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Pipe down back there!

Terry Castle: The Willa Cather Wars, 14 December 2000

Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism 
by Joan Acocella.
Nebraska, 127 pp., £13.50, August 2000, 0 8032 1046 9
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... but some touted names in contemporary North American literary criticism and theory: Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Jonathan Goldberg, Judith Fetterley, Jean Schwind, Elizabeth Ammons. Acocella takes no prisoners. She is queen of the devastating citation, and more than happy to let the jargon-mad professors hang ...

Vibrating to the Chord of Queer

Elaine Showalter: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 6 March 2003

Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity 
by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.
Duke, 216 pp., £14.95, March 2003, 0 8223 3015 6
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Regarding Sedgwick: Essays on Queer Culture and Critical Theory 
edited by Stephen Barber and David Clark.
Routledge, 285 pp., £55, September 2002, 0 415 92818 4
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... which is resting on a table. Sedgwick explains that this woman is the ‘outsider’ artist Judith Scott, with one of her works, a core ‘hidden under many wrapped or darned layers of multicoloured yarn, cord, ribbon, rope and other fibre … whose scale bears comparison to Scott’s own body’. Judith Scott seems ...

Nutty Professors

Hal Foster: ‘Lingua Franca’, 8 May 2003

Quick Studies: The Best of ‘Lingua Franca’ 
edited by Alexander Star.
Farrar, Straus, 514 pp., $18, September 2002, 0 374 52863 2
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... studies stands condemned as too quick to reduce social practices to an ‘ensemble of texts’. Judith Butler is addressed not through her work at all but via a student fanzine that fantasises racily about queer theorists. As Butler protested in a letter, ‘Lingua Franca re-engages that anti-intellectual aggression ...

I’ll be back

Marjorie Garber: Sequels, 19 August 1999

Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel 
edited by Paul Budra and Betty Schellenberg.
Toronto, 217 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 8020 0915 8
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... with the Wind’ (1992) sends Scarlett and her children to Ireland, where she meets up with Rhett Butler, whose wife has conveniently died, and falls (back) into his arms. There is a paradox implicit in the very concept of the sequel. In experiential terms, a sequel is a highly conservative genre that supplies the comfort of familiarity together with the ...

Achieving Disunity

Corey Robin, 25 October 2012

Age of Fracture 
by Daniel Rodgers.
Harvard, 360 pp., £14.95, September 2012, 978 0 674 06436 2
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... story again and again across so many fields is arresting. When Ronald Reagan begins to sound like Judith Butler and right-wing evangelicals make the linguistic turn, it’s clear there is something in the air. ‘Ideas,’ Rodgers writes, ‘moved first in the arena of economic debate.’ Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the dominant tropes ...


Anna Vaux: Motherhood, 21 May 1998

Bad Mothers: The Politics of Blame in 20th-Century America 
edited by Molly Ladd-Taylor and Lauri Umansky.
New York, 416 pp., £16, April 1998, 0 8147 5119 9
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Madonna and Child: Towards a New Politics of Motherhood 
by Melissa Benn.
Cape, 288 pp., £12.99, January 1998, 0 224 03821 4
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... is accompanied by a fantastic vision of the ‘new androgyny’. She quotes approvingly from Judith Butler that gender is ‘fundamentally phantasmatic’, has little to do with biology, and is really ‘an act’, ‘a performance’. ‘It will not be that many decades,’ she believes, ‘before men may be able to gestate, and themselves feed, a ...

Normal People

Sheila Fitzpatrick: SovietSpeak, 25 May 2006

Everything Was For Ever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation 
by Alexei Yurchak.
Princeton, 331 pp., £15.95, December 2005, 0 691 12117 6
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... Claude Lefort, Slavoj Žižek, Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Lacan, Tzvetan Todorov, Julia Kristeva, Judith Butler: an extraordinary range of theorists is included. Derrida, Bourdieu, Habermas, De Certeau and Althusser are not forgotten, and even Freud (though not Marx) makes it into the bibliography. We hear about Foucault on modernity, Chakrabarty on ...

Charging about in Brogues

Jenny Turner: Sarah Waters, 23 February 2006

The Night Watch 
by Sarah Waters.
Virago, 472 pp., £16.99, February 2006, 1 84408 246 6
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... The books are indeed pastiches: Victoriana as a queer theorist might perform it, with costumes by Judith Butler, prisons and madhouses by Foucault. They are indeed frissony, being peopled by young women just becoming aware of their sexuality, in scenarios involving much disguise and dissembling, and silky drawers with slits. But the books are less ...

How awful

Emily Witt: Claire Messud’s Spinster, 23 May 2013

The Woman Upstairs 
by Claire Messud.
Virago, 304 pp., £14.99, May 2013, 978 1 84408 731 0
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... and identity and the tropes of gender, whatever the fuck they are, and Roland Barthes and Judith Butler and Mieke Bal – I could do that, they taught us how to do it, that’s what art school seemed mostly to be for, but I couldn’t do it with a straight face … and that’s why I went to get my master’s in Education and appeared to myself ...

Episteme, My Arse

Christopher Tayler: Laurent Binet, 15 June 2017

The Seventh Function of Language 
by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor.
Harvill Secker, 390 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 910701 58 4
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... Illinois’. Bayard – who’s being taught a lesson about gender performativity by the young Judith Butler during a drugged-up threesome with Cixous – finds out what’s going on in time to disrupt the handover, though not in time to prevent the story from taking a decisive step into irrealism via the death of someone who wasn’t in fact torn ...

Like a Manta Ray

Jenny Turner: The Entire History of Sex, 22 October 2015

The Argonauts 
by Maggie Nelson.
Graywolf, 143 pp., £23, May 2015, 978 1 55597 707 8
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... Discourse; the bits about new kinship systems and older nuclear-family arrangements come from Judith Butler. And here’s another, from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a frequent and clearly much loved presence: ‘Queer is a continuing moment, movement, motive – recurrent, eddying, troublant. Keenly, it is relational, and strange.’ The book begins with ...

More or Less Gay-Specific

David Halperin, 23 May 1996

by Leo Bersani.
Harvard, 208 pp., £15.95, April 1995, 0 674 40619 2
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... length – as well as answered in detail – by the very theorists whom Bersani criticises. Thus, Judith Butler, one of his prime targets, wondered as early as 1989 whether it isn’t ‘politically ... crucial to insist on lesbian and gay identities precisely because they are threatened with erasure and obliteration from homophobic quarters?’ Isn’t ...


Paul Foot: Windsor Girls School on 22 June, 4 July 1985

... bombs aren’t such a huge joke any more.’ The main session over, we were offered Judith Chernaik on Shelley’s feminism or Elma Dangerfield on Byron and Shelley or Marilyn Butler on the background to the politics of the Romantic poets. I had heard Judith a few times ...

Nothing Natural

Jenny Turner: SurrogacyTM, 23 January 2020

Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism against Family 
by Sophie Lewis.
Verso, 216 pp., £14.99, May 2019, 978 1 78663 729 1
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Making Kin Not Population 
edited by Adele Clarke and Donna Haraway.
Prickly Paradigm, 120 pp., £10, July 2018, 978 0 9966355 6 1
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... already a body modification technology,’ as Lewis puts it, in the footsteps of Gayle Rubin and Judith Butler: the home, the wedding ring, even the binary sexuation, are only there by convention, honoured – or not – by time. ‘Natural’ childbirth, with pools and music and aromatic midwives, is ‘a regimen full of carefully stylised gestational ...

Agents of Their Own Abuse

Jacqueline Rose: The Treatment of Migrant Women, 10 October 2019

... to justify themselves. And who, exactly, decides what we are allowed to understand as violence? As Judith Butler has long maintained, the exercise of such decisions is in itself a form of violence. Binding migrants into the legal process with no hope of exit (other than prison or return) obfuscates the violence of the state. It is the perfect way to ...

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