Queer Reading List from Bloomsbury

The literary scene has not always been welcoming to queer voices. Pushed to the margins, our queer discourses were, until not long ago, carried out through fleeting conversations, through word of mouth, profoundly oral. The birth of the field of queer theory has changed this. We can now write about our experiences and immortalize our memories, and histories, in written text. Our discourses are being carried on through this literature. All five of the recommendations below, published by Bloomsbury, are in constant dialogue with each other. Writing is, to quote the editors of Queer Cities, Queer Cultures, ‘as much a personal as a communal affair’. The texts weave in history, sociology, fiction, testimony, archival material, and more. They carry out their Foucauldian task of seeking meanings of our present queerness through investigations of past queerness, across international borders. None of them pretend to be all-encompassing; they all admit that they are mere starting points for the sheer mass of queer materials still waiting to be discussed. The field of queer theory is still marginal, but the very presence of the books to follow shows that there is interest to expand the hegemonic literary scene. Here are a few of my recommendations.

Readers in Cultural Criticism: Queer Theory (2005), ed. Iain Morland and Dino Willox

Morland and Willox’s 2005 anthology of queer cultural criticism introduces itself with the self-referential question ‘What makes theory queer?’. The collected essays which follow all explore, in some way or another, this question of the purpose and the practice of queer theory and criticism. Why is there a need for an academic space dedicated to queer identities, identities which are often born and flourish in spaces outside of the hegemonic world theory, and are rooted in lived experience? Who is this queer theory really for? The anthology includes essays, testimonies, interviews, and short stories, featuring some of the pioneering voices of queer studies, from Marjorie Garber to Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick, Del LaGrace Volcano, and, of course, Judith Butler. What emerges is not a stuffy collection of incomprehensible, ‘hard’, theory, but a wider cultural palimpsest that sits on the cusp of academic discourse and lived experience. We are given insight into an array of queer experiences, such as an interview with Cherly Chase on intersex identity and discrimination in the healthcare system to William J. Slurpin’s analysis of Princess Diana as a ‘gay icon’, as well as discussions of body politics, queer historiography, and activism during the AIDS epidemic. The voices represented in the anthology establish, as Mandy Marck acknowledges in the afterword, a ‘perpetual dialogue between sexual identity and its critique’.


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