Ethereal Queer

Television, Historicity, Desire

Ethereal Queer

Book Pages: 216 Illustrations: 15 illustrations Published: January 2014

Author: Amy Villarejo

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Media Studies > TV

In Ethereal Queer, Amy Villarejo offers a historically engaged, theoretically sophisticated, and often personal account of how TV representations of queer life have changed as the medium has evolved since the 1950s. Challenging the widespread view that LGBT characters did not make a sustained appearance on television until the 1980s, she draws on innovative readings of TV shows and network archives to reveal queer television’s lengthy, rich, and varied history. Villarejo goes beyond concerns about representational accuracy. She tracks how changing depictions of queer life, in programs from Our Miss Brooks to The L Word, relate to transformations in business models and technologies, including modes of delivery and reception such as cable, digital video recording, and online streaming. In so doing, she provides a bold new way to understand the history of television.


"[A]n engaging, brilliant, and meticulous account of queerness, temporality, and television. The book abounds with fundamental insights . . ." — T. E. Adams, Choice

"[P]arts of Ethereal Queer are excellent-- particularly when it comes to Villarejo's apt dissection of recent Western Media conglomeration and how it has impacted television spectatorship." — Anna Hamilton, Bitch

"The brilliance of Villarejo’s argument is that she shows that prior to the increase of open LGBT characters on television, closeted or one-off queer characters represented an act of survival, representation, and identity that television lacked.... Villarejo’s thesis proves worthy of tuning into and remembering for a long time to come." — John Erickson, Lambda Literary Review

"Ethereal Queer: Television, Historicity, Desire is a welcome contribution to the fields of television and queer studies. Villarejo’s intellectual rigour and lively prose are commendable. Her text also points to further areas of scholarly enquiry." — Jay Daniel Thompson, M/C Reviews

“A fine exploratory entry into the intersection between television studies and queer theory….Villarejo offers nuanced and sustained meditations on her aptly titled ethereal subject matter….Wholly readable and at times quite enjoyable (Villarejo’s own occasional autobiographical notes are well served by her engaging prose), Ethereal Queer emerges as a probing undertaking that sketches out possible methods and approaches to queer representation in that ever-shifting medium of television.” — Manuel Betancourt, Film Quarterly

“Villarejo explodes the parameters of genre studies, queer historiography, and the identity politics of “representational justice” to put forward a theoretical meditation on temporality, wherein queer identity and televisual presentation inform, indeed constitute, each other but themselves only ever appear as ethereal (4, 5).... Ethereal Queer advances the postidentitarian impulses of these other volumes on intricate intellectual grounds without falling into the “queering” of anything not strictly heteronormative.” — Heather N. Lukes, Women's Studies Quarterly

"Ethereal Queer’s robust philosophical interventions undoubtedly enrich and challenge ongoing discussions in queer and media studies about how television’s 'prosthetic lifeworlds' constantly refigure sexuality and gender. Let’s not be shy: Villarejo’s book is a showstopper." — Candace Moore, GLQ

“Villarejo’s careful analyses of television shows and her discussion of subject-production through television time are tied together by her excellent use of current thinking about queer temporality.”

— Looi van Kessel, Screen Bodies

"Amy Villarejo, already an important and increasingly influential voice in the fields of film theory, gender, and sexuality, here presents a dramatically new intervention in both television theory and debates over queer representation. Ethereal Queer moves beyond concerns about visibility and positive images to provide valuable ways of understanding the force of television in the twentieth century, bringing media studies and continental philosophy into vibrant and productive dialogue." — Jeffrey Sconce, editor of Sleaze Artists: Cinema at the Margins of Taste, Style, and Politics

"Elegantly written, often witty and even moving, this thought-provoking book is both tightly focused and ambitious in its approach to television and queerness. Amy Villarejo offers brilliant insights into theoretical and televisual texts, repeatedly providing new ways of confronting and moving beyond the intersection of sexuality and television." — Patricia White, Professor of English Literature and Film Studies, Swarthmore College

"Whether she's citing Theodor Adorno or Amistead Maupin, pondering Our Miss Brooks or American Family, Amy Villarejo channels her lifelong love of television while at the same time analyzing its function as a "pragmatic pedagogy of queer life." I couldn't ask for a better TV Guide than this set of gripping meditations that dares to dream so brilliantly on our behalf." — B. Ruby Rich, author of New Queer Cinema: The Director's Cut


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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Amy Villarejo is Professor of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. She is the author of Lesbian Rule: Cultural Criticism and the Value of Desire, also published by Duke University Press, and Film Studies: The Basics; coauthor of the BFI Film Classics volume Queen Christina; and coeditor of Keyframes.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1. Adorno's Antenna 30

2. Excursus on Media and Temporality 66

3. "Television Ate My Family": Lance Loud on TV 81

4. Queer Ascension: Television and Tales of the City 122

Coda: Becoming 152

Notes 163

Bibliography 185

Index 195
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5511-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5495-6
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