Commentary: Troubling “Troubling Gender and Genre in The Trials and Joys of Marriage”
Medieval English Studies, vol. 11 (2003) No. 1
Thank you for your wonderful lecture. I wish I could just say that by way of response, and leave you alone. But since I have to perform my own part, as you just have done yours, I’ll try to be a little bit more critical than just saying thank-you, or rather a little bit more explicit in my thanks. Please allow me, then, to trouble your “Troubling Gender and Genre” just a little. The major trouble I have with your paper is the title, “Troubling Gender and Genre.” It is not because it does not accurately reflect what the paper as a whole has to say, but because it seems to suggest that the two categories, gender and genre, could be brought together by juxtaposing them, by identifying them with each other, or by turning them into metaphors for each other, when in fact they interinvolve (or, to use a more tendentious term, interpellate) with each other in a most complex way.
In the theoretical framework section of your paper, you have identified “the trouble with gender with the trouble with genre.” The trouble with genre (or with the discourse of it) is that it is “encoded in terms of heteronormativity and sexual difference,” and the trouble with gender is that it is regarded as a “given or cultural attribute” (p. 3). The trouble in both cases is the emphases placed on the rigid, traditionally defined boundaries. Using Judith Butler’s discussion on gender and gender performativity, you have maintained that gender is able to change in the process of repeating gender performance, and so is genre.