Queer literary interpretation is a method of literary interpretation stemming from Marxism, Feminism, and the gay rights movement. It is an addition to literary theory in the 1980s.

Only partially based on gay, lesbian and bisexual issues, a queer literary interpretation is largely concerned with sexual identity, especially "closeted" (hidden) sexual identity. Other "closeted" aspects of works are often examined, as well.

There are opposing views of queer literary theory. One view is that sexual identity is "fixed", and may be discerned by careful study. The opposing view is that sexual identity is both fluid and socially constructed, and thus there is no "absolute" identity.

Questions that a queer literary interpretation might attempt to answer:

  • What does the work tell the reader about the author's sexual identity?
  • Conversely, how might the author's sexual identity affect different aspects of work?
  • What doesn't the author tell the reader about the sexual identities of his or her characters? How this omission significant?
  • What aspects of the work has the author silenced or closeted, in order to gain the approval of society?

A traditional work of literature can be "queered" by applying this type of interpretation.


There are very few significant female characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The few females that are portrayed seem somewhat unrealistic, and are not given significant differentiation from the male characters. It almost seems as if Tolkien did not understand women well enough to write any female characters. The most common display of love in The Lord of the Rings is a "brotherly love", such as the adoration of Sam for Frodo, and the growing friendship between Gimli and Legolas. From all this information, along with a few stories about Tolkien's relationship with C. S. Lewis, one might conclude that Tolkien was a closet homosexual, unwilling to reveal himself to the same hostile English society that persecuted so many other homosexuals, including Alan Turing.

Good works for queer literary interpretation:

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