The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Judith Butler, from Preface, Gender Trouble

What are some implications of the title, “Gender Trouble”? What conflicts within the feminism of the time does it allude to, and what kind of trouble does Butler think may be a good idea after all? (2488)

What does Butler believe are implications of the notion of power? (2489, produces binary frame for thinking about gender) What does she see as the effect of unmasking assumptions of “presumptive heterosexuality”?

What does she find to be some advantages of humor and laughter in the face of prescribed sexual roles? (destabilizes binaries, 2489; foregrounds the fact that gender is a form of impersonation)

Of the practice of drag? (2489, 2498)

What forms of identity categories are assumed to be natural? (2489) Are there other features of identity in addition to gender or sexuality which might also be revealed as arbitrary? (she believes not 2489)

How does she define the process of “genealogy” and its political implications [following Foucault]? (2490, the investigation of the political stakes of identifying as an origin categories which are in fact effects)

What will be the consequences for feminist politics? (2490)

from chapter 3, "Subversive Bodily Acts

What assumptions about the relationship of “bodies” to nature and culture does she find problematic? (2491, shaped by culture with the strategic interests in constraining it by the markers of sex)

What is the result of “any discourse that establishes the boundaries of the body”? (2492, creation of taboos regarding appropriate limits of bodies) What groups have most recently been seen as pollutants? (2493, AIDs victims)

What do notions of pollution imply is the relationship between bodies and culture? (bodies represent culture, 2193, all social systems are vulnerable at their margins)

In Kristevan terms, what is the “abject”? (that which has been dispelled from the body, 2494) Why does Butler believe the attempt to form a boundary between “inner” and “outer” parts of the body is so deleterious? (2495, exists for social control, motivates the search for stability)

"From Interiority to Gender Performatives"

As Butler sees it, what falsehoods underlie the assumption of features of gender? (2496, idealized and compulsory heterosexuality) What does it mean to speak of “the redescription of intrapsychic processes in terms of the surface politics of the body”? (2496)

How are imprisoned bodies used to signify the prohibitions of the law? (2496)

What fantasy does the person seeking identification engage in? (2497, desires coherence) Had Freud, Lacan and other psychologists been preoccupied with this process?

What does it mean to say that the gendered body is “performative”? (2497, exists through acts which constitute its reality)

What does it mean to claim that gender has no ontological status? (2497)

What deceptions or disguises result from notions of binary gender identity? (2497, disguises the discipline which causes that gender identity)

With what earlier interpretations of drag does Butler disagree? What in her view is the intended effect of drag? (suggests a dissonance between gender and performance, reveals the imitative structure of gender itself, 2498)

How does Butler define parody and patische? What is parodied in drag, and how may humor about sexual categories be seen as a patische? (according to Jameson, patische a blank parody, 2499)

Why is gender a repeated performance? (2500, gender a corporal style, a style of being)

Why, according to Butler, is it impossible to fully internalize a gender norm? (2501)

Is it possible to be "sincere" in the performance of gender? (2501, actors "come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief")

What does Butler believe would be the desirable consequences of an understanding of gender as performative? (“there would be no true or false, real or distorted acts of gender, and the postulation of a true gender identity would be revealed as a regulatory fiction,” seeks “proliferating gender configurations,” 2501)

Do you believe there are any aspects of gender identification which Butler does not discuss? (e. g., it may be harder to perform some identifications plausibly than others)

What are some of the implications of Butler’s views? Might they apply to other topics or forms of identity in addition to sexuality? (e. g., nationality, class, race)

What does Butler add to the discussion of sexuality and gender? (possibility of non-judgmental pluralism, interest in performance and flexibility, 2501)

How do her views differ from those of late-twentieth-century French psychologists and sociologists?

In your view, are there any limits to the performativity of gender? Is performance central to all human activity or only some activities?

Could one say that gender-identifications (and sexual identifications) also differ in intensity, totality and fixity? If so, how important would such distinctions be in analysizng gender?

What relation do her ideas have to those of Eve Sedgwick? Can you see parallels between Butler's views and some of the stances of post-colonial theory?

Page numbers are from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2001 edition.

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