WOST 393 Queer Theory
Lecturer: Kreimild Saunders
Office Hours: Tu 12:30-1:30
University of Massachusetts--Amherst
Queer Theory: A Reconceptualization of Gender and Sexuality
Queer theory defies rigid definitional limits but has been typified by a tendency to emphasize
incoherencies in sex, gender and sexual desire. It articulates the post-structuralist view of subject
positions as multiple and unstable with a strong focus on the complexities of gay and lesbian identities
and practices. The currency of the performative as a category within this discourse is indicative of the
play of identities. Since queer theory ostensibly resists consolidation, it emphasizes critique and
The first section of the course presents an outline of the development of queer theory. It begins with
an examination of the impact of the resistance of groups at the margins of the gay and lesbian movement
who persistently demanded a radical transformation of the sex/gender system rather than a project of
mainstreaming. It also looks at the rebellion against notions of an essential gay and/or lesbian
identity. This challenge to orthodoxies was the context for the emergence of queer theory and practice.
This section goes on to do a brief genealogy of queer as a developing set of ideas, underscoring the
impact of post-structuralism on our understandings of subjectivity and identity (provisional, contingent,
heterogeneous, unconscious and unstable among others). It ends with a discussion of contestations of
queer understandings of identities such as its putative destablization of identities as reactionary and
apolitical, a questioning of its political efficacy and its potential to further a masculinist agenda.
The other sections of the course look at the emergence of various sexual identities and practices
(namely, butch-femme, transgender/transsexual identities, male lesbian identities and identifications,
bisexual identities, the challenge of race, ethnicity and class, sadomasochistic identities and
practices, cross-generational sex, and the effects of cultural/national differences) and invite students
to trace the application of queer approaches and to think these identities and practices from a queer
perspective. This requires that careful attention be paid to its productive possibilities and
- Week 1-2: The Formation of Queer Theory and Practice.
- Jagose, Annamarie. Queer Theory: An Introduction, NY: New York U. Press, 1996.
(Chapters 6-9): 58-132.
- Jagose, A. Queer Theory: An Introduction, NY: New York U. Press, 1996.
- Duggan, Lisa "Making It Perfectly Queer" from Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political
Culture, New York: Routledge, 1995.
- Butler, Judith. "Gender Trouble, Feminist Theory and Psychoanalytic Discourse" in
Feminism/Postmodernism, Linda Nicholson (ed.) New York: Routledge, 1990.
- Butler, J. "Against Proper Objects" in Feminism Meets Queer Theory, Elizabeth Weed
and Naomi Schor (eds.), Bloomington: Indiana, 1997.
- Butler, J. "Imitation and Gender Insubordination," in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theory, D.
Fuss (ed.), Routledge, 1991.
- Butler, J. "Phantasmatic Identification and the Assumption of Sex" from Bodies That
Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, Routledge: New York, 1993.
- Week 3-4: Lesbian Identities: Butch/Femme, Drag and Lesbian Gender Role
- Amber Hollibaugh & Cherrie Moraga "What We're Rollin' Around in Bed with: Sexual
Silences in Feminism: A Conversation Toward Ending Them" in The Persistent
Desire: A Femme/Butch Reader, Joan Nestle (ed.), Boston: Alyson Publications, 1992. (p.243-53).
Reprinted from Heresies 12: Sex Issue (1981).
- Davis, Madeline and Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy "Oral History and the Study of
Sexuality in the lesbian Community: Buffalo, New York, 1940-1960" in Hidden
From History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus & George
Chauncey (eds.), New York: Penguin Books. (p.426-40). Reprinted from Feminist Studies 12, no.1
(Spring 1986): 7-26.
- Ina Rimpau & Carolyn Gammon "Cir and Yolanda: An Interview" in The persistent
Desire, J. Nestle (ed.): 147-68.
- M. Davis, A. Hollibaugh and J. Nestle "The Femme Tapes" in The Persistent Desire, J.
Nestle (ed.) 255-67. Reprinted from Pleasure and Danger, Carol S. Vance (ed.), Boston: Routledge
& Kegan Paul, 1984.
- M. Davis "Roles I don't Know Anyone who's `playing': A letter to my femme sisters"
in The Persistent Desire, J. Nestle (ed.) 268-269.
- J. Nestle "My woman poppa" in The Persistent Desire, J. Nestle (ed.): 348-50. Reprinted
from Lesbian Love Stories, Irene Zahava (ed.), CA: Crossing Press, 1989.
- Duggan, Lisa and Kathleen McHugh, "A Fem(me)inist Manifesto" Women and
Performance, special issue, Queer Acts," Jose Munoz and Amanda Barrett, 8:2, no.16 (1996): 150-60.
- Rubin, Gayle "Of Catamites and Kings: Reflections on Butch, Gender and Boundaries"
in The Persistent Desire, J. Nestle (ed.) 446-82.
- Brown, Jan " Sex , lies and Penetration: A Butch Finally `fesses up'" in The Persistent
Desire, J. Nestle (ed.) 410-15. Reprinted from Out/Look: A National Lesbian and Gay Quarterly,
- Johnson, Mykel. " Butchy femme" in The Persistent Desire, J. Nestle (ed.) 395-98.
- Findley, Heather. "Freud's Fetishism and the Lesbian Dildo Debates" in Out in Culture,
Corey Creekmur and Alexander Doty (eds.), Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. (328-42). Reprinted from
Feminist Studies 18.3 (fall 1992): 563-579.
- Loulan, JoAnn with Sherry Thomas, Ch 8 "The Dish: What 589 Lesbians Say" in The
Lesbian Erotic Dance: Butch-Femme and Other Rhythms, CA: Spinster Book Co.,
- Inness, Sherrie and Michele Lloyd "G.I. Joes in Barbie Land: Recontextualizing Butch in
Twentieth-Century Lesbian Culture" in Queer Studies, B. Beemyn and L. Eliason (eds.).
- Cvetkovich, Ann "Recasting Receptivity" in Lesbian Erotica, Karla Jay (ed.), New York:
New York University Press, 1995.
- Week 5: Transgender/sexual Identities and the Significance of Embodiment
- Feinberg, Leslie " To be or Not to Be" in The Columbia Reader on Lesbians & Gay Men
in the Media, Society and Politics, Larry Gross & James Woods (eds.), NY: Columbia U. Press,
(1999):112-117. Reprinted from Transgender Worriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Rupaul by
Leslie Feinberg, Boston: Beacon, (1996): 101-107, 192 (notes).
- Cromwell, Jason. Ch.2 "Transsexual Discourses and the Language of Identification"(19-
30, 160-162 (notes) and Ch.9 "Queering the Binaries: Transsituated Identities, Bodies and Sexualities"
(p.122-136, 168-171 (notes) in Transmen and FTMs, Urbana: University of Illinos Press, 1999.
- Prosser, Jay "Judith Butler: Queer Feminism, Transgender, and the Transubstantiation of
Sex" in A Skin of One's Own, New York: Columbia University Press, (1998): 21-60, 238-342
- Kessler, Suzanne `Creating Goodlooking Genitals in the Service of Gender' in Duberman
- Butler, Judith. "Doing justice to someone: sex reassignment and allegories of
transsexuality" GLQ: J. of Lesbian ad Gay Studies, 7.4, 2001.
- Feinberg, Leslie Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come, NY:
Worldview Forum, 1992.
- Week 6: The Discourse on Male Lesbians: How do We Understand Male Lesbian Identities or
- Zita, Jacquelyn. "Male lesbians and the postmodern body" in Hypatia 7, no.4 (1992):
- Reid-Pharr, R.F. "Living as a Lesbian" in Black Gay Man, New York: New York
University Press, (2000) 153-163.
- Gaudio, Rudolf. "Male Lesbians and Other Queer Notions in Hausa" in Boy Wives and
Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities, Murray, Stephen and Will Roscoe (eds.), New
York: Palgrave, (1998): 115-128.
- Schor, Naomi " Male Lesbianism"in GLQ: J. of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 7.3, 2001.
- Week 7: Bisexuality Identities
- Daumer, Elizabeth "Queer ethics, or, the challenge of bisexuality to lesbian ethics" in
Hypathia Special Issue: Lesbian Philosophy, Claudia Card (ed.), vol.7, no. 4, Fall (1992): 45-58.
- Bower, Tamara "Bisexual Women, Feminist Politics" in Bisexual Politics: Theories,
Queries & Visions, Naomi Tucker with Liz Highleyman and Rebecca Kaplan (eds.), New York: Harrington
Park Press, (1995): 99-107.
- Wilson, Ara "Just Add Water: Searching for the Bisexual Politic" in The Columbia
Reader on Lesbians & Gay Men in the Media, Society and Politics, Larry Gross & James Woods (eds.),
NY: Columbia U. Press, (1999): 108-112. Reprinted from Out/Look, 16:22, (1992): 24-28.
- Week 8: Straight with a Twist
- Thomas, Calvin. "Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of
Heterosexuality" in Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality,
Thomas, Calvin, Joseph Aimone and Catherine MaeGillivray, Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
(2000): 11-44. Earlier version appeared in Genders 26 (1997): 83-115.
- Smith, Clyde "How I Became a Queer Heterosexual" in Straight with a Twist, Calvin
Thomas et al. (p. 60-67)
- Eng, David. "Heterosexuality in the Face of Whiteness: Divided belief in M. Butterfly"
in Q & A: Queer in Asian America, David Eng and Alice Hom (eds.), PA: Temple
University Press, (1998): 335-365.
- Sedgwick, Eve. "Is the Rectum Straight" in Tendencies, Durham: Duke U. Press, 1993.
- Fuertsch, Jacqueline. "In Theory if not in Practice: Straight Feminism's Lesbian
Experience" in Straight with a Twist, Calvin Thomas et al (eds.).
- Week 9-11: Queer Theory and Gender, Race-Ethnicity and Class
- Somerville, Siobhan "Scientific Racism and the Invention of the Homosexual Body in
American Culture" in Queer Studies, B. Beemyn and L. Eliason (eds.): 241-261. Reprint from J.
of the History of Sexuality 5, no.2 (October 1994): 243-66.
- Moraga, Cherrie "Queer Aztlan: The Reformation of the Chicano Tribe" in The Last
Generation: Prose and Poetry, Boston: South End Press, 1993: 145-74. Reprinted
in Material Queer: A LesBiGay Cultural Studies Reader, Donald Morton (ed.), Westview Press,
- Blackwood, Evelyn "Sexuality and Gender in Certain Native American Tribes: The Case
of Cross-Gender Females" in The Lesbian Issue: Essays from Signs, Estelle Freedman et al.
(eds.), Chicago: University of Chicago, (1982): 27-42. Reprinted from Signs: J. of Women in Culture
and Society 1, no. 1 (Autumn 1984): 27-42.
- Harris, Laura Alexandra "Queer black feminism: the pleasure principle" Feminist
Review, no. 54, Autumn 1996:3-30.
- Hammonds, Evelyn "Black (W)holes and the Geometry of black Female Sexuality" in
Feminism Meets Queer Theory, E. Weed and N. Schor (eds.), Bloomington, Indiana (1997): 136-156.
Reprinted from Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, v. 6 (summer/fall) 1994.
- Hanawa, Yukiko "Inciting Sites of Political Intervention: Queer'n Asian" in A Queer
World: The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, Martin Duberman (ed.), (1997): 39-62. Another
version appears in Positions: east asian cultures 4, no. 3 (Winter 1996).
- Dhairyam, Sagri "Racing the Lesbian, Dodging White Critics" in Lesbian Postmodern,
Laura Doan (ed.), NY: Columbia U. Press, (1994): 25-40.
- Goldman, Ruth "Who is that Queer Queer? Exploring Norms around Sexuality, Race and
Class in Queer Theory" in Queer Studies: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Anthology, Brett
Beemyn and Mickey Eliason (eds.), NY: New York U. Press (1996): 169-182 .
- Morton, Donald "Pataphysics of the Closet: Queer Theory as the art of Imaginary
Solutions for Unimaginary Problems," in Marxism, Queer Theory, Gender Zavarzadeh, Masud, Teresa
Ebert & Donald Morton (eds.), NY: Red Factory, (2001) 1-70. Reprinted from Transformation 2:
Marxist Boundary Work in Theory, Economics, Politics and Culture, Special Issue Marxism, Queer Theory,
- Anzaldua, Gloria "To(o) Queer the Writer-Loca, Escritora y Chicano in Inversions:
Writings from Dykes, Queers and Lesbians, Betsy Warland (ed.), Vancouver: Vancouver Press, 1991.
- Week 12: Sadomasochism and Gender Performances
- Califia, Pat " A Secret Side of Lesbian Sexuality", "Feminism and Sadomasochism,"
"Genderbending: Playing Roles and Reversals," "Gay Men, Lesbians and Sex: Doing It Together" in Public
Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex, PA: Cleis Press, (1994): 157-189.
- Bersani, Leo "The Gay Daddy" in Homos, MA:Harvard U. Press, (1995): 77-112, 193-97
- Duncan, Patricia " Identity, Power, and Difference: Negotiating Conflict in an S/M Dyke
Community" in Queer Studies, B. Beemyn and M. Eliason (eds.): 87-114.
- Baron, Bat-Ami "The feminist `sexuality debates' and the transformation of the political"
Hypathia, special issue: Lesbian Philosophy, fall (1992): 45-58.
- Phelan, Shane " Sadomasochism and the Meaning of Feminism" in Identity Politics:
Lesbian Feminism and the Limits of Community, PA: Temple University Press, (1989): 99-133.
- Week 13: Cross-generational Sex
- Plummer, Ken "Understanding childhood sexualities" Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 20,
no. 1/ 2, 1990: 231-248.
- Thorstad, David "Man/boy love and the American gay movement" J. of Homosexuality,
vol. 1/ 2, 1990: 251-274.
- Rind, Bruce, Philip Tromovitch and Robert Bauserman "A meta-analytic examination of
assumed properties of child sexual abuse using college samples" Psychological Bulletin, 1998, vol.
124, no. 1, 22-53.
- Sax, Marjan and Sjuul Deckwitz "Editor's introduction: when you change the gender,
reality changes too"" Paidika: Journal of Paedophilia, Special Women's Issue 8 vol. 2, no.4,
Winter, 1994: 2-14.
- "Interview: Judith" Paidika: Journal of Paedophilia, Special Women's Issue 8 vol. 2,
no.4, Winter, 1994: 15
- "Interview Heidi" Paidika: Journal of Paedophilia, Special Women's Issue 8 vol. 2, no.4,
Winter, 1994: 27-29.
- Wekker, Gloria "Girl, it's boobies you're getting, no? Creole women in Surinam and the
erotic relationships with children and adolescents: some impressions" Paidika: Journal of Paedophilia,
Special Women's Issue 8 vol. 2, no.4, Winter, 1994:43-48.
- Blasius, Mark "Sexual revolution and the liberation of children: an interview with Kate
Millet by Mark Blasius," Paidika: Journal of Paedophilia, Special Women's Issue 8 vol. 2, no.4,
Winter, 1994:83-85. Reprint from an untitled interview appearing in "loving boys" Semiotext(e),
Special Intervention Series #2, Summer 1980.
- Week 14: Other Queers
Midterm: Oct. 29
Students can elect to do a group (3-4 persons) paper. In this case there will be a group evaluation. The
assignment will be based on a critical and analytic examination of a question or issue that emerges
through the readings. I will identify a question or a set of questions that would be the basis of the
group project. Students are allowed to recommend questions, issues and problems. Alternatively, an
individual student can select an issue that emerges from the readings for a paper. A one page narrative
outline should be submitted for approval. Individual papers should be limited to 10-12 pages (12 pt.,
double-spaced). Group papers should be limited to 20-25 pages. Groups are encouraged to make
presentations limited to 20 minutes. Presentations are not part of the mid-term grade.
Final: Dec. 12
The final will consist of an individual term paper (10-12 pages, 12 pt. Double-spaced). Each
student is required to submit a one page narrative outline of the paper for approval. The paper should be
analytical (not simply descriptive) and address a problem or issue that emerges in the course of the
Course Grade: mid-term paper (50%) and final paper (50%)
Attendance: no grade penalty for non-attendance.
Participation: Students are expected to attend classes regularly and discuss readings.
Academic Honesty: See Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities 2001-2002.