROSS-DRESSING AS A CULTURAL PHENOMENON October 1, 2010
Marjorie Garber
Vested Interests:
Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety

(New York: Routledge, 1992) 443 pages
(ISBN: 0-415-90072-7; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.G37 1991)

A wide-ranging book on the public manifestations
of wearing the clothes and adopting the manners of the other sex,
especially as seen in the mass media--television, movies, magazines.
Cross-dressing for the following reasons:
entertainment in the theatre and movies;
respect in the workplace;
to express the other-gender side of one's personality;
for personal sexual interest, arousal, & orgasm;
as an element of one's homosexual sex-script;
to 'pass' as the other sex;
transsexualism--because one believes one is 'really' the other sex;

This book explores cross-dressing as a cultural phenomenon,
rather than a psychological phenomenon.

If you would like to read better books on cross-dressing,
search the Internet for this bibliography:
"Cross-Dressing Bibliography".

James Leonard Park
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4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book! July 15, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a great book, quite interesting and useful for all those who research or who just want to know more about crossdressing and transvestiting through the years.
The book arrived in good conditions and very quickly, considering it was an international purchase, it took just a bit longer than a random national one! Just the paper cover involving the hard cover was a bit torn.
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