Overview (Critical Survey of Poetry: Topical Essays)
The mode of literary and cultural analysis known as queer theory was established in the early 1990’s as an outgrowth of numerous theoretical developments from the twentieth century covered by the broad umbrella of poststructuralism. Queer theory began as a reaction to a series of binary distinctions it has questioned, challenged, or outright denied, including male versus female, sex versus gender, nature versus nurture, and heterosexual versus homosexual. The term “queer,” as a word of indeterminate meaning and with negative connotations, reinforces the challenges it brings to the texts under investigation. In practice, queer theory demands repeated, nearly infinite, reevaluation of the standard that is established or assumed by texts both literary and cultural. Queer theory is complex, playful, and elusive, making it difficult both to comprehend and to apply, causing some concern about its viability. Because forcing confrontation to expose power relationships is part of its mission, and because it proceeds by testing arguments rather than positing them, queer theory has proven largely indifferent to such accusations.