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The Lesbian Premodern or More Theory Than You Can Shake a Stick At

Monday, November 27, 2017 - 07:00

This collection centers around the general problem that it is anachronistic and unhistoric to pursue “pre-modern lesbians” from a desire for identity and connection, but that without this desire, the forces and filters of heteronormativity, sexism, and anti-identitarianism work to erase or dismiss the historic data that an identitarian approach is ideally suited to uncover. Historiography challenges the modern lesbian to ask “who or what would I be if I were born in a different era?” And to recognize that individual personal identity is not as fixed as current fashion holds it to be. The foundation of late 20th/early 21st centuery queer identity is the concept of “born that way”--that our identities are intrinsic, immutable, and essential. But the consequence of this position is to say that, if we cannot find “us” in the past, exactly as we are, then we didn’t exist in the past and have no history at all.

If I were to follow my usual schedule of one LHMP post per week, this book would hold me for the next four months! And while that’s tempting because of both the end-of-year holidays and the unknown added workload in January and beyond to deal with the podcast story submissions, I think that would be entirely too long to give my readers a steady diet of historical theory. So I’m doubling up and posting entries on both Mondays and Thursdays through the end of January 2018. Many of these entries will be fairly brief, as the theoretical discussions are difficult to summarize for  my intended audience. But the structure of the blog drives me to cover them all, one at a time, so this seems the best compromise.

Major category: 
Full citation: 

Lochrie, Karma. 2011. “Preface” in The Lesbian Premodern ed. by Noreen Giffney, Michelle M. Sauer & Diane Watt. Palgrave, New York. ISBN 978-0-230-61676-9

Publication summary: 


A collection of papers addressing the question of what the place of premodern historical studies have in relation to the creation and critique of historical theories, and especially to the field of queer studies.

Lochrie, Karma. 2011. “Preface”

Lochrie expresses uneasiness with the premise of the collection--that there is such a thing as “lesbian” in the pre-modern era. She suggests that heteronormativity does not exist across time but is a modern/post-modern phenomenon. This collection operates within a general critique of historicism, chronology, and periodization. It questions the idea that pre-modern scholarship constitutes a type of historical theory in itself.