What happens when feminists speak their sexed selves? How can the self be represented in cultural studies? Faced with the seemingly enormous difficulty of representing "others," many theorists working in cultural studies have been turning to themselves as a way of speaking about the personal. In "Sexing the Self," Elspeth Probyn retraces this evacuation of "experience" as a critical term in cultural studies, and argues for a move beyond a crisis mode of representation, where no one can speak for another. She tackles the question of the sex of the self, an issue of vital importance to feminists, yet one which has been neglected by feminist theory, and suggests that there are ways of using our gendered selves in order to speak and theorize non-essential but embodied selves.
Arguing for "feminisms with attitude," Probyn ranges across a wide variety of theoretical strands, drawing upon a body of literature from early cultural studies to feminist literary criticism, from the emergence of "the feminine" as a privileged term in cultural theory to the rampant self-reflexivity of postmodern ethnography, from "identity debates to Foucault's "care of the self." "Sexing the Self" presents both the difficulties and the necessity for alternative articulations of genders, bodies, experiences, selves, and theories.
"This is an excellent book, persuasive and a pleasure to read. It performs an exciting turn away from some of the tiring oppositions that regulate debate in cultural studies, while modelling an unusually generous intellectual and political culture. This is a useful and "inspiring work; I think that many students of these issues will find, as I have, their own projects both supported and critically extended by reading this book."
"Elspeth Probyn has made an important and highly original contribution to the problem of experience in feminism and cultural studies. She offers a way of relocating experience within cultural analysis without falling into the traps of so many contemporary strategies. This is one of those rare books which actually does advance theoretical and critical reflection. It should have a profound impact on some of the central debates in cultural theory and politics."
-Lawrence Grossberg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign