Monthly Archives: January 2013

Reading Questions Week 2

Jagose,  excerpts from Queer Theory: An Introduction: “Introduction” (1-6); “Queer” (72-100); “Afterword” (127-132)

  • Jagose says on p. 3 that the concept of queer is characterized by “definitional indeterminacy” and “elasticity.” What do you think these terms mean?
  • What are some of the reasons why queer theorists and activists object to the notion of “identity”?
  • What are some ways in which the AIDS epidemic guided activists to question previous understandings of stable identity?

Sedgwick, excerpts from Epistemology of the Closet (pp. 1-10, Axiom 1, Axiom 2, Axiom 4)

  • Is homosexuality a practice or an identity? Has this changed over time?
  • What do you think it means to say that “coming out” is a “speech act” that has “nothing to do with the acquisition of new information”?
  • What does the term “sexual orientation” usually refer to? Why does Sedgwick find this to be interesting?
  • What are some other ways we might define or characterize sexual orientation?
  • How does Sedgwick define the terms “sex,” “gender,” and “sexuality”?
  • Does it matter what “causes” homosexuality? Why do you think our society is so obsessed with figuring this out?

Butler, excerpts from Gender Trouble (pp. vii-ix, 30-34, 136-141)

  • What is “trouble” and why is Butler interested in promoting it?
  • What does it mean to say that gender and sexuality are cultural constructions? Does this make them less real than if they were somehow “natural”?
  • How does drag reveal the cultural construction of gender identity?

Gauntlett, “Queer Theory and Fluid Identities” (145-163)

  • How does this reading clarify for you some of the ideas discussed both in class and in the Jagose reading?

Reading Questions Week 1

Bornstein, excerpts from Gender Outlaw: “Transgender Style” (3-4); “The Hard Part” (7-14); “The First Question” (101-111); “The Other Questions” (113-140)

  • Bornstein’s book is subtitled, “On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us.” Who do you think “the rest of us” refers to?
  • What do you think Bornstein means when she says, “the choice between two of something is not a choice at all”?
  • How is gender “like a cult,” according to Bornstein?
  • What is “camp” and what function does it serve?

Smith, “How I Became a Queer Heterosexual”

  • What do you think Smith means when he says, “Perhaps in a restrictive society there are many who would not claim queerness but have many queer aspects in their practices”?
  • How do you think a person (such as Smith) can identify as both “queer” and “heterosexual”?


The readings for the course can be downloaded here.

Note that the files are organized by title. So if you’re looking for “Gay Shame” by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, for example, you’ll want to find the file gayshame.pdf.