This essay is concerned with the relations between gender and queer studies and the general field of theory and history of literature. The first part presents the history of gender and the research into the socio-cultural conditioning of sex identity. The discussion is indebted to Judith Butler's theory of sex performativeness and her reformulation of the (biological) sex / (cultural) gender distinction. The following section surveys the development of queer studies, an extension of gender studies and gay & lesbian studies, which are concerned with postmodern non-normative sexual identities. The final section looks at queer criticism and its potential contribution to literary criticism.