Three years of my life as an EU student of English Literature at the University of East Anglia,England.
I had to study Gender Trouble by Judith Butler this semester, for my Reading Texts 2 Module. Last semester, we studied extracts and two full novels to explore the relationship between the text and the readers. This semester was quite different: we had to study one novel (Morrison’s Beloved), and one critical/theoretical book.
As I’ve said before, I didn’t expect to have so many critical essays to read at university and certainly didn’t expect to read an entire critical book. Although I really like Butler’s ideas and agree with her theories on gender performativity, Gender Trouble was very dense and hard to understand. Even after studying it in my seminars, most of the book remains a mystery to me, as Butler comes up with complex ideas and keeps mentioning other theorists.
Another issue I had with it is that it was first published over 20 years ago, in 1990. Although her whole theory of gender and the idea of “queer-ness” were new and revolutionary at the time, I feel like these issues are widely recognised and accepted nowadays — even almost outdated. I wish we’d had time to study recent criticisms on Butler’s book to see if critics have changed their mind or still agree with her theories.
I have to admit this book was and is still very important so I’d still recommend it if you’re interested in queer/gender/trans theory!
We watched the hilarious movie But I’m A Cheerleader as part of the module — I recommend it to everybody! In the film, homosexual teenagers are sent to this boarding school where they can be “cured” from their homosexuality. Girls wear bright pink uniforms and spend their days learning how to clean up the house; boys are dressed in blue and learn how to be real men! This performance of stereotypical gender roles is supposed to make them be “normal” again. 😛