Queer Theory


Terms in this set (...)

Queer theory
influenced by deconstruction, feminism, gay and lesbian studies, psychoanalysis, postcolonialism, and other postmodern theories, this theory questions the very terms we use to describe ourselves (such as "heterosexual" or "homosexual") - these terms are socially constructed concepts that do not define who we really are - challenges the assumption that human nature is unchangeable and can be defined by a finite list of characteristics - an offshoot of GAY AND LESBIAN STUDIES, it minimizes the gender discussion while talking more about sexual differences and sexual topics that are considered abnormal/odd - our identities (including our sexuality) are shaped and developed by social codes
this word was a pejorative term throughout much of the twentieth century, used to describe homosexuals (particularly males) - using the Marxist technique of hailing the subject/interpellation, _____ theorists turned the word on its head, making it a respectable critical term in academic studies
Gender studies
a term sometimes used synonymously with feminism; however, this field of study broadens traditional feminist criticism to include an investigation of not only femaleness but also maleness. To the multivoiced feminist theories, this adds the ever-growing and increasingly diverse concerns of black feminists, the ongoing concerns of French feminism, and the impact of poststructural theories on customary feminist issues
humanist belief which asserts that the true essence/identity of an individual is composed of finite and fixed properties (an "essence") that are the essential components of what it means to be human
Social constructivism
rejects essentialism's belief in an unalterable human essence, but asserts that gender is a socially constructed term and concept - terms like "homosexual" and "male/female" are laden with ideological suppositions and must be deconstructed and eventually reconstructed
Free-floating signifieds
concepts whose meanings are not fixed, but ever shifting (Derrida's term) - for social constructivists, these would be concepts like sexuality, maleness, and femaleness - opposite of "transcendental signified"
Gay and lesbian studies
a school of criticism that borrowed/developed the gender concerns of feminist/gender critics starting in the mid-1980s - this school targets the heterosexual/homosexual binary, emphasizing sexual differences while also examining sexual differences applicable to the male and female - analyzes social structures that have defined gays/lesbians as deviant or abnormal - like feminist studies, this is a school of recovery (rediscovering writers who have been silenced/masked/erased from the canon and history)
Eva Kosofsky Sedgwick
one of queer theory's leading theorists - she affirmed the necessity of studying gay/lesbian and queer theories in works like Epistemology of the Closet - working thesis: "People are different from each other"
Judith Butler
a leading queer theorist who wrote Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter - believes that feminism made a mistake when it declared that women were a special group with common interests, because then feminists reinforced the patriarchal culture and its assumed masculine/feminine and male/female binary oppositions - believes gender is unstable, changing from person to person and context to context - self-identity is performative, and our identities are connected to what we do and are, not our supposed essence (like essentialism says) - our identities are the effect, not the cause, of our performances