This chapter situates the book as a counter-history of the emergence of lesbian sexuality in early cinema. The study is described as a post-Foucauldian history of sexuality that aims to sustain the radical implications of Foucault’s foundational work in History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge, Volume 1. The chapter articulates the book’s approach in terms of queer historiography. One of its key strategies is the endeavor to suspend present-day sexual knowledges in the encounter with early films and other extrafilmic archival materials. To presume, at least before critical work commences, the sexual opacity of early cinema is to start from the position that the past is different from the present, particularly in terms of sexual subjectivity, but not to accede to a homophobic denial of the historical existence of same-sex desire or queer ways of living and being. The chapter explores the consequences of this approach for critical modes of identification, and queer articulations of historical time, in the context of recent debates concerning queer temporality.
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