Queer Anachronisms: Reimagining Lesbian History in Performance

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Early queer theory scholars such as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1990), Teresa de Lauretis (1991) and Judith Butler (1993) advocated queer’s numerous benefits for lesbian identity, representation and visibility. In 1996, however, lesbian, feminist and theatre scholar Sue-Ellen Case retracted her endorsement of queer theory claiming that ‘queer has led to the term “lesbian” being evacuated’ (1996: 1). The same year, Suzanna Danuta Walters posited that ‘[q]ueer discourse sets up a universal (male) subject, or at least a universal gay male subject, as its implicit referent’ (1996: 846). Yet, nearly 20 years after Case and Walters vocalised their critiques, a significant proportion of queer scholarship continues to focus on, or draw from, male experience. Valerie Traub highlights the value of focusing on lesbian subjectivity in her chapter on performing lesbian history. She asserts that lesbianism should be placed ‘centre stage — not to enforce a politics of identity, but to destabilise some long-standing theatrical conventions and to activate the queer potential of today’s global audience’ (2002: 38). This claim raises the stakes for the potential of ‘performing lesbian’ and harks back to Jill Dolan’s assertion that the lesbian subject is ‘the most radical position from which to subvert representation’ (1988: 119).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQueer Dramaturgies
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-41184-6
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-57028-7
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2016


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