Butch Noir

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This article puts the generic concept of “butch noir” in dialogue with queer theories of temporality. Reworking the 1980s performance category of dyke noir that was used to describe a particular style of lesbian experimental work, butch noir is defined by its “having-already-been-read-ness” – a temporal dynamic by which queer subjects are generated through their anticipation of other people’s readings of them. This concept captures both the specificity of an anticipatory butch mode and the temporal belatedness that inaugurates subjectivity itself. Elaborated through close readings of the performance work of lesbian icon Peggy Shaw (Split Britches), the article focuses on her reflective monologues in MUST: The Inside Story, a collaborative show (with Clod Ensemble) combining a noir aesthetic with the iconographies and desires of the anatomy theatre. Through a series of close readings, situated theoretically and historically, the article demonstrates the significance of butch noir to theorising the place of the anticipatory in queer cultures, as well as to understandings of the strangeness of time for the modern subject whose place in language has always already been read.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30–71
JournalDifferences: a journal of feminist cultural studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2019


  • Queer theories of temporality, butch noir, Lesbian performance, feminism, Peggy Shaw, Spilt Britches,


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