chapter
Comparatively lesbian
Queer/feminist theory and the sexuality of history
BySusan S. Lanser
Pages 6

This chapter argues that the period of reform, revolution, and reaction that characterized seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe also witnessed an intensified discursive interest in lesbians. “Comparatively lesbian” approach would open the relatively uncharted study of queer male and female representations in tandem and would also embrace cultural differences of concept, practice, situation, signification, and terminology. Gayatri Gopinath’s Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures, for example, eschews the word “lesbian” for what she calls the “queer female diasporic subject,” and from that position starts to provide the comparative basis for understanding how different queer female subjects can be understood. As Annamarie Jagose argues in Inconsequence, such a reclamation would push back against the cultural production of lesbianism as “anachronistic,” “imitative,” and “second-best,” a position that might be understood as a defense against the difficult knowledge that all categories of “sexual registration” are necessarily derivative and belated.