Despite the flood of sexuality theory and queer cultural studies in 20th-century academia, bisexuality--and the many questions and problems surrounding it--has been little considered. In Vice Versa, Marjorie Garber, director of the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies at Harvard University, takes on this enormous project with refreshing academic rigor and compelling enthusiasm. Covering cultural influences from antiquity through early psychoanalysis to such recent provocateurs as Geraldo Rivera and Susie Bright, Garber calls into question the basic underpinnings of even the most radical views of human sexuality. She suggests that bisexuality is "not just another sexual orientation but rather a sexuality that undoes sexual orientation as a category," and leads us through the ensuing ruckus with wit and grace.
Vice Versa offers personal accounts, clinical studies, and analysis from every possible camp to demonstrate Garber's thesis that bisexuality as an idea and an experience "disappears" or is erased from our discussions of sexuality at every turn through the normalizing (not to mention limiting) influence of the terms of the discussion itself. Her call to recognize bisexuality as not only valid but deeply transgressive--and therefore useful--in our culture is urgent and marked by a great affection for her subjects, from Freud to Madonna. "One of the key purposes of studying bisexuality is not to get people to 'admit' they 'are' bisexual," she says, "but rather to restore to them and the people they have loved the full, complex, and often contradictory stories of their lives." --Jessica Peterson
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From Publishers Weekly
Garber's erudite, provocative study of bisexuality challenges the easy polarities of heterosexual and homosexual, straight and gay. A Harvard professor of English whose books include Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety, she argues that bisexuality can be a mature, adult, sustainable way of living one's sexual life. Instead of being a "third" category, or a period of confusion, oscillation and experimentation, as is often supposed, bisexuality, in her theory, reveals human sexuality to be a continuum, a process of growth and transformation. Many readers will be intrigued by her candid look at the erotic and romantic lives of dozens of notables identified here as bisexual-Georgia O'Keeffe, Cary Grant, John Maynard Keynes, Laurence Olivier, blues singers Bessie Smith and Gertrude (Ma) Rainey, painter Larry Rivers, Virginia Woolf, John Cheever, Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay, rock star Kurt Cobain, etc. Garber devotes chapters to androgyny, marriages between bisexuals, sexual conversion narratives, bisexual love triangles, with close analyses of bisexual themes in Henry James, James Baldwin, Anne Rice's vampire fiction and movies like Basic Instinct and Personal Best.
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