Michael Warner, one of our most brilliant social critics, argues that gay marriage and other moves toward normalcy are bad not just for gays but for everyone. In place of sexual status quo, Warner offers a vision of true sexual autonomy that will forever change the way we think about sex, shame and identity.
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(210mm x 140mm x 16mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
Warner (English/Rutgers Univ.) challenges the current stodginess of queer activism - focused as it is on the gay community's hope to be considered "normal" - through his incisive critique of the banalities and dangers of such normalcy. Criticizing the way some identities are deemed normal while others are not (a la Foucault), Warner delineates with lapidary skill the problems of the cultural constructions of the normal, how heterosexual lives are thus validated at the expense of the queer. Using a smoothly textured argumentative style, Warner showcases the functioning of shame within a conservative ideological framework to reward some identities and punish others. His argument stands strongest when he concentrates on how the eradication of shame from sexuality would liberate queer communities from the monolith of marriage and how the rejection of normalcy would accord the gay community a liberated space within the spheres of the sexual culture. Ironically, the trouble with The Trouble with Normal is that it directs its arguments toward the queer community rather than the straight one. Telling gay people that, for various ethical reasons, they shouldn't even want to marry, when they already can't, does not change the fact that laws that enfranchise some while disenfranchising others are discriminatory. Warner's rhetoric persuasively reveals the hierarchical parameters of marriage and the constraints of normalcy, but a more universal approach to his topic would delineate the limitations of marriage for all people - not just queer people. In the end, his polemic leaves standing discriminatory treatment of queers for the sake of a theoretical attack on normalcy. Warner's ethical vision succeeds as a utopian revelation of sex freed from shame, but a sharper eye for the real-life ramifications of such an outlook might have revealed its limitations. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Michael Warner
Michael Warner is Seymour H. Knox Professor of English and American Studies at Yale University. He is the editor of American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King and Fear of a Queer Planet. He also writes for The Nation, The Advocate, The Village Voice, and other periodicals.