Queer Theory is undefinable, but this university is offering a class on the subject

The University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) is offering GWS 345: Queer Theory, a 3-unit course for the 2022-2023 academic school year.

But while UIC offers a course and hosts a website that offers comprehensive background on the origins of Queer Theory, the university is unable to define the subject.

The University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) is offering GWS 345: Queer Theory, a 3-unit course for the 2022-2023 academic school year. The course will be offered via the Gender and Women's Studies catalog. 

GWS 345 offers a "[s]urvey of theoretical concerns and historical issues that inform and shape the field of queer studies,” according to its description. 

In addition to the course, UIC hosts a website that offers information on Queer Theory (QT), listing several queer theorists and their views on the subject. 

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But while UIC offers a course and hosts a website that offers comprehensive background on the origins of QT, the university is unable to define the subject.

QT “should not be defined too early (or at all) because of the possibility of it becoming too limited,” the university’s library website states. 

Judith Butler, whom the website quotes, “argues in her book Gender Trouble that gender, like sexuality, is not an essential truth obtained from one’s body but something that is acted out and portrayed as ‘reality.’”

In an effort to better understand QT, Campus Reform contacted the university for clarification on the matter.

Jennifer Jackson, Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Engagement Coordinator could not provide clarification, only citing that UIC's QT course description “is meant only to provide foundational knowledge for students in that course."

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After UIC had been contacted on August 15 by Campus Reform, the library subject resources no longer listed Queer Theory. But a screenshot of the website, obtained by Campus Reform, reveals that under Queer Theory, it defined the subject as “impossible.” 

Additionally, the school hosts a research website dedicated to producing "new knowledge and insights into contemporary debates in feminist, queer and sex theory.”

Butler, however, remains featured on UIC’s library resource website. Butler recently published an article featured in The Guardian titled, "Judith Butler: We need to rethink the category woman."  

In it, she argued that "[g]ender is an assignment that does not just happen once: it is ongoing."

Campus Reform contacted the University of Illinois-Chicago Library coordinator, Butler, and the Gender and Women’s Studies department for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.