After Sex? On Writing since Queer Theory
Ed. Janet Halley & Andrew Parker
What a pleasant surprise Kate Thomas was. From the initial “I took the ‘after’ as post – but for me post refers to both postal office and posthumous” I knew it was going to be a good talk (anyone who can say “the promiscuity of the postal bag” in an academic setting is welcome in my books). Though I am a firm believer that everything sounds sexier in a British accent, what I think made Kate’s presentation a perfect way to end the panel presentations was the way in which quite seamlessly she had managed to produce a piece that at once spoke about her interests (queer temporality, postal), her work and her field (I’m looking up Michael Field stuff as I type) but also framed the conversation in relation to the volume’s contributors building up to her inspired image of ‘being prone’ as one which permeated the collection. Prone, as she explained it is to be bent (indeed she had isolated images of people lying down in the volume: sleeping, exhausted, dead) – “leaning forward but looking down.” All in all, Kate’s talk worked perfectly as a wrap-up and made for a nice segway into the Q&A session that followed.
At this point my note-taking skills floundered and so instead of trying to weave a narrative out of them I’ll just isolate some interesting snippets of the conversation:
The first thing to be brought up right after Kate was done was Lee’s suggestion that the framing device of the volume (in particular the choice of putting Sedgwick’s essay at the end, disregarding the alphabetical order the rest of the volume followed) sought to create a narrative drive within the works. Andrew Parker came out and quite politely took a stab at Lee by arguing that the framing of the piece did in no way try and privilege Eve’s piece but that the main reason for placing her essay at the end visually presented the fact that it was the one piece that was not part of the call for submissions of the volume, something Janet echoed leaving Lee to smile and just say he had just offered “one observation” and that he never expected everyone to agree with his opinion, but that one couldn’t help but agree that the placement also suggested an ‘ending’ – a framed and purposefully placed endpoint to an otherwise arbitrary (alphabetical) ordering.
After Lee and Joe left (to catch the train) the conversation veered towards (oddly enough) an attack on the vision of ‘Queer Theory’ that Jeff Nunokawa had already mulled over both in his essay and in his presentation. Aided by supportive comments from the audience this seemed to take on currency among the attendants: Queer Theory as rooted in a particular historical and cultural moment (Jeff had begun his talk with an acknowledgment of his nostalgia and never did he try and hide that during the panel).
One of the more interesting lines of discussion was actually brought up by the controversy over whether Queer Theory could ever be thought of as divorced from progressive politics to which Janet’s anecdotal Law experiences offered a nice counter-argument.
Elin Diamond’s comments and questions, cementing Jeff’s currency in the discussion actually offered a nice compromise between this nostalgia of time long lost and an anxiety in graduate work regarding this past-ness of queer theory: she offered us a way to think about our present situation in light of theory (in times of theoretical upheaval that’s what people do – “you have plenty of crises!” she told us, why not use those to help you theorise in the same way the ACT UP meetings did for those in the hey-day of Queer Theory?)
Also very welcome was this suggestion that one could understand QT as an object-less methodology; a praxis more than an object of study (something that echoed Janet’s earlier idea of this volume being quite ‘writerly’ – it could be indeed style which cut across the essays if one did not want to see a thematic, narrative-like connection between them).
And there you have – mostly nonsensical ramblings of an audience member at this event. I will not try and talk about the dinner that proceeded the event for the conversations were much too fun and interesting to have them be put to public speculation.
Maybe blogging about Rutgers English Events will become a staple of A Blog Next Door – now if only that could have an attentive and responsive audience…