Saturday, August 04, 2007

Advance look: Queering the Non/Human, ed. Noreen Giffney and Myra J. Hird

While the family is off to a waterpark, I'm at home completely engrossed in this volume. I agreed to compose a foreword, and I'm happy I did because it's given me an early glance at the essays. Look for Queering the Non/Human to be published by Ashgate next spring, as part of the Queer Interventions series. Table of contents below.

  • How Queer Can You Go? Theory, Normality, and Normativity (Claire Colebrook)
  • (Con)founding ‘the Human’: Incestuous Beginnings (Vicki Kirby)
  • Queer Apocal(o)ptic/ism (Noreen Giffney)
  • Queering the Beast: The Antichrists’ Gay Wedding (Erin Runions)
  • Queering the Un/godly: Christ’s Humanities and Medieval Sexualities (Robert Mills)
  • Unnatural Predators: Queer Theory Meets Environmental Studies in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Robert Azzarello)
  • The Werewolf as Queer, the Queer as Werewolf, and Queer Werewolves (Phillip A. Bernhardt-House)
  • The Face of a Dog: Levinasian Ethics and Human/Dog Coevolution (Karalyn Kendall)
  • ‘I Married My Dog’: On Queer Canine Literature (Alice A. Kuzniar)
  • Animal Trans (Myra J. Hird)
  • Lessons From a Starfish (Eva Hayward)
  • Animating Revolt/Revolting Animation: Penguin Love, Doll Sex and the Spectacle of the Queer Non-Human (Judith Halberstam)
  • The Nanoengineering of Desire (Luciana Parisi)
  • Queer Causation and the Ethics of Mattering (Karen Barad)
  • Necrosexuality (Patricia MacCormack)


mu celex lemma said...

With such arresting titles as "Queer Apocal(o)ptic/ism," this volume has leapt to the top of my stack.

mu celex lemma said...

And, yes, I do give permission to the good people at Ashgate to use the above quote as a promotional blurb.

tru mu said...

Owen Hargreaves played for MU today. Yay!

mu celex lemma said...

It's nice to see Owen back. I hope that ankle doesn't give him trouble.

tre mu lous said...

Yes - that's a worry

mu pedant said...

He is not really 'back', since he has never signed to a British league club before. As a BritishCanadian he moved straight from Calgary to Bayern Munich and has been there the last ten years - making him the only fluent German speaker to play for England. Does that make him a queer football player?

Karl Steel said...

The titles look like a lot of fun. Are any of the articles about medieval works?

mu celebrex said...

Owen is "back" in the sense that he's apparently recovered from a frustrating pre-season. I look forward to next weekend’s Premier League opener against Reading. I suspect he'll be playing more than just one half.

mu sacious said...

Ah - back as in recovered rather than returned. Sometimes English can be so ambiguous. Something to do with its medieval origins - see, Karl, I am trying to keep this in the middle - it is just - well St Swithun was wrong this year - and the unusually wonderful weather makes it hard to concentrate (as does owen's wonderfully curly hair).

mu koan said...

I think we're keeping it "in the middle." Hargreaves is, after all, a midfielder.

a mu sed said...

MIDfielder! YES! A position invented shortly after the cannon ball to keep the front line supplied with amunition.

am MU nition said...

Are puns queerly English?

J J Cohen said...

Noreen Giffney, like her partner in crime Michael O'Rourke, has an amazing range, from women's studies and all kinds of theory to medieval studies (she has an excellent piece, for example, entitled 'Que(e)rying Mongols' in Medieval Feminist Forum, 28 (2003); its focus is medieval). That range is certainly demonstrated in her introduction and essay, both of which are not presentist in the way that queer theory often can be.

Two essays in the collection are mainly medieval: Robert Mills' piece on Jesus as queer monster (I'm a big fan of Mills' work, and this is one of the best things I've read by him); and the Celticist Phillip A. Bernhardt-House's essay on werewolves -- though it covers contemporary culture -- has lots of medieval material. His range is extraordinary. Here he is, for example, on a medieval Irish tale:
the later Irish story, Eachtra an Mhadra Mhaoil, an Irish Arthurian romance incorporating the werewolf theme. In the story, Sir Gawain goes on a series of adventures with an earless, tail-less, talking wolf, later revealed to be Alastrann the Wonderful, one of five transformed sons of the king of India. The five were deceived by their evil stepmother, and were enchanted to become three male canines and two bitches, who in the course of time produced fourteen pups. All of this family of canines, except for Alastrann, are killed subsequently, and the tale is primarily concerned with the restoration and revenge against those responsible for the killings and enchantment.
Who knew such stories existed? (OK, you likely did, Karl). But in its attempt to answer the question "What would the werewolf figure itself think of queerness through an emic perspective, which is to say, from its own viewpoint and from its own native self-understanding?" the essay really is fine reading.

mu vecu said...

Hmmm. Pretty well-known Arthurian stuff. The Eachtra an Mhadra Mhaoil/Eachtra Mhacaoimh-an-Iolair were edited and translated for The Irish Texts Society. Joseph Nagy's new introduction, some 90 years after the first edition, is quite decent. I thought that Gawain's Indian buddy was a dog, not a werewolf. Shows what I know.

mu curiosus said...

Dr. Cohen, I know that I speak for others when I say that there are a couple of questions the answers to which might prove helpful in the decision as to whether read or purchase said volume on "queering the non/human."

1. Is it implied in your judgment of Giffney's contributions to the volume that her title was not tongue in cheek?

2. What is your own (i.e., personal) relationship to queer studies as an ethical, personal or political, project? Several potential readers, as I can attest, are a bit challenged by the apparent disconnect between your own (apparently) unqueer life and your (apparent) investments in what passes as queer "theory" in contemporary academe. As a 190er once put it, "it's hard to imagine a straighter, more vanilla guy than Jeffrey."

Anonymous said...

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit,not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so he loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran,
“The Prophet”

mu iratus said...

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This will absolutely no effect on your access to this page (which resides on a different

Michael O'Rourke said...

Thanks Jeffrey for providing readers of ITM with this foretaste of whats to come in Noreen and Myra's Queering the Non/Human which both Noreen and I are very excited about (I'll be writing a series editors' preface which will come before your foreword!). Bob Mills and Phil Bernhardt-House have *explicitly* (to varying degrees) medieval pieces but Noreen's introduction to the collection draws on much recent medieval scholarship (including JJC's Medieval Identity Machines). Noreen's own chapter "Queer Apocal(o)ptic/ism" is far from tongue in cheek and represents a serious consideration of the place of the death drive in recent queer studies, especially Lee Edelman's No Future (which has been much discussed and dissected on this blog). While Noreen and I disagree about much in this particular book her chapter is an honest attempt to engage with Edelman on the terms of his own argument (no easy assignment) and is not afraid, in my opinion, to take him to task for some of his more glaring omissions (scholarly and activist). Like Jeffrey says Noreen has an extraordinary range and the table of contents for this new volume is a testament to that capacity she has for bringing disparate voices from fields as far apart as medieval studies and quantum physics together. By the way, not listed among the table of contents Jeffrey posted is an afterword from Donna Haraway. It will be interesting to see what readers of ITM make of the book when it comes out next spring as it has obvious commonalities and points of departure from many of the discussions which take place on this blog, not least with Eileen Joy's BABEL project.

hargreaves said...

Why is this an important question?

But in its attempt to answer the question "What would the werewolf figure itself think of queerness through an emic perspective, which is to say, from its own viewpoint and from its own native self-understanding?"

mu iudex said...

That's an excellent question, hargreaves. Cohen will not have a convincing answer for it, however.

There's that nice notion (adage?) to the effect that "you can use a lot of gold to gild a turd but, in the end, it remains a gilded turd." Or something like that.

Anonymous said...

Why does Jeffrey want to be queer?

From everything he tells us about his family and his work he is self-evidently not queer, sexually, at all. Of course queer theory can now seemingly be applied to almost anything. Even the most heterosexual female characters such as Margery Kempe get labelled queer. But the question remains – why so many people’s fascination with the queer – or before that the postcolonial?

Is this a thin liberal self-serving sympathy with the oppressed dressed up in fashionable clothing? And if so – what does it achieve? More than that why be so selective about the marginal identities we (those in non-queer positions of power) seek to embrace? Is it a ‘sexy’ way of saying lets think outside the box? And why does the word ‘sexy’ in that context have so much power?

In just about every society at all times in the past and present – the poorest and most oppressed group are usually not gay men and women but post-menopausal women (and some, but fewer, elderly unable-to-labour men). Old women are never ipso facto sexy, fun, cool or admirable in any way. (Sure there are a few powerful 'rich widows' – but believe me – or rather believe the UN and just about every NGO – they are very untypical of the category in general – and even rich old women are often ridiculed or demonised).

So why don’t the thin liberals embrace the identity of the old hag? Perhaps it turns out, queerly, that the image of a sexually active young person is not so oppressed after all. Perhaps it is the same old, same old. Sexually assertive youth, and especially those who relate to the identity of male youth, are always on top, always seeking to be in command and in control. When queer theory claims dear old MK is it just another way of putting her down, keeping her in her place, maintaining the same old masculinist imperialism?

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

If you arrived at this post by googling the title of Noreen and Myra's fine collection and find yourself puzzled by the comments, you may want to read this for context.