Wednesday, April 8, 2015

We're Here! We're Queer! (And We Always Have Been)

To me, Queer Theory is essentially the advocation for the inclusion of queer authors and works depicting queer experiences in the literary canon. Beyond that, it also focuses on illuminating the queer authors that are already included in the canon in order to prove that the literary canon is not entirely made up of heterosexual white men (though there are a lot of them). By doing this, however, Queer Theory actually may actually create its own "mini-canon" as a result of this advocacy, a Queer Canon. This just enforces the popular idea that homosexuality is a rebellion from the "norm" of heterosexuality and homosexuality therefore must be a minority. This where a problem arises in Queer Theory, because it is basing itself, both the act of being homosexual and the study of Queer Theory, off of the "original" which is considered heterosexuality. As Judith Butler puts it in her essay, "Imitation and Gender Insubordination", "the political problem turn the homophobic construction of the bad
copy against the framework that privileges heterosexuality as origin, and so ‘derive’ the former
from the latter" (p. 4).  The problem that Butler sees in Queer Theory extends beyond into the state of being a homosexual. She has a hard time identifying herself as a lesbian because it automatically puts her into a category, which takes away a person's individuality and enforces the culture of hegemony. She says this is because "identity categories tend to be instruments of regulatory regimes, whether as the normalizing categories of oppressive structures or as the rallying points for a liberatory contestation of that very oppression." (p. 1). 

My artwork to represent Queer Theory may be kind of cliché, with the rainbow colors and all, but when thinking about the theory, I really seem to focus on the issues it has with the illumination of queerness in the literary canon and the inclusion of queer writers. I drew a house to represent the idea of the literary canon and made rainbow colors burst out of its windows to represent this idea of illumination and inclusion of queerness. The idea of queerness essentially "coming out" of the house was not entirely intentional, but hey, it fits right in.

I really like Queer Theory's idea of illuminating the queer authors that are already included into the literary canon. I think it is important for readers, especially younger ones, to know that being queer doesn't mean that you cannot be considered literary greatness. Queer experiences and authors should be as equally represented and recognized as heterosexual ones because, as Butler points out, neither is any better than the other. Heterosexuality is not the "original" or the "norm" because heterosexuality is defined by homosexuality and vice versa. Butler's essay in particular really sparked my interest because I had never though of the heterosexual/homosexual binary in the way she describes it, particularly her ideas on how all gendering is drag. So brilliant, I loved it!

What kinds of revelations did Judith Butler's essay give to other people? Do you agree with her idea that all genders are performances? Is there ever a time that you weren't performing?


  1. Upon first reading my eyes fell on "Queer Canon" which made me think of a Queer Cannon and would that be a queer cannon or a cannon that launches queers and I imagine Judith Butler saying that anyone launched out of the queer cannon would be a queer being launched out of a cannon and WHAT CAME FIRST.

    But I digress. Compared to Sedgwick's essay on recognizing the work's queerness, Butler's angle on defining the role and the identity feels like it takes what seems to be heading in the right direction and bringing it back to the start. Butler makes me feel like I shouldn't go to the grocery store because milk doesn't want to be called "milk" it just wants to be like every other beverage.

    Maybe labels are just signifiers that don't hold any value but represent a thing which needs a label in order to be discussed. So "lesbian" helps identify a mindset or lifestyle that is seen through text. But Butler doesn't want to label herself one, lest she be put into a group of "oppressed" or "rebel of the oppressor." I wonder if there's a way to help queer theory in labeling and defining sexuality without pigeonholing the text's author.

  2. I think you would be well-served by using "Gay and Lesbian Studies" to describe the visibility advocacy that you talk about at the top here. When you focus on the inclusion of queer authors or queer texts or queer themes in the canon, without problematizing the idea of "queerness" (or "normalcy" or "heterosexuality" or whatever), you are essentially stabilizing those identity categories. Generally, we use "Queer Theory" to refer only to the poststructural maneuvers that DEstabilize binary oppositions like hetero-homo. You are totally on track for most of this, but using G/L Studies as a term to describe the more strategic reliance on stable non-hetero identity categories will help delineate the difference between that kind of theory and a more poststructural Queer Theory like the kind that Butler practices.

    1. Yeah, I realized that I was a little fuzzy on the differences between G/L Studies and Queer Theory during our class on Thursday. After discussing the Sedgwick reading more in-depth, I'm much more clear on the differences now!