Conclusion: Principles for the Uses of Theory

  • Melissa Schaub


This chapter returns to the larger question of how best to apply theory to literary texts. Few of Elizabeth Gaskell’s characters can be read to support the cheerful version of Judith Butler’s performativity. But the texts that contain those who can are among her most-read, by scholars and popular audiences alike. Resistance to acknowledging the darker side of Butler’s theory is reflected in the way that the term “performativity” is often used to imply an agency and control that Butler would withhold. This might seem to be an illegitimate use of her theory, but after all, academic discourse is a conversation, and a living field is always evolving. Where, then, are the borders of legitimacy between taking theory seriously and evolving the original? The conclusion elucidates some principles by which scholars can decide, and which faculty can apply in graduate teaching or undergraduate teaching of research methods courses.


Elizabeth Gaskell Judith Butler Performativity Theory Graduate teaching Undergraduate teaching 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa Schaub
    • 1
  1. 1.University of North Carolina at PembrokePembrokeUSA

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