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Queer

Mallan, Kerry M. (2011) Queer. In Nel, Philip & Paul, Lissa (Eds.) Keywords for Children's Literature. New York University Press, New York.

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Abstract

The word “queer” is a slippery one; its etymology is uncertain, and academic and popular usage attributes conflicting meanings to the word. By the mid-nineteenth century, “queer” was used as a pejorative term for a (male) homosexual. This negative connotation continues when it becomes a term for homophobic abuse. In recent years, “queer” has taken on additional uses: as an all encompassing term for culturally marginalised sexualities – gay, lesbian, trans, bi, and intersex (“GLBTI”) – and as a theoretical strategy which deconstructs binary oppositions that govern identity formation. Tracing its history, the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the earliest references to “queer” may have appeared in the sixteenth century. These early examples of queer carried negative connotations such as “vulgar,” “bad,” “worthless,” “strange,” or “odd” and such associations continued until the mid-twentieth century. The early nineteenth century, and perhaps earlier, employed “queer” as a verb, meaning to “to put out of order,” “to spoil”, “to interfere with”. The adjectival form also began to emerge during this time to refer to a person’s condition as being “not normal,” “out of sorts” or to cause a person “to feel queer” meaning “to disconcert, perturb, unsettle.” According to Eve Sedgwick (1993), “the word ‘queer’ itself means across – it comes from the Indo-European root – twerkw, which also yields the German quer (traverse), Latin torquere (to twist), English athwart . . . it is relational and strange.” Despite the gaps in the lineage and changes in usage, meaning and grammatical form, “queer” as a political and theoretical strategy has benefited from its diverse origins. It refuses to settle comfortably into a single classification, preferring instead to traverse several categories that would otherwise attempt to stabilise notions of chromosomal sex, gender and sexuality.

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ID Code: 31391
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Queer, gay, homosexuality, children's literature
ISBN: 9780814758557
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Literary Studies not elsewhere classified (200599)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Past > Schools > School of Cultural & Language Studies in Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 New York University Press
Deposited On: 22 Mar 2010 08:08
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2011 14:12

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