Queer Edward II is the title of the book that Derek Jarman published as a companion piece to his recent film, Edward II (1991), in order to itemise and emphasise points that he wanted to make in excess of those he felt able to make in the film.1 I have put the book’s title to work in the heading of this essay because it highlights, in a direct and aggressive manner, the film’s affinities with contemporary queer theory which it is at least part of my purpose to examine here. According to Michael Warner, the ‘preference for “queer” ’ in contemporary gay discourse ‘represents, among other things, an aggressive impulse of generalisation; it rejects a minoritising logic of toleration or simple political interest-representation in favour of a more thorough resistance to regimes of the normal’.2 Jarman’s affiliation with queer theory is evinced less by his film’s predictably sympathetic representation of the relationship of Edward and Gaveston than by his vigorous integration into the film of militant gay liberation positions, including actions of resistance undertaken in their behalf by actual members of OutRage, described as ‘the Gay Activist Group’ in the book’s introductory matter. The book’s debt to positions associated with the contemporary queer movement is even more pronounced, and is paraded in the aggressive slogans that frame Jarman’s generally more anecdotal commentary on the successive sequences of the film, the film’s development, and his own, now concluded, struggle with AIDS.
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