Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Department of inauspicious beginnings

From a "searing polemic" offering a "radically uncompromising new ethics" for queer theory, Lee Edelman's No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive:

Rather than rejecting, with liberal discourse, the ascription of negativity to the queer, we might, as I argue, do better to consider accepting and even embracing it. Not in the hope of thereby forging some more perfect social order -- such a hope, after all, would only reproduce the constraining mandate of futurism, just as any such order would equally occasion the negativity of the queer -- but rather to refuse the insistence of hope itself as an affirmation, which is always an affirmation of an order whose refusal will register as unthinkable, irresponsible, inhumane. And the trump card of affirmation? Always the question: If not this, what? Always the demand to translate the insistence, the pulsive force, of negativity into some determinative stance or "position" whose determination would thus negate it: always the imperative to immure it in some stable and positive form. (p. 4)

I don't understand Edelman's take on futurism, affirmation, or hope. I've only just begun the book (spurred into finally reading it by our discussions here) ... but we do a lot of thinking about temporality at ITM, and have never imagined a future so impoverished or constrictive. Look at some of Eileen's earliest posts, about the long future and about encountering the past to think prospectively beyond the present in ways that don't simply re-implant the present at every temporal horizon. Or don't go back so far: look at this recent post by Eileen on the queer and the non-constraining mandate of futurism. It also seems to me that many queer theorists (Liz Grosz, for example) insist upon the necessary openness of the future in ways this paragraph can't acknowledge. I fear what is really being negated here is nuance. And possibly, also, the past.

I'm very early in my reading of No Future, and do have hope (even as I type that word I realize I'm not supposed to use it in relation to this book) that as I read into the argument's future it will open up and breathe a bit. I'll post more as I learn more. I have to add that the overwritten blurb raised a series of tough questions for me as well: Is a "scorching polemic" hot to the touch? Can I warm my coffee on it? What does "radically uncompromising" mean? As opposed to conventionally uncompromising? Conservatively uncompromising? Mildly uncompromising? I also worry about the last sentence of Leo Bersani's book jacket praise of the work: "Edelman's text is so extraordinary powerful that we could perhaps reproach him only for not spelling out the mode in which we might survive our necessary assent to his argument." Is it just me, or does that omission seem to anyone else not an "oops!" but a significant lacuna?


Karl Steel said...

never imagined a future so impoverished or constrictive

Strikes me that Edelman (so far as I read here) means not to impoverish or constrict the future by "immuring" it within some particular hope....

kdegruy said...

I shouldn't comment, because I haven't finished it either, but two things are bugging me about it so far, and one of them touches on the blurb you mention. I don't think the process towards the future he describes is survivable. I'm upset -- actually, maybe bored -- by the dichotomy implied, that the answer to culturally induced heteronormative drive is a rejection of "futurity" -- and what does that mean exactly? Are there not other alternatives, alternative notions of time? Must I spit in my own eye to reject the "culture of the child"? (And how does somebody who writes books think they are inured to the idea of leaving a legacy for the future, anyway?)

Secondly, I'm not sure I understand Lacan all the time, but I'm pretty sure Edelman doesn't either. I don't have the text in front of me, but there's a bit that sort of personifies the Real that really falls down for me. I'll have to get the book out of my office.

Also, all that glitter/dress/seam/drag queen metaphor stuff is, er, tiring. I can see why this book needed to be written, but not quite why it came out like this. Ok, so that's three things. And I'm irresponsible for complaining before I've finished it.

Alex said...

This is at the last minute even for locals, but I just received notice that Edelman giving a talk at Georgetown on Thursday:

The Georgetown University Critical Theory Society Presents the 2nd
Annual Distinguished Lecture in Critical Theory with Professor Lee Edelman

Pornographic Post-Humanism & the Queer Event

Thursday, March 29 at 4:30 p.m.
Georgetown University
McCarthy Hall, McShain Lounge

J J Cohen said...

It's the "within some particular hope" that's the sticking point for me. If that were simply true, then Edelman is stating something quite banal. But what I understand so far is that hope and futurity tout court are being rejected as unusable for a negativity that exists outside both.

kdegruy: intriguing observations (and it's good to see that someone else here has trouble counting). You've made it farther than me so I'll be interested to return them soon.

Alex: thanks for the notice. Edelman's is being sponsored by an undergrad critical theory society. Wish GW had one of those!

Eileen Joy said...

A "radically uncompromising new ethics" for queer theory that purposefully refuses, at the outset, the possibility or hopeful utility of ethics is not ethical. If we really want to think about an ethics that might be "against ethics" but which doesn't negate the past or future, we are in need of beautiful philosophers like John Caputo. Although I suppose we could grant Edelman some room to make a case for embracing a voluptuous present that does not expend itself on the plane of its futurity [which is also the plane of the subject's death]. And anyone who writes books in the hope that they will be read and understood is not, technically speaking, against either children *or* the future. But maybe that's just a bitchy thing to say.

I cannot write much just now because I am trying to finish a chapter for our beloved JJC's "Infinite Realms" book project, but I wanted to say that, thanks to Michael O.'s reading recommendations and many of our recent conversations here, including this one [which I *hope* continues in vigorous fashion], I have been able to reformulate my approach to that chapter in a way that I think is productive for "thinking" a queer history--vis-a-vis Grosz's corporal feminism and Sara Ahmed's queer phenomenology--in a manner that might help us to confront the deadly and deadening negation of Edelman's thought at present.

There was a Forum in a recent PMLA, by the way, in which Edelman, Judith Halberstam, Tim Dean, and others confront and debate the anti-sociality thesis in queer studies in relation to a panel they all participated on at the 2005 MLA meeting in Washington, DC. When I get a chance, I'll pass on some of Edelman's comments in there, as well as Halberstam's.

Michael O'Rourke said...

I have written about No future so many times and in so many places (including on this blog) that I will sit this one out and watch your readings of it unfold here. Suffice it to say that I think the book is *profoundly* unethical (and this is symptomatic of its Zizekianism).

I will, however, share this proposal I wrote for a panel on "Queer Futurity" at the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, with papers from me, Margret Grebowicz and Jennifer Purvis, all responding to No Future, mainly because we are coming at the book in such a way that we pont out its neglect of feminist debates on furity, philosophical discourses on natality and childhood, and on hope, faith, the event, ethics (and so on). We are hoping against hope it will be accepted. I share it with you because it does refer as Eileen does to the PMLA panel on the patently daft anti-social thesis (let me quickly say that Bersani is not an ally for this hopelessness--right from the very beginning Bersani has been for the future--track this through each of his books if you have the time) and to Edelman's new work on the posthumanous and the queer event (a language which makes him sound like he is open to the future which ,of course, he is not--if I had time (I will some time) I would say that his Badiouian notion of the event depends on a misreading of Badiou (or at least on a swerve away from one possible Heideggeriano-Derridean reading of Badiou on eventality and fidelity) but I'll wait to see and hear more of his developing work):

"Queer Futurity"

From its very “beginnings” Queer Theory has been turned toward the future, been a theory permanently open to its own recitation, resignification and revizability. From its earliest incarnations in the AIDS activism of ACT UP and Queer Nation (both privileged by Hardt and Negri in Multitude as promising an unmasterable future) and the theorizations of Eve Sedgwick and Judith Butler (among others) queer theory has always already been of, for, and promised (given over to) the future, has curved “endlessly toward the realization that its realization remains impossible” . Lee Edelman was able in the early 1990s to celebrate the utopic negativity, and asymptotic, incalculable future of queer thinking as a site of permanent becoming, but his enormously influential book No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004) has almost single handedly inaugurated a turn away from the future or what he calls the “Futurch”, embodied in the figure of, in the “fascist face” of, the Child. In the wake of Edelman’s book there has been an almost universal rejection of, a resounding “fuck you” to the future, and what has come to be called the “antisocial thesis” now dominates the post-political, post-futural landscape of queer studies . This panel, by returning to the affirmative, revolutionary promise of queer studies, seeks to reimagine a hopeful, affirmative queer theory that matters as the future, as the telepoietic queer event perhaps, as the always already not-yet of the democracy to-come and the justice to-come.

Edelman quite rightly, we think, rejects reproductive futurism but each of us, by mobilizing the figures of Kristeva, Hardt and Negri, and Caputo, is convinced that the child (or childbirth) actually figures the radical contingency and unanticipatability of the future. If the future is a monster as Haraway, Halberstam and Derrida have all shown us then we might be inclined to, perhaps counterintuitively, celebrate the cult of the child, or at least recall that the child is (at least one incarnation of) the monstrous arrivant. Each of our papers, in one way or another, takes the exergue to Of Grammatology (“The future can only be anticipated in the form of an absolute danger”) and “Structure, Sign and Play” seriously; in the latter Derrida says : “And I say these words with my eyes turned, certainly, towards the operations of childbirth, but turned too toward those who, in a society from which I do not exclude myself, are still turning them away before the still unnameable that is looming and which can only do so, as is necessary every time a birth is at work, in the species of the non-species, the formless, mute, infant and terrifying form of monstrosity”. If anything our non-reproductive teleologies rescue the monstrousness and queerness of the child and childhood for a more optimistic future than Edelmanian polemics can dream up.

In his most recent work on the posthum(an)ous Edelman extends his critique of the logic of futurity and its complicity with heternormativity and formulates a queer event which “moves beyond futurity” . His concept of the queer event is taken from the work of Alain Badiou but it is precisely around this theorization of the evental where each of our papers (none of which are incompatible with a Badiouian understanding of the event and fidelity to it) diverges from the politics of the posthumanous. Margret Grebowicz follows a Spinozan-Deleuzian (and Lyotardian) understanding of the event which affirms the virtual and the actualization of the absolutely new. Hardt and Negri’s event in Multitude inaugurates an opening onto the future, an undisciplinable future embodied in the flesh of the multitude. The event of the common is absolutely to-come, coming from a future which is irreducible to the horizon of waiting (Multitude, 189-227). Jennifer Purvis privileges a Kristevan understanding of the event as revolutionary, emphasizing, as Kristeva does in Revolt, She Said, the etymological roots of the word revolt “meaning return, renewing, returning, discovering, uncovering, and renovating” (85) and an Adornian negativity (quite different from Edelman’s) which considers “thinking as a revelation, an exploration, an opening, a place of freedom” (114). Again, for Purvis the queer event is prospective; as Kristeva has it: “I revolt, therefore we are still to come” (42). Finally, Michael O’Rourke mobilizes a Derridean-Caputoan understanding of the event, as that which ruptures chrono-phenomenological temporality, and is faithful to, welcomes that which arrives but which cannot be known or grasped in advance, that is to say queer theory as a weak force.

Here's the notes:

Lee Edelman “Queer Theory: Unstating Desire” GLQ 2.4 (1995): 343-346, at 346
Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004). See also his “Antagonism, Negativity and the Subject of Queer Theory”, PMLA 121.3 (May 2006): 821-823.
See the essays collected under this heading by Robert L. Caserio in the May 2006 issue of PMLA. On the anti-utopianist, hope-less side are Edelman and Judith Halberstam and on the side of affirmation and hope (with us) are Jose Esteban Munoz and Tim Dean.


I will also share another one, because I like my title so much. This is a paper I will be giving at Swansea in June where Noreen Giffney and I will both respond to NF. She is very positive whereas I am anatomizing...

“Lee Edelman’s Bin Laden Effect”

In a stunning late article on 9/11, “Autoimmunity: Real and Symbolic Suicides” Jacques Derrida exclaims that what he calls “the Bin Laden effect” and its discursive effects “open onto no future” and, in his view, “has no future”. In this paper I would like to argue that the rush in Queer Studies to embrace Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and The Death Drive (2004) has opened queer theory onto no future and if we continue to adopt a queer negativity then queer theory has, in my view, no future. In a recent issue of PMLA (May 2006) Robert L. Caserio collects a number of short essays which respond to the emergence of what he calls “the antisocial thesis” in Queer Theory which is traced on the one hand to Leo Bersani’s Homos and on the other to Edelman’s No Future. Edelman himself contributes an essay in which he continues to refuse to fall under the sway of what he calls the “futurch” and he has an ally in Judith Halberstam who argues for a new queer negativity via readings of the cartoon. On the opposing side are Jose Esteban Munoz who continues his laudable recent project to produce a queer phenomenology of hope and Tim Dean who extends the argument of his Beyond Sexuality to strain towards a more optimistic queer utopianism. In my paper I will clearly side with Munoz and Dean (and also the emerging work of Michael Snediker on queer optimism) against the anti-Utopianists Edelman and Halberstam. Firstly, I will demonstrate that Bersani does not advocate a hopelessly negative position anywhere in his work and even if he does how an “antisocial position” is not incompatible with a queer theory of hope. Secondly, I will show that Edelman misrecognizes Halberstam as an ally since her project (like Bersani’s) is clearly life and future affirming rather than negating. Finally, returning to Derrida I will argue that a queer theory which embraces rather than ridicules faith as Edelman continually does is one with a future, and I hope to sketch what some of the contours of what I call the weak queer theory to-come, or, more playfully, Queer Utoptimism, might look like.

I will actually be talking about "Queer Utopianism" and Edelmania to our Dublin Queer Studies Group here this Friday. The reading is Michael Snediker's Postmodern Culture article "Queer Optimism" which gives a foretaste of his forthcoming book of the same name (I've also read articles on Hart Crane's smile and on Henry James and it promises to be a special book) and the PMLA cluster. I'll be taking snippets from Sara Ahmed's Queer Phenomenology, Steven Bruhm and Natasha Hurley's introduction to Curioser on the queerness of children and from various books by Adam Phillips (mostly likely On Flirtation and The Beast in the Nursery) to argue for a more hopeful queer theory (its a follow up to a discussion we had of No Future last year).

Ok, I'll stop now because my girlfriend wants me to watch Pan's Labyrinth.

Michael O'Rourke said...

To sadistically quickly rather than masochistically patiently (schizoanalytically) answer JJC's question about Bersani I would say on the one hand that Edelman's not giving us a program is laudable enough since it potentially opens us up to the a venir, to what will arrive, to what will e-vent. On the other, I would say, with Bersani, that embracing the death drive, assuming the mantle of negativity, is unsurvivable, or, with Ian Buchanan, that “ there is nothing stupider than the death drive (we do not desire death; it desires us)”. We can see this dangerously stupid foreclosure of the future and new ways of life in NF the driving energy of which is to urge queers to embrace the death drive. Deleuze might answer Bersani by saying, as he does in Anti-Oedipus, that “it is absurd to speak of a death desire that would presumably be in qualitative opposition to the life desires. Death is not desired, there is only death that desires”. Edelman moves too quickly to embrace the reviled position, to give up on the future. To, on the other hand, embrace the schizoanalytical is to “proceed as quickly as possible, but it can also proceed with great patience, great care, by successively undoing the representative territorialities and reterritorializations through which a subject passes in his individual history”. As Bersani himself puts it in his essay “Genital Chastity” in the Tim Dean/Christopher Lane volume Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis: “Perhaps the crucial move here-I’m tempted to say the crucial mistake here-is an interpretation of desire as lack”. Yet, as Deleuze and Guattari put it in AO “psychoanalysis ought to be a song of life, or else be worth nothing at all. It ought, *practically*, to teach us to sing life”.

Anonymous said...

I'm no Zizekian or Lacanian. But reading some of these posts makes me almost believe in the sinthome -- i.e. the repetitive drive that does not recognize itself as such, cloaked as it is beneath a fantasy of desire for an object it cannot bear to lose, for to lose it would be to lose oneself.

I'm stunned by the almost obscene haste with which many of the people posting here want to pour kerosene all over Edelman's argument and toss a match at it EVEN BEFORE they have read his book!! Isn't there clearly some kind of drive fueling these outcries that exceeds the fantasies of futurity that they claim to be protecting?

And don't these outcries only lend weight to Edelman's argument about the sinthomatic displacement of the death drive onto the sinthomosexual? The more vehement the denunciations ("Edelman's Bin Ladenism"), the more strident the recourse to the rhetoric of self-evidence (the "patently daft anti-social thesis"), the clearer it is that there's something more going on in the postings here that no amount of invocation of Caputo's child can conjure away.

Let's have a debate about Edelman's argument -- and let's critique it. But let's also get Real, maybe even in the Lacanian sense, and recognize that there's more going on in what has been posted here than just a debate about Edelman's argument.

michael uebel said...

to refuse the insistence of hope itself as an affirmation, which is always an affirmation of an order whose refusal will register as unthinkable, irresponsible, inhumane.

Yikes. Banality is right. And you're wasting your time reading this because...?

I'm more than half serious. I'll be damned if one couldn't spend one's time reading something more, dare I say, meaningful, relevant, intelligent, straightforward, etc.

Here are some books that would genuinely intellectually and ethically repay your investment:

Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.

Rollo May, Power and Innocence.

C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination.

Erik Erikson, Insight and Responsibility.

Paul Goodman, Nature Heals.

Yes, they are all "classics," and ever so timely.

Forgive my confidence; read them; if I'm wrong, tell me.

Eileen Joy said...

I'm completely exhausted from an all-day faculty meeting [yes, all day, 8:00-5:30], but just a few quick comments to Anonymous:

1. some of us *have* read all of Edelman's book, myself included, and some of us are admitting, up front, that we are only starting to read and think about it--such is the nature of this blog [I hope] that we can talk "out loud" about the book as we are reading and re-reading and thinking about it.

2. I should carefully consider Edelman's arguments. I don't have to like them. I don't. Whatever I say, I hope, will be measured, but I don't, again, have to like the book. I don't think anyone here is being nasty about Edelman's arguments, whereas Edelman himself is not actually hospitable to other people's ideas. He can be downright dismissive, himself, which I hope I'm not.

3. What's so wrong with the sinthome, or with being a singer of sinthomes? There are some objects, and outcomes, that, actually I cannot bear to lose.

4. Yes, something clearly does appear to be "more at stake" here than just the argument of Edelman's book--isn't that partly the point? Yes, let's read and critique Edelman's book together--and Anonymous, please help us and argue with us--but yes, more is at stake. Edelman's own impassioned rhetoric implies it.

As one who places herself in the camp of queer utopians whom Edelman has, in his own words, dispensed with, "I'm feeling kind of gay, in a melancholy way." And that matters, too.

To be continued . . . .

J J Cohen said...

Anonymous: obscene haste? I don't think so. A difference between a blog and an electronic forum like, say, The Medieval Review is that the former does allow for process, "thinking aloud" (as Eileen labels it) and discussion as an argument unrolls.

The book gets somewhat better as it moves along, especially as Edelman slows down to sketch some relationship he wants to articulate among the queer, negativity, and the Symbolic. Also, the argument works better when he stops using queer as a substantive and verbs it. I'm having trouble with his rather flat rendition of what politics is (he states that politics and the symbolic are one and the same). I on the other hand keep thinking back to Zizek's Sublime Object of Ideology, where Zizek argues something very different: that politics and political systems can have a messy space within for unpredictable irruptions of the Real (e.g. in the form of elections), rendering the future less coerced/coercive.

More to follow.

Michael O'Rourke said...

I would like to hear more about Anonymous' take on Edelman's argument too. I have chaired discussions of the book University College Dublin (everyone loved it) and at the University of Sussex (everyone loathed it) and the book does tend to garner radically conflicting but always passionate responses. Intererestingly, given JJC's mention of Zizek, Michael Snediker in "Queer Optimism" rails against No Future's militancy and coerciveness.

Honorable mention at this time goes to my former student Oli Stephano who just finished his thesis at Vassar on Deleuze and sexual difference (among many other things). In there he has a terrifically smart critique of Edelman's book from a trans perspective (we need more of these), which I had the pleasure to witness the beginnings of when Oli took my Queer Gothic class last year. I hope he might visit here and share some of his thoughts with us...

Eileen Joy said...

Some random thoughts and cites in relation to Edelman's book, "No Future":

1. There is, I think, a positive way in which to read Edelman's refusals and negations, by which I mean: when Edelman asks us to enlarge our sense of what is inhuman against our desire to expand the reaches of humanism, in order to enlarge "what, in its excess, in its unintelligibility, exposes the human itself as always misrecognized catachresis, a positing blind to the willful violence that marks its imposition" (p. 152), he is asking us, I think, to consider that the most proper object & subject of queer studies [and even of the university] is what is always in excess of or denied by every "humanism" or "humanistic studies program" or "liberal humanist politics" out there, or, as he puts it in the Forum section of PMLA 121.3 [May 2006], we should try "to imagine a pedagogy not linked to the dominant 'service of goods' . . . a pedagogy inflected by the queer remainder that every good denies" [p. 822]. I think there is soom room to see Edelman here actually urging a kind of ethical scholarship & teaching that would attend to the always-abject, which I can get behind, except, where it gets kind of scary and strange, is when Edelman wants to insist on embracing a death-drive that says, essentially, "fuck the future" *and* "fuck the past." Which brings me to:

2. My copy of "No Future" has been thoroughly marked up by another, very approving reader, which creates a fun marginal "gloss" text for me to read alongside Edelman. My favorite so far is where the reader simply drew a smiley face next to this passage:

"Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we're collectively terrorized; fuck Annie; fuck the waif from 'Les Mis'; fuck the poor, innocent kid on the Net; fuck Laws both with capital ls and the small; fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that serves as it prop" [p. 29].

For Edelman, the future is "mere repetition and just as lethal as the past" [p. 31] This is a point at which, I believe, those of us who are medievalists might want to develop some kind of counter-point to [or, to steal from Lacan/Zizek, some kind of capiton, or quilting-point, with] this statement.

Why do we assume that the Symbolic, or the Law, cannot be collectively reimagined and recapitulated, that it could actually take up and "hold" the abject [but not in the negative way Lacan or Kristeva explains] and the "remainder," or is it just that the remainder must, of ethical necessity, always *remain* as remainder? How does one "take care," or attend to, the remainder, even pedagogically? [And isn't even the hint of attending, through pedagogy, to the remainder, a kind of politics?]

3. Thinking about ways in which to confront Edelman's "fucking" of both past and future, I offer the following from Sara Ahmed's "Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others" [of special interest for me, as a medievalist, are what Ahmed terms the "looking back" to certain "conditions of arrival" of queer lives]:

"What kind of a commitment would a queer commitment be? If anything, I would see queer as a commitment to an opening up of what counts as a life worth living . . . . It would be a commitment not to presume that lives have to follow certain lines in order to count as lives, rather than being a commitment to a line of deviation. . . . We might, then, face the objects that retreat, and become strange in the face of their retreat, with a sense of hope. In facing what retreats with hope, such a queer politics would also look back to the conditions of arrival. We look back, in other words, as a refusal to inherit, as a refusal that is a condition for the arrival of queer. To inherit the past in this world for queers would be to inherit one's own disappearance" [p. 178].

***Now, as medievalists, we might wonder about Ahmed's idea of the queer's "disappearance" in the past. Might the queer have arrived already, more than once and in different ways in different places, and then, in modernity, was effaced, then had to re-arrive?***

More from Ahmed:

"If orientations point us to the future, to what are we moving toward, then they also keep open the possibility of changing directions and finding other paths, perhaps those that do not clear a common ground, where we can respond with joy to what goes astray. So, in looking back we also look a different way; looking back still involves facing--it even involves an open face. Looking back is what keeps open the possibility of going astray. The glance also means an openness to the future, as the imperfect translation of what is behind us. As a result, I would not agree that queer has 'no future,' as Lee Edelman suggests--though I understand and appreciate the impulse to 'give' the future to those who demand to inherit the earth, rather than aim for a share in this inheritance. Instead, a queer politics would have hope, not even by having hope in the future (under the sentimental sign of 'not yet'), but because the lines that accumulate through the repetition of gestures, the lines that gather on skin, already take surprising forms. We have hope because what is behind us is also what allows other ways of gathering in time and space, of making lines that do not reproduce what we follow but instead create wrinkles in the earth" [pp. 178-79].

I like what Ahmed is saying here while I also think it needs some renovation from a queer medieval studies point of view. What do others think? I also think that some of what Michael U. has written recently on temporality and psychoanalysis is very apropos to this conversation.

J J Cohen said...

Thanks, Eileen, for those points to ruminate over. And for the Ahmed; I'm just getting into her book, and loving it.

I've been taking Anonymous's charge seriously (something about "obscene haste" gave me pause) ... and will post early next week about why I posted about Edelman's book soe arly into its argument. My answer has to o with all the other posts surrounding it: green queer bunnies, green queer children from Wolfpit, queer theories, medieval futures.

And thanks, belatedly, to Michael Uebel for the bibliographic suggestions, now on my reading list as well. Eileen 's right: your work on psychoanalysis and temporality is apropos here.

michael uebel said...

Well, of course I'd be honored if someone read the bibliographic material I spew out now and again.

I just finished two books by Thich Nhat Hahn on mindfulness. And Elena Avila's Woman Who Glows in the Dark. The connections between the ethical and healing systems of Buddhism and curanderismo are striking. The future would appear to alive, but only if we immerse ourselves in the present. Sounds like JJC found a little of the present on his trips to and from the north.

michael uebel said...

If I may:

Eine andere recommendation.

I have just returned from a "monster" book sale at an Austin library. Well, it turns out a famous psychologist from the 60s-70s and friend of Menninger's donated his library to the book sale. Lucky me.

I will not list them all the finds, but I must note that Maslow's edited volume New Knowledge in Human Values (1957) is now mine, and while many of you will say So effing what, let me just say that this set of essays and the commentary by Weisskopf are truly thought-shattering and thought-rebuilding. The book is 50 years old, and yet so relevant--relevant to this blog's discussions of the future and ethics.

Eileen Joy said...

Michael--I, for one, am always following your book recommendations. I received last week Maslow's "Psychology of Science," "The Farher Reaches of Human Nature," and "Future Visions: Unpublished Visions." I will now attempt to lay my hands on "New Knowledge in Human Values." Some time this spring or summer, I am going to be putting together a proposal for a new BABEL essay collection, tentatively titled "Toward a History of a Vanishing Humanism." Would you be at all interested to contribute a chapter that might make an argument for a (re)turn to a Maslowian humanism? Just a thought.

Eileen Joy said...

Um, that's "Future Visions: Unpublished Papers." Someone at my university likes or liked Maslow a lot, as we have many of his books in our library, almost all of them.

michael uebel said...

Whilst on a Maslovian high, I recommend his journals, ed. by Richard Lowry.

Put me down for a chapter on Rogers and Maslow. I've almost finished On Beocming a Person. Good stuff.

Eileen Joy said...

Michael, as Bill & Ted might say, "ex--cell--ent." Cheers.

Oli said...

You know, the more I think about it, the less I understand to what end Edelman's deploying the sinthome. I have less and less faith that his talk about becoming sinthomosexuals and embracing our own disarraying jouissance can have any ethico-political use beyond reactive (and rather self-aggrandizingly individualistic) "transgression."

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

This comment from "antiqueer" was accidentally deleted:

The same Lee Edelman who writes (as commented on here by Eileen Joy)

"Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we're collectively terrorized; fuck Annie; fuck the waif from 'Les Mis'; fuck the poor, innocent kid on the Net; fuck Laws both with capital ls and the small; fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that serves as it prop" [p. 29].

also writes, in his acknowledgements of Homographesis,

"My mother, who died unexpectedy as the last essay to be written was being finished, offered a lifetime of love and encouragement, and weekly expressions of her interest in my progress on this book; I wish she were her to read it, or at least to show it to her friends. The thought of the pride and the pleasure she would have taken in that display will have to suffice for me now, just as the dedication that, could she have read it, could I have said it then, would doubtless have moistened her eyes, can now only moisten mine. I want to mention with thanks the loving support of the rest of my family: my father, Edwyn Edelman; my brothers, Mark and Alan; my sister-in-law, Erica; Joni and Larry Litvak; and my niece and nephews: Leah Edelman, Avi Edelman, Sam Edelman, Sam Edelman, Greg Litvak, and Doug Litvak."

Edelman's words don't moisten my eyes, but they do make me think that his exhortation to fuck the social order is a kind of indulgence. (I find the reference to the Mom who mightn't read the book but who would show it to her friends particularly sick-making.) Why are queer theorists always positioning themselves against the social? Many of them are tenured professors at highly regarded and very well funded American universities: their equation of the 'queer' with an opposition to progressive and collaborative or communitarian politics and identities strikes me as extremely dubious. 'Queer' is always celebrating its own oppositional status from safe and privileged institutional locations.