Earlier this year, newspapers and other media reported the founding of a new scholarly journal, Porn Studies—setting off, predictably, a flurry of responses ranging from interest to outrage by way of derision. Pornography has always been a legal, ethical and political battlefield, and looks likely to remain so. But what is ‘pornography’? And what is its history? The word itself was coined in the nineteenth century; but what of earlier periods? Can we speak of medieval or early modern pornography? And what is at stake in our decision to do (or not to do) so? Join Hal Gladfelder, David Matthews and Kaye Mitchell for a roundtable on the complex, troubled history of a word, and the debates provoked by the bawdy, erotic, and obscene from the middle ages to the present.
(Image Credit: N. Maxwell Lander)
On Wednesday 16 October, the ‘Queer Now and Then’ seminar series will begin with ‘How to Do the Sexuality of History’ by Susan Lanser, Professor of English, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Comparative Literature at Brandeis University. Her paper will explore the notion of ‘the sexuality of history’, how this is distinct from ‘the history of sexuality’, and the methodological commitments that this shift entails.
(Image Cindy Sherman)
Tuesday 11th June, 5pm-7pm
Dr David Alderson (University of Manchester)
Is Capitalism Progressive (for Queers)?
Room A112, Samuel Alexander Building
The University of Manchester – All Welcome!
Dr David Alderson is interested in the relations between neoliberalism, gender and sexuality, and is working on a book that focuses on ‘post-gay culture’. This is not his term, nor is he keen to promote it. He argues that the term has been used in directly contradictory ways: on the one hand, to refer to the possibilities for gay assimilation; and, on the other, to refer to the need to rediscover a politics of sexuality now that ‘gay’ has apparently become the mark of assimilation. He is interested in these positions and the tensions between them, but also in the complex ways they relate to the marketization of sexuality. He writes from a Marxist/cultural materialist perspective, and, in the book he is writing now, is interested in the critical recovery of Marcusean ideas. More generally, he is also interested in the cultural implications of David Harvey’s work, and is developing ideas for a new project on ‘market authoriarianism.’
(Image Steve Lambert 2011)
Tuesday 7th May
Dr Kaye Mitchell (The University of Manchester)
Queer Metamorphoses: Girl Meets Boy and the Futures of Queer Fiction
On Tuesday 7th May, Dr Kaye Mitchell discussed the centrality of metamorphosis and transformation in Ali Smith’s novel Girl Meets Boy (2007), which re-imagines Ovid’s myth of Iphis, taken from Metamorphoses. Through her discussion of Girl Meets Boy and its treatment of gender and sexuality, Mitchell positioned metamorphosis as a dynamic that could contribute to queer theory through its emphasis upon transformation, fluidity and flexibility, whilst nonetheless questioning its concurrent investment in continuity and identity.
Dr Kaye Mitchell is a lecturer in contemporary literature at Manchester University. Having published on the relationship between intention and text (see Intention and Text, Continuum, 2008), Kaye Mitchell has focused on the politics of gender and sexuality as they have been related to issues of textual form and questions of meaning and signification, such as in her exploration of A. L. Kennedy’s perverse romances (see A. L. Kennedy, Palgrave, 2007). Her recent publications include a journal article on the ‘pornography of postmodern life’ in Martin Amis’s novel Money (Textual Practice, 2012), a chapter on pulp sexology for a book entitled The Queer 50s (Palgrave, 2012), a journal article on contemporary women’s sex blogs and erotic memoirs (Psychology and Sexuality, 2012), and a chapter for the Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction, edited by David Glover and Scott McCracken (C.U.P., 2012). She has recently completed an edited collection on the work of Sarah Waters, which will be published by Continuum in 2013. She is currently working on her third monograph, which investigates the turn to shame in literature and theory since the 1990s, and considers the politics, aesthetics and erotics of negative affects such as shame and disgust in a range of texts and authors including re-published 1950s lesbian pulp titles, and works by A.M. Homes, Mary Gaitskill, A.L. Kennedy, Catherine Millet, Martin Amis, Philip Roth and others.
Thursday 18th April
‘Queer Afterlives’ Roundtable
Readings and Discussion by Geoff Ryman and Roz Kaveney
Response by Jackie Stacey
Chaired by David Alderson
On Thursday 18th April, the ‘Queer Utopias’ seminar series welcomed Geoff Ryman and Roz Kaveney for a ‘Queer Afterlives’ roundtable. Geoff Ryman discussed The Wizard of Oz, outlining its queer aspects and its ongoing richness as a generator of other texts and re-imaginings. Roz Kaveney’s presentation centred on a discussion of fiction in which immortality in the flesh is figured as a potential queer utopia: an idea explored through readings of her own work, as well as reference to texts such as The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) and Orlando (Virginia Woolf). In her response, Jackie Stacey placed the questions raised by these two presentations in dialogue with her own book, The Cinematic Life of the Gene (2010).
Roz Kaveney is a poet, novelist, critic and activist who works in publishing in London. She helped found Feminists Against Censorship and was Deputy Chair of LIBERTY. Among her books are Reading the Vampire Slayer, Teen Dreams, the award-nominated fantasy novel Rhapsody of Blood-Rituals, and the Lambda finalist poetry collection Dialectic of the Flesh.
Canadian author Geoff Ryman has won 14 awards for his stories and ten books, many of which are science fiction. His novel Air (2005), won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the James W .Tiptree Memorial Award, the Sunburst Award and the British Science Fiction Association Award. Most recently his novelette Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)(2006) has been nominated for the Hugo Award and the World Fantasy Award. His interactive web novel 253: a novel for the Internet in Seven Cars and a Crash, in which 253 people sit on a London tube and are each described in 253 words, won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award for best novel not published in hardback.
Tuesday 19th March
Professor Clare Hemmings (LSE)
‘The Voice of Love is Calling, Wildly Beating Against their Breasts’: Emma Goldman, Sexual Freedom and the Homosexual Archive
Emma Goldman (1869-1940) was a passionate anarchist thinker and activist who embraced the radical possibilities of sexual freedom as central to social and political transformation in her day. She was a champion of women’s sexual freedom, family limitation, free love, prostitutes’ and homosexual rights and lectured widely on all of these topics. It is hardly surprising then, that she has subsequently been claimed as both a feminist and a queer icon, a model for linking issues of sexual politics with questions of labour and migration. In her seminar, Clare Hemmings focused on the queer reclamation of Goldman, arguing that in trying to divest her detailed arguments of their essentialist humanism (for a contemporary queer project), contemporary theorists do both her and us a disservice. Hemmings charted the importance of that humanism for her ability to make the links she does between sexual freedom and political transformation, and elucidate its limits. One of those limits is the ambivalent presence of homosexuality in the Goldman archive, an ambivalence that is significant for charting the history of sexual politics and that cannot simply be rewritten, though it can be re-imagined.
Clare Hemmings is Professor of Feminist Theory and has been working at LSE for 13 years. Her primary areas of research interest are feminist theory and sexuality studies, and her main publications in these spheres are Bisexual Spaces (Routledge 2002) and Why Stories Matter (2011), for which she won the 2012 Feminist and Women’s Studies Association Book Prize.