Disciplining Gender: Rhetorics of Sex Identity in Contemporary U.S. Culture. By John M. Sloop. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004; pp. ix + 189. $80.00 cloth; $18.95 paper.
First, the untraditional review: You should buy this book. It is tightly argued with engaging prose, and deftly analyzes a fascinating set of five public controversies concerning gender trouble. It provides valuable insights about the way in which potential transgressions of bi-gender heteronormativity are prophylactically contained. The introduction provides a concise, readable summary of recent work on gender and critical rhetoric that would be useful in any rhetorical theory class, and the case studies would supplement any class in criticism or gender. In fact, Sloop provides an excellent model of how to write critical analyses of media coverage, making clear the precise circumference of his claims and carefully explaining and justifying his focus on the particular texts analyzed.
Second, the more traditional review: Public controversy over gender, sexuality, and sex continues to confound those who engage in and study it. How does one do queer argument? How does one argue about that which is queer? How does argument over identity function to stabilize and destabilize it? When we study moments that push at the boundaries, we often celebrate their transgressive potential. However, the argument and controversy do not stop at the moment of transgression. It is the response to moments of challenge that Sloop analyzes in Disciplining Gender. The book offers five trenchant case studies of "gender trouble," framed by a thorough introduction and precise conclusion.
Critics of argument and culture often focus on (and celebrate) those moments that destabilize our basic understandings and challenge the warrants on which arguments are based. However, as Sloop notes, these moments of transgression are not left unanswered by the dominant discourse. As he notes, each of the five cases,
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