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Normality
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About the Author

Peter Cryle is emeritus professor in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. He is the author or coauthor of many books, including Frigidity: An Intellectual History. Elizabeth Stephens is associate professor of culture studies and deputy head of school (research) in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University, Australia. She is the author of Anatomy as Spectacle: Public Exhibitions of the Body from 1700 to the Present.

Reviews

"[Cryle and Stephens's] ambitious book pursues the emergence of statistical thinking from the eighteenth century onwards, the relationship between qualitative and quantitative, and the ways in which normality has been a locus of social control. They examine the word's nearly simultaneous emergence in mathematics and medicine in the nineteenth century; and they trace its entry into popular culture in the mid-twentieth century, when it was the tool of those with commercial interests seeking to standardize mass-produced consumer goods. . . .Their fastidiously gathered evidence proves that normality has always been riddled with internal contradictions. Thus Cryle and Stephens present the etymology and genealogy of a word, the history of an idea, the cultural linguistics through which those threads have become entwined and the sociological ramifications of those subjectivities."

-- "Nature"
"Normality is an indispensable, precise, and nuanced account of the uneven uptake of normality across nineteenth- and twentieth-century medicine, statistics, and consumer culture. Erudite as well as edgy, it shows that the terms and targets of normality have, since their modern emergence, been contested. Arguing that normality thrives on equivocation between the quantitative and the qualitative, the individuating and the standardizing, it persuades with overwhelming evidence that easy critical recourse to the normal/abnormal binary misses the incoherence and versatility that gives normality its enduring cultural power."-- "Valerie Traub, University of Michigan"
"An impressive piece of scholarship for its magnitude and finegrained analysis that brings together key strands from a vast range of knowledge to produce a unified genealogy. . . .[Normality] will make an important contribution to both intellectual and cultural history."-- "Australian Book Review"
"The rise of normativity across a broad range of progressive critical work as an ur-signifier for that which should be resisted has tended to obscure the fact that we don't yet know that much about what it is to be normal. The immense value of Cryle and Stephen's erudite and persuasive work is that it attends painstakingly to normality for the primary reason of understanding it as a phenomenon--its uneven historical emergence, the cultural effects of its conceptual incoherence, and its persistence as a cultural ideal. Working through a series of engaging historical case studies, Normality amply demonstrates the epistemologically rich dividends accrued through the genealogical encounter with the normal."-- "Annamarie Jagose, University of Sydney"

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