Gender Criticism

Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick

Jessie Chiu
Research and Bibliography
    I. Definitions of Gender Criticism/ Studies
    1. an euphemism for gay and lesbian criticism/ studies
    2. feminist studies: the study of the dynamics of gender definition, inequality, oppression and change in human societies.
    3. Women's studies: the gender of its object of study
    II. Sex and Gender  See Table (I)
    • sex: male - female
      • chromosomal sex
    • gender: masculine – feminine
      • Cultural gender is the dichotomized social production and reproduction of male and
      female behaviors, model binarism.
    • sexuality: heterosexual – homosexual
  • Sexuality is constituted according to genitals. Sexuality are the acts, expectations, narratives, pleasures, identity formations and knowledges in men and women.
    1. Freud and Michel Foucault have argued that sexuality are not necessarily corresponding to chromosomal sex.
    2. Andrienne Riche''s essay ''Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence'' asserts ''lesbian continuum''.
    3. Judith Butler claims that gender is not only a social construct, but also a kind of performance in Gender Trouble. Butler's main metaphor for gender is ''drag.'' All gender is formed of ''drag,'' for instance, transvestism, cross dressing, and transexism. Thus for Butler, there is no authentic gender. (Mary Klages)
    III. Historicizing Sexuality
    1. Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality investigates the realms of power and eroticism.
    2. Foucault's argument is that sexuality came into existence, not with the first sexual acts or sexual prohibition, but culminating in the 19th century. Sex became discourses imposed on human beings by the power of tradition and convention.
    IV. Specifying Sexuality
    1. The history of sexuality suppresses the discourse of homosexuality.
    2. Foucault regards the terms of perversions, such as sodomy and sadomasochism, in 19th century as both the oppression and plurality of sexuality.
    3. Foucault excludes the hetero side of homo-hetero dichotomy. Sexuality is composed of '' a world of perversions.''
    4. It was a morbid phenomenon that sex is a mystery but also a privileged theme of religious confession.
    V. Performing Foucault
    1. Jean Baudrillard Forget Foucault ?
    2. Jeffrey Weeks points out the prevailing homophobia in the society.
    3. Anti-homophobic analysis debates in gay and lesbian studies between ''social constructionist and essentialist.''
    4. The dilemma of homophobic and anti-homophobic ideology is the argument of homosexuality as ''universalizing''  and ''minoritizing.''
    5. Pluralism and diversity of sexuality
    1. Homosexualists call for subjectivity, community, culture, promiscuous love of sex.
    2. Bersani ?
    VI. Denaturalizing Sexuality
    1. Foucauldian discourse reflect the historicity and denaturalize sexuality.
    2. In 20th century, regular sexuality is questioned, it is through a reflux movement, originating in peripheral sexualities.
    3. Sedgwick suggests to go back and look at the matrix of perversions in order to understand both cross-sex possibility and heterosexist imposition.
    4. It's difficult to denaturalize heterosexuality because it is part of history.
    5. Discursive ecology ?
    VII. Professional Boundaries, Political Connections, Erogenous Zones
    1. Sexuality pluralism is to break the rigid hierarchies of gender, class, race and sexuality.
    2. Erogenous image means not only desire and pleasure but also relations to political life. The profession and the progressive academy are one of erogenous zones.
    3. Synecdonic relations and anachronistic relations ? 

Table 1.

sex male female
gender masculine feminine
sexuality heterosexual homosexual


Work Cited

Klages, Mary. “Gender Trouble: Judith Butler.” English 2010 Home Page. On line. University of Colorado, Boulder. 8 Dec. 1997.

Sedgewick, Eve Kosofsky. “Gender Criticism.” Reclaiming the Boundaries. Ed.

Stephen Greenblatt and Giles Gunn. New York: MLA, 1992. 271-300.