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date: 18 October 2019

Gay and lesbian musiclocked

  • Philip Brett
  •  and Elizabeth Wood


This article considers the record, in both historical documentation and biographical reclamation, of the struggles and sensibilities of homosexual people of the West that came out in their music, and of the contribution of homosexual men and women to the music profession. In broader terms, it is further concerned with the special perspectives from which Western music of all kinds can be heard and examined.

To think about sexual categories as arbitrary, or contingent on historical or social practice, is still difficult because sexuality, like musicality, has been so thoroughly naturalized during the 20th century and intimately embedded in an individual sense of self (Jagose, 1996, pp.17–18). But, while maintaining the importance for modern society of the categories of heterosexuality and homosexuality and the process of acculturation that surrounds them, thinking historically about that sense of self has, paradoxically, become the basis of much gay and lesbian critical work. It also underwrites ‘queer theory’, the intellectual phenomenon based on the recuperation of the pejorative term ‘queer’ and the inflecting of gay and lesbian knowledge with postmodern knowledge and ways of thinking. Arguing along lines proposed by Foucault, Halperin (...

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