We are more concerned with the development of a unique lesbian perspective or, at the very least, determining whether or not such a perspective is possible. In order to do so, lesbian critics have had to begin with a special question: “When is a text a ‘lesbian text’ or its writer a ‘lesbian writer’? Lesbians are faced with this special problem of definition… To answer this question, we have to determine how inclusively or exclusively to define “lesbian.” Should we limit this appellation to those women for whom sexual experience with other women can be proven? This is an almost impossible historical task, as many have noted, for what constitutes proof? Women have not left obvious markers in their private writings. Furthermore, such a narrow definition “names” lesbianism as an exclusively sexual phenomenon…
This passage illustrates why I think it makes more sense to focus on attributes of the text as opposed to attributes that can be applied or presumed to apply to the author. A unique perspective that merits its own separate and distinct consideration as a theoretical or critical approach should be able to function independently of the author’s biographical status. I also think that the kinds of patterns and connections that stand to be made by lesbian criticism would be just as worthwhile to explore in texts written by straight women or by men – just as criticism that employs feminist theory can be applied to men’s writing. If the label focuses on content and approach, rather than on the author, then the problem of definition and the problem of proof go away, as does the potential for resistance to the label based on disagreement about the author’s status.
The last sentence makes an intriguing point, and I think it can be extended to a text-centered approach versus an author-centered approach as well. I imagine that any analysis would be necessarily limited by the expectation that it stay within the realm of sexuality alone, and I am sure that the perspective that Zimmerman describes would be more enlightening if applied to a variety of female relationships and their portrayals in text.