Introduction to Queer Theory
What is queer theory and what does it do? “Queer” is a notoriously slippery term. A biting insult reclaimed as a livable identity by those it was meant to hurt most, the word “queer” has a contradictory, protean quality. And queer theory is a contradictory, protean body of thought, dedicated to understanding how the complex phenomena of sexuality and gender constitute themselves in people, in texts, in gestures, in customs, in policies, in thoughts, in life, in art—in short, in social relations. Growing from an intellectual genealogy that owes much to Michel Foucault’s work on power and sexuality, among many other bodies of thought, queer theory asks how desires become identities. It asks why oppressive, institutionalized ideas about how we live, who we are, and what we want come to seem “normal” and “natural.” And sometimes queer theory asks, “what is to be done?”
In this introduction to queer theory, our questions will include the following: Who is queer theory for? What kinds of thinking and action does queer theory enable or foreclose? What are its limits and possibilities? How does it relate to Marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, deconstruction, and LGBTQ+ theory, more generally? Does queer theory extend beyond the boundaries of sexuality? What does gender have to do with it? Does the verb “to queer” have real meaning? How have its inheritors built on queer theory’s foundations and resisted them? From the flowering body of trans theory to queer of color critique, what extensions, corrections, rejections, and forms of truth-telling does queer theory require? Who needs queer theory? What is queer theory good for? In addition to Foucault, our syllabus will include some combination of the following: Eve Sedgwick, Sara Ahmed, Gloria Anzaldúa, Leo Bersani, Lauren Berlant, Lee Edelman, David Halperin, Mae G. Henderson, E. Patrick Johnson, Teresa de Lauretis, Audre Lorde, José Esteban Muñoz, Gayle Rubin, Adrienne Rich, and Michael Warner.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
March 08 — March 29, 2022