The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Bonnie Zimmerman, “What Has Never Been: An Overview of Lesbian Feminist Literary Criticism”

What is meant by the essays’s title? Writing in 1981, what does Zimmerman note has “never been”?

What does Zimmerman indicate have been the claims at the center of lesbian literary criticism? (2345)

What are some different views about what constitutes a lesbian text or writer? (2345-46) What does she see as the merits and limitations of each?

How do you think Judith Butler might respond to this question?

What are some effects of what Zimmerman calls “the problem of silence”? (2347-48)

What problems have been encountered in attempting to frame a “lesbian tradition”? (2351) To claim a correlation between lesbian and experimental writing? (2354)

What does she see as the role of a separatist perspective in lesbian criticism? (2355) Its potential limitations, and the potential limitations of contemporary lesbian criticism in general? (2357) Have any of these concerns been addressed by post-1981 criticism?

Why in her view have lesbian writers been interested in issues of costuming? (2359)

Do some of the problems she identifies have a parallel in the circumstances of black critics such as Hughes or Gates? Of feminist critics such as Gilbert and Gubar?

What does she argue are the benefits that a lesbian criticism can offer all readers?

Do you think Chodorow might be able to modify her schema of child development to include the development of gay and lesbian children?

Were this essay to be written today, how might Zimmerman’s points have been modified?

Selections from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2001 edition.

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