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The New Unhistoricism in Queer Studies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


In the name of “homohistory,” “queer temporality,” and “unhistoricism,” some early modernists have accused queer historicists of promoting a normalizing view of sexuality, history, and time. These early modernists announce their critique of the “straight temporality” allegedly caused by a framework of teleology as a decisive break from previous methods of queer history. Using the accusation of teleology as an analytic fulcrum, this essay scrutinizes these scholars' assumptions regarding temporality, representation, periodization, empiricism, and historical change. Ascertaining the conceptual work that the allegation of teleology performs, I reconsider the meanings and uses of the concept queer, as well as homo and hetero, in the context of historical inquiry. I also assess some of the affordances of psychoanalysis and deconstruction for the history of sexuality. At stake are not only our emerging understandings of the relations between chronology and teleology, sequence and consequence, but also some of the fundamental purposes and destinations of queering.

Research Article
Copyright © 2013 by The Modern Language Association of America

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