Category Archives: Reading Questions

Reading Questions Week 8

Doty, excerpts from Making Things Perfectly Queer: “What Makes Queerness Most” (xi-xix); “There’s Something Queer Here” (1-16)

  • What do you think Doty is referring to when he uses the term “closet of connotation”?
  • How does Doty define the term “queer”? Do you think his definition adds anything to the definitions we have been working with in the course so far?

Lipton, “Queer Readings of Popular Culture”, in Queer Youth Cultures (163-179)

  • What are some reasons why queer youth are motivated to make alternative readings of mainstream media texts?

Miller, “Masculinity and Male Intimacy in Nineties Sitcoms: Seinfeld and the Ironic Dismissal” (147-159)

  • What is the “ironic dismissal” and what is its purpose in media texts?

Reading Questions Week 6

Gross, “A Niche of Our Own” from Up From Invisibility (233-251)

  • Why do you think minorities might welcome advertising that targets them specifically?
  • What are some of the reasons why brands might want to target minority consumers?

Sender, “Selling America’s Most Affluent Minority” from Business Not Politics

Clark, “Commodity Lesbianism” (181-201)

  • How does “gay window dressing” function in advertisements?
  • Why are political styles easily appropriated by commercial interests, and what are the consequences of this for sexual minorities, according to Clark?

Hennessey, “Queer Visibility in Commodity Culture” (31-76)

  • What are some of the downsides of queer visibility, according to Hennessey?
  • How do consumption practices fit with the idea of identities being constructed and performed, rather than innate?

Reading Questions Week 5

Ron Becker, “Guy Love: A Queer Straight Masculinity for a Post-Closet Era?” (121-140)

  • How has the heightened visibility of gay identities “made it possible to envision alternative ways to think about straight masculinity”?
  • What does it mean to say that gay has become a “cultural identity” in addition to (or instead of) a sexual identity?
  • Do you think we live in a “post-closet culture”?

Halberstam, “What’s That Smell? Queer Temporalities and Subcultural Lives” from Queer Youth Cultures


Halberstam, “An Introduction to Female Masculinity: Masculinity without Men” from Female Masculinity (1-43)

  • Why do you think Halberstam uses “the bathroom problem” as a case study for the social issues faced by gender-variant individuals?
  • How does the elasticity of the categories “men” and “women” help to sustain a binary notion of gender, according to Halberstam?

Reading Questions Week 4

Gamson, excerpts from Freaks Talk Back: “Why I Love Trash” (2-27); “Truths Told in Lies” (66-105)

  • Gamson says he identifies with “the misfits, monsters, trash, and perverts.” Why does this make daytime TV talk shows an attractive subject for him?
  • How does Gamson’s discussion of queerness on TV talk shows complicate the idea that visibility in mainstream media = social progress for minorities?
  • How might TV talk shows “muddy the waters of normality,” in Gamson’s words?
  • Why might the talk show imperative to “be true to yourself” be incompatible with the ideas of gender and sexuality advanced by queer theory? How do talk shows disrupt the idea of a single, universal truth about gender and sexual identity?

Sender, “Queens for a Day” (131-151)

  • What does Sender say about debates around whether Queer Eye is good for gay visibility? What kinds of questions does Sender find more interesting?
  • How do changing economic conditions result in shifts in constructions of gender and sexuality, according to Sender?
  • How does camp function in Queer Eye? What identities and social categories might the show ironize and destabilize?

Reading Questions Week 3

Gross, excerpt from Up from Invisibility: “The Mediated Society” (1-20)

  • What are some of the ways in which the experience of minority sexual identity differs from that of other kinds of minority identities (e.g. racial, gender, and class), according to Gross?
  • How can we understand camp as a mode of queer resistance for gay men?

Joyrich, “Epistemology of the Console” (15-47)

  • Why do you think Joyrich wants to move beyond the question of visibility vs. invisibility in considering representations of queer sexuality on television?
  • How do the “therapeutic discourses” of television create a unique place for sexuality in this medium (in contrast to film, for example)?
  • How do television programs illustrate the idea that sexual identity is distinct from sexual desire? Can you think of examples that do this?

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”?