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Lesbian and Gay Studies: A Critical Introduction, Andy Medhurst and Sally R. Munt (1997)

Is there anyone so spiritually dead as to fail to be overcome by a sense of almost transcendent, macro-cosmic awe when standing in the “Studies” section of a university library surrounded by hundreds of metres of shelving filled with books expensively produced from trees whose usefulness would have been infinitely greater and dignity far less insulted had they been turned into lavatory paper? I hope not. This is one of the books you might pull off those hundreds of metres of shelving. It should of course have been called Queer Studies: A Post-Critical Introduction, but the editors say in their introduction that they have difficulties around issues vis à vis this particularized discourse, or some such rubbish.

And by talking rubbish the introduction sets the stage perfectly for what is to come: pages and pages and pages of self-obsessed, semi-literate jargon and duckspeak, trivial where it isn’t meaningless and meaningless where it isn’t trivial:

Extract 1: The hybrid formations imagined by Deleuze and Guattari – not just the pre-oedipal mouth to the breast, but the pollen-seeking bee to the orchid – mean that sexual orientation has no script. There is, in a philosophy influenced by Deleuze and Guattari, no “homosexual” as such. But there is “homosexual production”, which, as Guy Hocquenghem writes, “takes place according to a mode of non-liminative horizontal relations” (Hocquenghem, 1978, pg. 95). Reading male homosexuality “against Oedipus”, as Deleuze and Guattari have taught him to do, the maverick French psychoanalyst Hocquenghem explains that the very idea of homosexual desire is meaningless: “Properly speaking, desire is no more homosexual than heterosexual. Desire exists in a multiple form, whose components are only divisible a posteriori [sic], according to how we manipulate it. Just like heterosexual desire, homosexual desire is an arbitrarily frozen frame in an unbroken and polyvocal flux.” (Hocquenghem, 1978, pg. 36)

Extract 2: In terms of the theoretical formations presently constructed against normative notions of a trans/gendered dichotomy of desire, we find Mangemerde writing (Mangemerde 1992, pg. 392) of a reconceptualized “centre” of selfhood, springing from a rhizomatic program of self re/definition. The obvious asymmetries of the “hydraulic” aspects of this proposal were challenged by Ledrosse and Pedobouche (Ledrosse and Pedobouche, 1974, pp. 456-8), who proposed that foundational aspects of queer identity be grounded instead in a centrifugal meta/narrative defined in terms of its oppositional reality…

But no, I’ve just got bored with making up that second extract. Like books – sorry, “texts” – in the rest of the studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies: A Critical Introduction is written in the stalest and most bourgeois of stale bourgeois dialects: Franco-American academese. Its only conceivable purpose is to justify the existence of Franco-American academics to other Franco-American academics and it has to be admitted that it serves that purpose well: there are many thousands of them all over the world now producing more and more of this. In fact there are computer programs able to produce it to order, but that, like all the other attempts to mock or undermine it, has merely demonstrated again its hydra-like vitality. The Emperors – and Empresses – have no clothes but snug inside their seminar rooms and queer-identity workshops they never notice.

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