CSSC Talk: Prof Heather Love (Penn), 'To be Real: The Passion of the Self in Queer Writing'
|Dates:||13 June 2023|
|Times:||17:00 - 18:30|
|What is it:||Talk|
|Organiser:||School of Arts, Languages and Cultures|
|Who is it for:||University staff, External researchers, Adults, Alumni, Current University students, General public, Post 16|
This event is part of the Centre for the Study of Sexuality and Culture's public event series.
Professor Heather Love is professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of 'Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History' (Harvard) and the editor of a special issue of GLQ on Gayle Rubin (“Rethinking Sex”) and the co-editor of a special issue of Representations ("Description Across Disciplines"). She has written on topics including comparative social stigma, compulsory happiness, transgender fiction, spinster aesthetics, and reading methods in literary studies. 'Underdogs: Social Deviance and Queer Theory' (University of Chicago Press) came out in Fall 2021. She is currently at work on a project on the uses of the personal in academic criticism.
Abstract: The rise of queer theory around 1990 represents the convergence of two intellectual movements: post-structuralism and identity politics. The combination of philosophical skepticism about identity and investment in minority experience is the signature of queer writing. Since its inception, queer criticism has been known for its rigorous interrogation of the grounds of personhood. But it is also known for its renovation of academic style in the direction of the personal and the anecdotal. Early critics broke with scholarly convention to include narrative, slang, obscenity, song lyrics, and passages of heightened emotion. The tension between “subjectless critique” and self-revelation is everywhere in the field, but has mostly gone unnoticed. It is visible in two signal statements from the early 1990s. In Gender Trouble (1990), Judith Butler cited Nietzsche’s dictum that there is no “doer behind the deed” to question the grammar of the self. At almost the same moment, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick countered a century of writing about homosexuality from a clinical distance, arguing that “Queer can only signify properly in the first person.” In this talk, I will address this defining tension in the field, which values both the undermining of the self and personal authenticity. My central text will be a crucial early work of queer/trans theory, Susan Stryker’s “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage.” Finally, I will reflect on the afterlife of this defining tension in the rise of contemporary queer autotheory.
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