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?
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