Faculty Bookshelf: Margaret Breen

Books by Margaret Breen 

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Butler Matters: Judith Butler’s Impact on Feminist and Queer Studies (Routledge, 2017). 

Since the 1990 publication of Gender Trouble, Judith Butler has had a profound influence on how we understand gender and sexuality, corporeal politics, and political action both within and outside the academy. This collection, which considers not only Gender Trouble but also Bodies That Matter, Excitable Speech, and The Psychic Life of Power, attests to the enormous impact Butler’s work has had across disciplines. In analyzing Butler’s theories, the contributors demonstrate their relevance to a wide range of topics and fields, including activism, archaeology, film, literature, pedagogy, and theory. Included is a two-part interview with Judith Butler herself, in which she responds to questions about queer theory, the relationship between her work and that of other gender theorists, and the political impact of her ideas.

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Critical Insights: Gender, Sex, and Sexuality (Salem Press, 2014). Editor, introduction, and contributed chapter.

So much of great literature centers on explorations of gender, sex, and sexuality. What does it mean to be a proper man or woman; what if one cannot be properly called either? Should one wield one’s sexual power politically? What is the relation between law, divine or secular, and sexuality? What does it mean to fail at doing gender? These are just some of the questions that this volume examines. Essays consider a range of texts, including Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Sharon Dennis Wyeth’s Tomboy Trouble in light of issues of gender, sex, and sexuality, and their interplay.

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Good and Evil (Salem Press, 2012). Editor.

Good and evil have existed throughout human history, and humanity has been attempting to come to grips with the idea of them for just as long. Literature has always provided a powerful medium for the study of good and evil, allowing for the questioning, resisting, and refiguring of good and evilon the levels of content and form. Literature’s effects are not only intellectual but also sensuous, and they can be immediate as well as long-lasting; unexpected and surprising. Literature engages us with ourselves, with each other, and with the world beyond us, and even when other means for understanding experience cannot. Accordingly, literature can provide a forum in which individuals can grapple with their personal questions on good and evil, experiencing them in scenes and characters they might never physically encounter. Literature – the telling of stories – also provides a crucial vehicle for memory, advocacy, and resilience. It can empower marginalized and oppressed groups, whose voices may well be silenced within other cultural and social contexts, with a crucial vehicle for the articulation of social justice issues.This volume in the Critical Insights series presents a variety of new essays on the perennial theme. Works discussed include King Lear; Paradise Lost; Maus; The Scarlet Letter; Jane Eyre; The Picture of Dorian Gray; The Farming of Bones; Train to Pakistan; Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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Narratives of Queer Desire: Deserts of the Heart (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

Narratives of Queer Desire: Deserts of the Heart is an interdisciplinary project that uses literary analysis, especially close reading, along with personal testimony and the applications of gender theory, as a means for identifying, looking at, and exploring LGBTQ stories. Taking its subtitle from Jane Rule’s novel Desert of the Heart, Narratives of Queer Desire considers queer yearnings for stories other than those conventionally available, stories that, often located at the social margins (‘deserts’) and subject to violent regulation, engage and resist norms in literature as well as culture and politics.Narratives of Queer Desire offers a story about the power of storytelling: within our personal, professional, and political lives and at the sites of our desire, including the classroom. This is a story about how literature encounters loss, staves off aggression, and answers erasure by offering itself as a site of care and empowerment and activism for LGBTQ people.

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Genealogies of Identity: Interdisciplinary Readings on Sex and Sexuality (Rodopi, 2005). Editor, with Fiona Peters.
Genealogies of Identity examines issues of sex and sexuality across a range of critical and cultural perspectives. The volume considers historically specific discourses of sex and sexuality, their effect within public contexts such as the church and the workplace, and the link of those discourses to understandings of individual identity, citizenship, nation, and human rights. The volume analyses representations of sexuality and desire in art, literature, theatre, and theory—representations that serve both to codify and to subvert social norms and aesthetic and theoretical traditions. Finally and more broadly, the volume attests to the critical importance of inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to understanding constructions of gender, sex, and sexuality. It consists of fifteen essays, versions of which were presented at the First Global Conference.
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Minding Evil: Explorations of Human Iniquity (Rodopi, 2005). Editor.
This volume examines evil and wickedness from a variety of disciplines, including criminology, cultural studies, gender studies, literature, peace studies, and sociology. Minding Evil keeps in play the doubled meaning of its title: on the one hand, to tend to evil—to oversee, cultivate, and deploy it; on the other hand, to be bothered by evil and so, in learning to identify it, to try to understand its workings and contain, control, repair, or undo it. While the essays taken together work to show the difficulty and the travesty of not being able to distinguish between the two meanings, it is the second meaning that remains key. What are the individual and collective responsibilities entailed in minding—being troubled by—evil? This is the central question of this volume.
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Butler Matters: Judith Butler’s Impact on Feminist and Queer Studies (Ashgate, 2005). Editor, with Warren J. Blumenfeld.
Since the 1990 publication of Gender Trouble, Judith Butler has had a profound influence on how we understand gender and sexuality, corporeal politics, and political action both within and outside the academy. This collection, which considers not only Gender Trouble but also Bodies That Matter, Excitable Speech, and The Psychic Life of Power, attests to the enormous impact Butler’s work has had across disciplines. In analyzing her theories, the contributors demonstrate their relevance to a wide range of topics and fields, including activism, archaeology, film, and literature. Included is a two-part interview with Butler in which she responds to questions about queer theory, the relationship between her work and that of other gender theorists, and the political impact of her ideas. Contributors include Edwina Barvosa-Carter, Robert Alan Brookey, Kirsten Campbell, Angela Failler, Belinda Johnston, Rosemary A. Joyce, Vicki Kirby, Diane Helene Miller, Mena Mitrano, Elizabeth M. Perry, Frederick S. Roden, and Natalie Wilson.
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This Thing of Darkness: Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness (Rodopi, 2004). Editor, with Richard Paul Hamilton.
Written across the disciplines of art history, literature, philosophy, sociology, and theology, the ten essays comprising this collection insist on multidimensional definitions of evil. Taking its title from a moment in Shakespeare’s Tempest when Prospero acknowledges his responsibility for Caliban, this collection explores the necessarily ambivalent relationship between humanity and evil. To what extent are a given society’s definitions of evil self-serving? Which figures are marginalized in the process of identifying evil? How is humanity itself implicated in the production of evil? Is evil itself something fundamentally human? These questions, indicative of the kinds of issues raised in this collection, seem all the more pressing in light of recent world events.
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Truth, Reconciliation, and Evil (Rodopi, 2004). Editor.
Truth, Reconciliation, and Evil analyzes evil in a variety of forms—as an unspeakable crime, a discursive or narrative force, a political byproduct, and an inevitable feature of warfare. The collection considers the forms of loss that the workings of evil exact, from the large-scale horror of genocide to the individual grief of a self-destructive homelessness. Finally, taken together, the fourteen essays that comprise this volume affirm that the undoing of evil—the moving beyond it through forgiveness and reconciliation—needs to occur within the context of community broadly defined, wherein individuals and groups can see beyond themselves and recognize in others a shared humanity and common cause.
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Understanding Evil: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Rodopi, 2003). Editor.
Written across the disciplines of law, literature, philosophy, and theology, this represents wide-ranging approaches to and understandings of “evil” and “wickedness. Consisting of three sections—“Grappling with Evil,”Justice, Responsibility, and War,” and “Blame, Murder, and Retributivism”—all the essays are inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary in focus. Common themes emerge around the dominant narrative movements of grieving, loss, powerlessness, and retribution that have shaped so many political and cultural issues around the world since the fall of 2001. At the same time, the interdisciplinary nature of this collection, together with the divergent views of its chapters, reminds one that, in the end, an inquiry into “evil” and “wickedness” is at its best when it promotes intelligence and compassion, creativity and cooperation. The thirteen essays were developed in light of dialogues held at the Third Global Conference on Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness, held in March 2002 in Prague.