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Queer Theory: Not a Criticism

of Gay and Lesbians

Katie Melendes, Taylor Gigl, Regina Aiuppa

What do you think of what you hear the word
“queer?”

Queer
Originally pejorative for gay, now being
reclaimed by some gay men, lesbians,
bisexuals and transgendered persons as a
self-affirming umbrella term.
Caution: still extremely offensive when
used as an epithet.

What is Queer Theory?
Queer rhetoric is self-conscious and critical
engagement with normative discourses of
sexuality in the public sphere that exposes
their naturalization and torques them to
create different or counter-discourses,
giving voice and agency to multiple and
complex sexual experiences.

Key Scholars

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950-2009)




She was a poet, artist, literary critic and
teacher.
She was one of the originators of Queer
Theory.
1987 she instrumented a women/gender
studies department at Amherst College
Published works on feminism, gender and
sexuality.
In 1990 wrote Epistemology of the Closet.

Judith Butler (1956)



She was a very influential gender theorist.
University of California Berkeley in the
Department of Comparative Literature and the
Program of Critical Theory
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion
of Identity (1990)
Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits
of Sex (1993)
These are both considered influential works.

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)


American poet and essayist known for her political
radicalism and explorations in Feminism and Lesbianism.
Many of her published works surround the ideas of
Heteronormativity.
1967- she published her controversial, influential
collection of essays Of Woman Born: Motherhood as
Institution and Experience.
1980- Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence is
a review of books of inclusion or acknowledgment of
lesbianism.

The History

Queer Theory Timeline
1895: The Trials of
Oscar Wilde

1969: The Stonewall
Riots

1990: Judith Butler’s
Gender Trouble

1905: Sigmund
Freud’s Three
Essays of the
Theory of Sexuality

1973: APA removed
homosexuality from
mental disorders

1990: Eve
Segdwick’s
Epistemology of the
Closet

1950: The
Mattachine Society

1976: Michel
Foucault’s The
History of Sexuality

1955: Allen
Gisberg’s “Howl”

1980s: AIDS
Epidemic

QUEER THEORY

The Theory

LGBTQA Terms: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,
Queer/Questioning, and Asexual/Ally
Queer

Gender Identity

Transgender

Asexual

Genderqueer

Transsexual

Ally

Homosexual

Bisexual

Intersex

Cisgender

Questioning

Gender Expression

Pansexual

Queer Theory and Rhetorical Criticism
● Some scholars consider it to be
controversial, but it really isn’t.
● Some use it to challenge social structures.
● If it is used, it is always used in a way
to celebrate differences and embrace
equality.

The 4 Elements of Queer Theory
Challenge of essentialism: how identities are represented in
the artifact
Privacy: challenges idea that sexuality is a private matter
that should stay in the bedroom
Heteronormativity: examines the social construct that
heterosexuality is superior to homoselxulatiy due to everyday
hetero practices
Assimilation: argument that homosexuals are not interested in
engaging in an unchanged mainstream culture

Applying the Theory

Will––Will and Grace

Jack––Will and Grace

“Gay Spelling Bee”––Will and Grace