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Review of Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests (1992)

Review of Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests (1992)

©1992, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1993, 1 April). Review of Vested Interests by Marjorie Garber. Southern Voice, 6(6), 21.

Marjorie Garber. (1992).Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety. New York: Routledge.



Review of Vested Interests by Marjorie Garber

By Dallas Denny


Crossdressing is an integral part of society. We see it in films, on the stage, on television, in nightclubs, on the street. We know that it crosses all cultural boundaries, and that it has been common from earliest historical times. Crossdressing has existed for more than a hundred years at Harvard University, that venerable institution, in the form of the Hasty Pudding club, which has seen such notables as Oliver Wendell Holmes, George Santayana, and Henry Cabot Lodge in drag.

It should come as no surprise, then, that a professor from those hallowed halls has written a book on crossdressing. What is a surprise is that Marjorie Garber, a white woman from the Ivy League, a Shakespearean scholar, could have the breadth of knowledge of popular culture displayed in her Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and cultural anxiety. From Michael Jackson to Lawrence of Arabia to Oscar Wilde as Salome, Garber examines gender bending, looking (as she puts it) at rather than through him (or her). Her major thesis is “there is no culture without the transvestite.” Only by transgressing the lines of gender are those lines apparent. Crossdressers tell us about ourselves, and about society and culture by bending the rules of normative behavior and dress. Garber illustrates this point again and again, drawing examples from history, from Elizabethan theater, from rock and roll, from the personal histories of crossdressing men and women.