Queer studies: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Queer studies is the critical theory based study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity usually focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and cultures. Universities have also labeled this area of analysis Sexual Diversity Studies, Sexualities Studies or LGBTQ Studies (Q for "Questioning"). Queer has traditionally meant odd or unusual, but its use in reference to LGBT communities, as well as those perceived to be members of those communities, has largely replaced the traditional definition and application.

Originally centered on LGBT history and literary theory, the field has expanded to include the academic study of issues raised in biology, sociology, anthropology, the history of science,[1] philosophy, psychology, political science, ethics, and other fields by an examination of the identity, lives, history, and perception of queer people. Marianne LaFrance, the former chair of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale University,[2] says, "Now we're asking not just 'What causes homosexuality?' [but also] 'What causes heterosexuality?' and 'Why is sexuality so central in some people's perspective?'"[1]

Founding scholar Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Queer studies is not the same as queer theory, an analytical viewpoint within queer studies (centered on literary studies and philosophy) that challenges the putatively "socially constructed" categories of sexual identity.[1]



Though a "young discipline," a growing number of colleges have begun offering academic programs related to sex, sexuality, and sexual orientation.[3] There are currently over 40 certificate and degree granting programs with at least five institutions in the United States offering an undergraduate major; a growing number of similar courses are offered in countries other than the United States. In 2003, the most substantial programs were noted to be at City College of San Francisco, the City University of New York, University of California, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and New York University.[1] Other colleges that provide degrees in the discipline include Yale University, University of California, Los Angeles, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Maryland, DePaul University, St. Andrews University, and California State University Northridge.

Founding scholars in what has come to be called queer studies include Michel Foucault, Andrew Jeffers, Judith Butler, Alan Bray, David Halperin, Audre Lorde, John Boswell, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Halberstam. Precisely because of some of its major strands of analysis and work on public perception, a great emphasis is placed on the integration of theory and practice, with many programs encouraging community service work, community involvement, and activist work in addition to academic reading and research.

Techniques in queer studies include the search for queer influences and themes in works of literature; the analysis of political currents linking the oppression of women, racialized groups, and disadvantaged classes with that of queer people; and the search for queer figures and trends in history that queer studies scholars view as having been ignored and excluded from the canon[citation needed].

Professor Kevin Floyd has argued that the formative arguments for Marxism and those that have been the basis for queer theory should be reformulated to examine the dissociation of sexuality from gender at the beginning of the twentieth century in terms of reification, and to claim that this dissociation is one aspect of a larger dynamic of social reification enforced by capitalism.[4]


Lesbian and gay studies originated in the 1970s with the publication of several "seminal works of gay history. Inspired by African American studies, women's studies, and similar identity-based academic fields that came out of the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, the initial emphasis was on "uncovering the suppressed history of gay and lesbian life;" it also made its way into literature departments, where the emphasis was on literary theory.[1] Queer theory soon developed, challenging the "socially constructed" categories of sexual identity.[1]

The first undergraduate course in the United States on LGBTQ studies was taught at the University of California, Berkeley in the spring of 1970.[5] It was followed by similar courses in the fall of 1970 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL).[5] The UNL course, taught by Louis Crompton, led to the introduction in the state legislature of a bill (eventually defeated) which would have banned all discussion of homosexuality in that state's universities and colleges.[5] According to Harvard University, the City University of New York began the first university program in gay and lesbian studies in 1986.[3][6] The City College of San Francisco claims to be the "First Queer Studies Department in the U.S.,"[7] with English instructor Dan Allen having developed one of the first gay literature courses in the country in Fall 1972, and the college establishing what it calls "the first Gay and Lesbian Studies Department in the United States" in 1989.[8] Then-department chair Jonathan David Katz was the first tenured faculty in queer studies in the country.[2]

Historians John Boswell and Martin Duberman made Yale University a notable center of lesbian and gay studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Each published several books on gay history; Boswell held three biennial conferences on the subject at the university, and Duberman sought to establish a center for lesbian and gay studies there in 1985.[1] However, Boswell died in 1994, and in 1991 Duberman left for the City University of New York, where he founded its influential Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies.[1] A 1993 alumnus gift evolved into the faculty committee-administered Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies, which developed a listing of courses relevant to lesbian and gay studies called the "Pink Book" and established a small lending library named for Boswell. The committee began to oversee a series of one-year visiting professorships in 1994.[1]

Yale-Kramer controversy

In 1997, writer and AIDS activist Larry Kramer offered his alma mater Yale $4 million (and his personal papers) to endow a permanent, tenured professorship in gay studies, and possibly build a gay and lesbian student center.[6][9] His requirements were specific, as Yale was to use the money solely for "1) the study of and/or instruction in gay male literature..." including a tenured position, "and/or 2) the establishment of a gay student center at Yale..." [6]

With gender, ethnic and race-related studies still relatively new, then-Yale provost Alison Richard said that gay and lesbian studies was too narrow a specialty for a program in perpetuity,[6] indicating a wish to compromise on some of the conditions Kramer had asserted.[6] Negotiations broke down as Kramer, frustrated by what he perceived to be "homophobic" resistance, condemned the university in a front page story in The New York Times.[6][9] According to Kramer, he subsequently received letters from more than 100 institutions of higher learning "begging me to consider them."[6]

In 2001, Yale accepted a $1 million grant from his older brother, money manager Arthur Kramer, to establish the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies.[1][10] The 5-year program aimed to bring in visiting faculty, host conferences and lectures, and coordinate academic endeavors in lesbian and gay studies.[1][10] Jonathan David Katz assumed the role of executive coordinator in 2002; in 2003 he commented that while women's studies or African American studies have been embraced by American universities, lesbian and gay studies have not.[1] He blamed institutionalised fear of alienating alumni of private universities, or legislators who fund public ones.[1] The Larry Kramer Initiative ended in 2006.

In June 2009, Harvard University announced that it will establish an endowed chair in LGBT studies.[3][6][11] Believing the post to be "the first professorship of its kind in the country,"[6] Harvard President Drew G. Faust called it “an important milestone.”[3][11] Funded by a $1.5 million gift from the members and supporters of the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus,[12] the F. O. Matthiessen Visiting Professorship of Gender and Sexuality is named for a mid-20th century gay Harvard American studies scholar and literary critic[3][11] who chaired the undergraduate program in history and literature.[3] Harvard Board of Overseers member Mitchell L. Adams said, “This is an extraordinary moment in Harvard’s history and in the history of this rapidly emerging field ... And because of Harvard’s leadership in academia and the world, this gift will foster continued progress toward a more inclusive society.”[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Branch, Mark Alden (April 2003). "Back in the Fold". Yale Alumni Magazine. YaleAlumniMagazine.com. http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/03_04/kramer.html. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale". Yale.edu (Internet Archive). March 13, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070313094818/http://www.yale.edu/lesbiangay/Pages/Academic/Faculty.html. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Jan, Tracy (June 3, 2009). "Harvard to endow professorship in gay studies". The Boston Globe. Boston.com. http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/06/harvard_to_endo.html. Retrieved June 3, 2009. 
  4. ^ Floyd, Kevin (2009). The Reification of Desire: Toward a Queer Marxism. University of Minnesota Press. 
  5. ^ a b c McNaron, Toni A.H. Poisoned Ivy: Lesbian and Gay Academics Confronting Homophobia. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997. ISBN 1566394880
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Steinberg, Jacques (June 3, 2009). "Harvard to Endow Chair in Gay Studies". The New York Times. NYTimes.com. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/education/04harvard.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=harvard%20gay%20lesbian%20caucus&st=cse. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  7. ^ "CCSF Educational Programs: Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Studies Department". CCSF.edu. http://www.ccsf.edu/Departments/Gay_Lesbian_Bisexual_Studies/department_history.html. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  8. ^ "CCSF Educational Programs: Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Studies Department - History". CCSF.edu. http://www.ccsf.edu/Departments/Gay_Lesbian_Bisexual_Studies/department_history.html. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  9. ^ a b Arenson, Karen W. (July 9, 1997). "Writing Own Script, Yale Refuses Kramer's Millions for Gay Studies". The New York Times. NYTimes.com. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9503EED61539F93AA35754C0A961958260. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Arenson, Karen W. (April 2, 2001). "Gay Writer And Yale Finally Agree On Donation". The New York Times. NYTimes.com. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04EEDF113FF931A35757C0A9679C8B63. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  11. ^ a b c Associated Press (June 3, 2009). "Harvard to Endow Chair in Gay, Lesbian Studies". FOXNews.com. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,525024,00.html. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  12. ^ "Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus: F. O. Matthiessen Visiting Professorship of Gender and Sexuality". HGLC.org. http://hglc.org/matthiessen.html. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 

Further reading

  • Dynes, Wayne R. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. New York and London, Garland Publishing, 1990
  • McRuer, Robert (2006). "Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability", New York University Press.

External links

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity


Preface to the Course

This course page on wikiversity was started as a project of students at UC Davis enrolled in Spring quarter 2007's Queer Studies course (March 28-June 9, 2007). It is our hope that with the work put in by our class and that of others, we can create a very informative page. The page is an alternative to our current course with additions, changes, and current aspects of the course that describe "queer studies" for us as students. Not only is this a course, it is a project. It is our course on queer, constructed how we see it. Please keep in mind as you read our various contributions that this course is an alternative teaching of our current queer studies lecture taught at UC Davis and is not taken verbatim from our real queer studies course.

We have chosen, for this project, to add readings, videos, events, and other media we feel are relevant to the transmission of queer studies. As a disicipline, queer studies is multifaceted and has multiple meanings. Different students have different areas of interest, and materials will come from various places. In a sense, this wiki is not only our current course at UC Davis, but our interpretation of the course, additions, and changes we feel enhance our education as queer scholars.

Please also take note that queer studies attempts to alter systems and change boundaries. This is mentioned specifically because of the format the material for this course is being presented to you in. Wikiversity, while a very interesting and promising project, is also bound by a set of rules and notions do not sit well within queer. Because of this, some of the material we try to transmit through this medium may be distorted or difficult to present. We welcome any additions or changes to this course as an effort to make our queer learning experience as queer as possible.

  • (This course would benefit from a breakdown into subgroups of classes that would elaborate on topics which are speed through during WMS 170. The time that is alloted through our institution does not allow significant space to elaborate on issues. Rather it gives us a short amount of time to read a lot and leave us scrambling to catch up. Specifically there should be a class focused on media where a lot of different viewings of media, mainstream and those which are not mainstream , should be added. These viewings will show the struggle of creating a queer safe community within one which is distant towards 'strange ideas' that question their heteronormative ideals. Our class has far too many topics to cover and would benefit from an addition to another class which goes stays along the same subject matter as our course now. This would be beneficial to creating a space, because it helps identify how “our” class including “our” class’s topics is seen, portrayed and stereotyped outside of the academic world of journals and academia in general.)

Lecture Topics

Here we have provided important terms, constructs, discourses, and ideals that can be questioned by queer studies or are essential to the practice of queer.

Queer of color critique

Queer and disability

Heteronormativity and homonormativity

Power hierarchies


Avery, D. (2007). Isn't It Ironic?. HX, (814), 56-57.

This article along with a viewing of Ma Vie en Rose (a show on a non-mainstream outlet) along with one from one of the main network channels (ie Will & Grace) can be shown. The most vital part of information from these two shows is the comparison. Why is it that the article critiquing GLAAD’s decision to not honor the ‘gay networks’is important? Was their decision justified? Why is it that along with birth of cable there are now networks which are subject specific? Mainstream media, although one would like to think it’s extremely liberal and ‘progressive’, is limiting and censors actively issues which are 'difficult' to address within society. For instance, queer issues are going to be oppressed and censored until they are progressive enough to foster a good image, but not enough to stray away viewers(ie Will and Grace a successful lawyer and straight women cause every straight woman who always wants to make him straight?). Specifically, what are these three showing us? Is there a difference between what is accepted and what is not? What doesn’t fit into mainstream media and does not allow itself to be censored into mainstream media must be pushed out into other networks because then the network is not jeopardizing itself financially in order to be ‘progressive’. Is then a network really being ‘progressive’ when there is really nothing there to loose? What problems do here!, LOGO, and Q Television pose in comparison to major networks? The audiences are different and the safe spaces are created in a space that is exclusively for those who are already in acceptance or have knowledge of the space without questioning the norms. So are these networks really teaching us that as long as these norms are not questioned and these spaces lie in a place unnoticed then they are deemed acceptable?


Articles, essays, etc



Movies and Videos

Philadelphia should be an essential part to our curriculum because it shows the first successful attempt in mainstream media to question heteronormative partner norms, as well as combat an issue of addressing HIV as an issue which could potentially affect two same sexed male partners. This movie showed the real issues that came along with having HIV. How did it perpetuate stereotypes by also showing the issues that come along with HIV and same sex relationships? The scene where Tom Hank’s long life partner can not be with him at the hospital while the disease is taking over his body shows how 'family' definitions within society are problematic in same sex partnerships. It addresses the issues of who has the power to oppress people due to their heteronormative ideals of what a relationship should look like. Also, the fact that the two are even shown is crazy in the 90s. For instance, Public Service Announcements from MTV at this time prevention HIV jump around the subject of what causes HIV and rather the PSA shows a condom taking I walk along the wood floor past the cat onto a bed. It does not address the issues of why the condom is preventing HIV or who the audience should be. Now MTV shows real people giving testimonials for HIV and they also show people getting vaccienated however there must be issues at the forefront of these PSA's which are very mainstream oriented which must be addressed. The importance of Philadelphia is that it challenges in a time that the US was afraid of the HIV virus hetoronormative norms of being closed off to those that the issue affects due to the fact that it is invisible in the mainstream world.

MTV Networks Inc. http://www.mtv.com/thinkmtv/sexual_health/wad_2006/. May 13, 2007.


  • Day of Silence Was held this year on April 18, 2007. An annual event where participants do not speak in honor of the individuals in the LGBTQI community who are not allowed the full privileges of their voice because of their sexuality.

Other Media


Queer critiques can be applied to mainstream music in addition to the wealth of "queer friendly" or "queer conscious" music available.

  • Ani DiFranco "In Or Out" (lyrics) This song is about DiFranco's personal experience as a bisexual. I feel material like this is important to queer studies because bisexuals often get lost in the fervor of queer studies and its emphasis on queer texts. This song challenges both heteronormativity and homonormativity in the lines "Guess there's something wrong with me / Guess I don't fit in / No one wants to touch it / No one knows where to begin". By rejecting an either/or division of her sexuality, DiFranco presents herself as something people are not familiar with, something that is, essentially, queer.

Television Shows

The importance of these three shows relies on the possibilities which an actor has in their role. Ellen Degeneres a public 'out of the closet' lesbian carries by her agency in these shows under her belt. Due to her tremendous following (which brings big money opportunities in advertising for networks) her show comes along with a great deal of power over the networks who might try to censor her otherwise. For instance, as time passes her shows have cut down on the amount of political issues, yet they offer an important insight into the transgression of agency through media. The first one shows how she had the ability to bring up the issue of her being a lesbian while at the same time being an important character in popular media culture.However, after her show got taken off the air she got offered to do another show where she moves into urban space (Times Square Red Times Square Blue would be supplemental read in order to further elaborate on issues of space). She moves back in with her mother in a small town where most of the show revolves around her attempts to get acceptance into their space again. Finally, there is The Ellen Degeneres show which has given her a lot of opportunities to reach out to bigger audiences (ie when she hosted the Grammy's). Focusing on the importance of agency, actor hidden agendas as well as the importance of shows to dominant societal ideals is vital to understanding our space within space in genera.




See Also

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