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Between, beyond, bygone, behind: Queer time in the ancient Mediterranean
organizer-refereed panel, SCS January 2025, Philadelphia

by Cassandra Tran and T. H. M. Gellar-Goad

The Greek letter lambda, both upper- and lowercase, mounts a challenge to default ideas about straight, heteronormative linearity. The skywards slant of progress on the left end of capital Λ is interrupted, reflected, regressed; the small-letter λ adds an alluring, dangerous, playful curve, suggesting that where there’s less, there just might be more. Even the spelling of the letter is queer, an M-sound that phases in and out, a sensual articulation that asks you to use your teeth and lips and nose all at the same time, in service of a letter that itself denotes a liquid, the least straight of the consonants. Through these characteristics and more, it is no wonder that lambda has become a symbol for LGBTQIA2+ groups in and outside Classics.

Like queer lambda, queer time doesn’t move straight. Queer or non-heteronormative time is delayed, deferred, prolonged, foreshortened, retrojected, transitioning, bifurcated, ambivalent. It disrupts normative and expected temporalities by acknowledging time outside socially-constructed rules of responsibility and causality. It can be recursive and cyclical without seeking reproduction. Queer time passes differently. It can depart from, intersect with, or wholly reject socio-cultural expectations or conventional linear processes. It can also be retrospective: for some people, it can be about making sense of the beforetimes only after you’ve figured, and come, out. And, especially in connection with this last point, queer time is a powerful theoretical tool for making new sense of pasts including and transcending the personal — and for bringing the personal into the impersonality and the abstract of concepts of time and history.

Building on the theoretical work of Halberstam, Stockton, Keene, Stovall, Dinshaw et al., Freeman, Edelman, King, Tyler, Jaffe, Johnson, Keeling, and others — and joining the vanguard of applications of queer time theory to the Classics (Andújar, Baldwin, Freccero, Gardner, Orrells) — this panel will gather together papers that explore queer or nonlinear time in ancient Mediterranean cultures and literatures. Papers might examine questions and topics such as:

  • Sappho’s expansion of the liminal moment before marriage into a space for homoerotic and homosocial desire
  • the fluidity of time, gender, and narrative in epic or the novel
  • the queer time and space created through the lover’s prolonged, non-normative, Saturnalian adulescens-ce in Roman comedy, elegy, and Catullus
  • transgressive, delayed, and anticipatory moments made material through, e.g., curse tablets, healing votives, and funerary objects
  • queerness and elite identity crises in the stasis, timelessness, timeliness, and timefulness of epistolography
  • time warps and time jumps in the transition between choral passages and dialogue in Greek tragedy
  • the queering of time and space in the ancient theater or in the relationship between actor and audience
  • queer readings and re-readings of calendars, fasti, annals
  • how classical receptions queer classical time and the classical tradition
  • ways history can shed light on experiences of queer time, outside or on the margins of institutions of family, normative sexuality, and reproduction
  • theorizing about the archaeological process as queer time: entangled strata of space and time, viewed backwards and crosswise, unsettled by human interventions and reconfigured natural processes
  • scholarship produced on the basis of forgeries passed off as authentic, and its reconceptualization after the revelation of the forgery
  • restoration and reissues of coins, such as the remaking of old coin designs to link to previous generations, and examples of countermarking

Please send abstracts for a 15-20 minute paper by February 16, 2024 at with the subject heading “abstract_queertimeSCS2025.” Abstracts should be 500 words or fewer (excluding bibliography) and should follow the guidelines for individual abstracts (see the SCS Guidelines for Authors of Abstracts). The abstracts will be judged anonymously and so should not reveal the author’s name, but the email should provide name, abstract title, and affiliation. Decisions will be communicated to the abstracts’ authors by the end of March, with enough time that those whose abstracts are not chosen can participate in the individual abstract submission process for the upcoming SCS meeting.

Questions can be directed to Professor Cassandra Tran ( or Professor T. H. M. Gellar-Goad (

Works cited

Andújar, Rosa. 2022. “Phoenician Women: ‘Deviant’ Thebans Out of Time.” In Queer Euripides: Re-Readings in Greek Tragedy, edd. Sarah Olsen and Mario Telò. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 176–185.
Baldwin, Oliver. 2022. “Rhesus: Tragic Wilderness in Queer Time.” In Queer Euripides: Re-Readings in Greek Tragedy, edd. Sarah Olsen and Mario Telò. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 33–42.
Dinshaw, Carolyn, Lee Edelman, Roderick A. Ferguson, Carla Freccero, Elizabeth Freeman, Judith Halberstam, Annamarie Jagose, Christopher Nealon, and Nguyen Tan Hoang. 2007. “Theorizing Queer Temporalities: A Roundtable Discussion.” Freeman (2007) 177–195.
Edelman, Lee. 2004. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.
Freccero, Carla. 2022. “Trojan Women: No Futures.” In Queer Euripides: Re-Readings in Greek Tragedy, edd. Sarah Olsen and Mario Telò. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 43–50.
Freeman, Elizabeth. 2000. “Packing History, Count(er)ing Generations.” New Literary History 31.4: 727–744.
Freeman, Elizabeth, ed. 2007. Queer Temporalities special issue. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 13.2–3.
Gardner, Hunter H. 2013. Gendering Time in Augustan Love Elegy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Halberstam, Jack. 2005. In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York: New York University Press.
Jaffe, Sara. 2018. “Queer Time: The Alternative to ‘Adulting.’” JSTOR Daily, 10 January.
Johnson, E. Patrick. 2001. “‘Quare’ Studies, Or (Almost) Everything I Know about Queer Studies I Learned from My Grandmother.” Text and Performance Quarterly 21: 1–25.
Keeling, Kara. 2019. Queer Times, Black Futures. New York: New York University Press.
Keene, John. 2015. Counternarratives. New York: New Directions.
King, Homay. 2006. “Girl Interrupted: The Queer Time of Warhol’s Cinema.” Discourse 28.1: 98–120.
Nguyen, Kelly. 2021. “Queering Telemachus: Ocean Vuong, Postmemories and the Vietnam War.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition.
Orrells, Daniel. 2022. “Hippolytus: Euripides and Queer Theory at the Fin de Siècle and Now.” In Queer Euripides: Re-Readings in Greek Tragedy, edd. Sarah Olsen and Mario Telò. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 21–32.
Stockton, Kathryn Bond. 2009. The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.
Stovall, Vanessa. 2022. “De-composition of it all… (une philosophie negromantique).” In An Archaeology of Listening, vol. 2, Coming to Know, edd. Nida Ghouse et al. Milan: Archive Books. 162–173, 175.
Tyler, Parker. 1967. “Dragtime and Drugtime; Or, Film à la Warhol.” Evergreen Review 11.46.