Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity

Julia Epstein, Other Routledge $0 (382p) ISBN 978-0-415-90388-2
If only for Gary Kates's essay on the Chevalier D'Eton, this volume is essential. D'Eton was a French diplomat and soldier of distinction who caused a furor in the 1770s by revealing himself to be a woman; when he died some 30 years later, it was discovered that he was, in fact, a man, and he was adopted by Havelock Ellis and others as a paradigm for transvestite behavior. Kates portrays him as a sort of ideologically motivated, prematurely pro-feminist male. The message of the book, with contributions by academics in various disciplines, is that while there may be two biological sexes, gender is a social, political and cultural construct rather than an anatomically destined fact. The best essays in the volume offer evidence of the ways attitudes toward gender vary from society to society and era to era. Randolph Trumbach and Straub supply two different perspectives on the role of cross-dressing in lesbianism in 18th-century England, and Sandy Stone gives an eye-opening history and ideology of transsexualism. Unfortunately, too many of the other essays read like doctoral dissertations. Epstein wrote The Iron Pen: Frances Burney and the Politics of Women's Writing ; Straub is the author of Divided Fictions: Fanny Burney and Feminine Strategy. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-415-90389-9
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