The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3

By John Clement Ball | Go to book overview

Q

Queer/Alternative
Sexualities in Fiction
CHERYL STOBIE

Over the twentieth century there was an increasing representation of queer/alternative sexualities in world fiction, dealing with such matters as homophobia, the normativity of heterosexuality, and gender issues. This burgeoning was made possible by the globalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)’ studies. Latterly, representations of alternative sexualities in world fiction have highlighted the effects of colonialism on the construction of sexuality, expanded and nuanced ideas of contemporary sexuality as developed in the West, and reconstructed culturally specific sexualities.

The word “queer” was originally used in the early twentieth century to refer pejoratively to people who were, or were suspected of being, homosexual, and this meaning still persists. From the 1960s on, gay and lesbian communities developed in the West, drawing inspiration from gay liberation and feminist scholarship. Some individuals later reclaimed the word “queer” as positive in two senses: as an umbrella term to refer to nonheterosexual people and as a movement beyond the identity politics of gay and lesbian studies, a shift that focused instead on questioning the notion of fixed sexual identities and the perception of heterosexuality as normative. Michel Foucault, Teresa de Lauretis, Gloria Anzaldua, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, and Michael Warner contributed significantly to the development of queer theory from the 1970s to the 1990s.

While the term “queer” is a contested one in the West and in the postcolonial world, as defined and refined by queer theorists it has various advantages: it opposes the privileging of heterosexuality, sees sexuality as constructed, understands variant sexualities in specific cultural contexts, and simultaneously perceives differences between these local manifestations and similarities between them in a global context. This global queer theory attempts to be sensitive to specific cultural matrices of “queerness,” and academics from privileged societies are increasingly aware of the dangers of canonization and appropriation of queer literature from the postcolonial world. During the colonial encounter a range of indigenous sexual practices and identities were regulated, pathologized, and stigmatized by political and legal authorities as well as religious leaders within the Christian and Islamic traditions. In the postcolonial era these modified practices and identities still do not fit neatly into the Western LGBT paradigm. Homophobia is rife and state-sanctioned in many societies; in the case of Africa, for instance, the appellation “un-African” is used as a means of controlling variant sexualities, and punitive behavior includes beating, rape, and even murder. Fiction from postcolonial societies may be less explicit about sexualities than Western fiction; it may include homophobic judgments; and it may contain relatively veiled or coded references to queer sexuality. It may also appear courageous and fresh in its representation of fluid sexualities that do not conform to Western tropes such as the coming-out narrative. Because of prevalent gender inequality, women may publish less queer fiction than their male counterparts.

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The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editors i
  • The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Literature WWW.Literatureencyclopedia.Com ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Notes on Contributors to Volume III xv
  • Introduction to Volume III 937
  • A 942
  • B 980
  • C 995
  • D 1034
  • E 1052
  • F 1066
  • G 1094
  • H 1121
  • I 1145
  • J 1154
  • K 1167
  • L 1180
  • M 1198
  • N 1252
  • O 1270
  • P 1277
  • Q 1296
  • R 1300
  • S 1325
  • T 1365
  • U 1370
  • V 1373
  • W 1378
  • Z 1398
  • Index 1400
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