Queer Literary Studies Term Paper

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Queer Theory and Oscar Wilde

Analysis of "Queer Theory" by Annamarie Jagose in relation to Dorian Gray's character in "The picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde

In her discussion of "Queer theory," author Annamarie Jagose provides a distinction between the concepts 'queer' and the dichotomous relationship between 'lesbian' and 'gay.' Jagose argued in her discussion of this theory that queer was a concept that had politically evolved through the years in relation to the proliferation of gay and lesbian studies.

What makes the queer concept vital to the study of gays and lesbians, as well as issues of homosexuality and heterosexuality is that it provides a 'gray area' in which no distinctions between male and female and gay and lesbian are found. Queer appeals to the 20th century philosophers and social scientists simply because it offers an avenue through which gender and sex can be discussed without the political inequality often found between male and female genders and the similarly dichotomous relationship between gays and lesbians. As Jagose had asserted, the queer concept was able to transcend the "natural sexuality" framework -- that is, "queer's transcendent disregard for dominant systems of gender" -- that society had often used as reference in order to fully understand the identity of an individual.

However, queer theory, as characterized earlier, remains a gray
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area of study for social scientists. This is because queer, if not found within the framework of male-female and gay lesbian dichotomies of gender, then it has no role in defining and shaping the course of gender politics. Jagose solved this dilemma by clarifying that queer theory has a more vital role than just simply being part of gender politics: it offers new opportunities to better understand identity formation and identification among humans. In this new light, the author considered queer as a "category in constant formation," wherein an individual reaches a phase where s/he becomes knowledgeable of the fact that "realization that its realization (i.e., transcendence of the heterosexual framework) remains impossible." However, the potential that queer theory would later become a new framework of identity formation that goes beyond gender/sex differences remains, although further elucidation on this 'promise' of queer theory had yet to be provided by Jagose, or from any social scientist or scholar of gender politics and identity formation.

Applying the concepts discussed in Jagose's queer theory in the context of Oscar Wilde's "The picture of Dorian Gray," the characterization described in the theory reflects the personality of the novel's protagonist, Dorian Gray. In the novel, Dorian was portrayed as a naive, beautiful, and innocent young man, with almost androgynous physical qualities that men and women both desire. Wilde aptly described Dorian through Basil, the painter who first took notice of the young…

Sources Used in Documents:


Jagose, A. (1996). "Queer Theory." Australian Humanities Review web site. Available at: http://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/AHR/archive/Issue-Dec-1996/jagose.html.

Wilde, O. (1994). The Picture of Dorian Gray. NY: Penguin Books.

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