Genealogical Exercises

  • Lorenzo Bernini


From the nineteenth century, in English, “queer” is used as a pejorative epithet against homosexual men. It comes from the German “quer,” which, in turn, is derived from the Latin verb “torquere,” meaning “transverse,” “diagonal” or “slanting.” “Queer” is thus the opposite of “straight” and—since heterosexuality is traditionally associated with moral rectitude—“heterosexual.” It can literally be translated into Italian as “storto” [“crooked”], “strano” [“strange”], “bizzarro” [“bizarre”], but semantically, queer is equivalent to “checca” [“fairy”] or “frocio” [“faggot”]. Different genealogies of queer theories are possible that pass through the histories of slavery, racial violence and critical race studies (Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, Hortense Spillers), but in the academic sphere, the first one to be generally credited with putting the adjective “queer” next to the noun “theory” is Teresa de Lauretis (1991), who in February of 1990 held a conference at the University of Santa Cruz (California) entitled “Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities.” The expression “queer theory” does not appear instead in the two books published that same year which are often considered the inaugural texts of queer philosophy and queer cultural studies, respectively: Gender Trouble by Judith Butler and Epistemology of the Closet by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. In order to find the philosophical origins of these American academic queer theories, however, one must go even further back in time, to at least 1976, when The Will to Knowledge, the first volume of Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, was published in France. It served in fact as a fundamental reference for de Lauretis, Butler, Kosofsky Sedgwick and all the scholars that followed and continued to develop critical scholarship about sexuality.


Sexual Minority Sexual Identity Queer Theory Sexual Revolution Pleasure Principle 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorenzo Bernini
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VeronaVeronaItaly

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