In this episode of High Theory, Margaret Galvan talks about the queer politics of Visibility. In her work the activist practices of representation take concrete form in comic books, photographs, and even drawings on lecture slides!
In the episode, she discusses the photography of Nan Goldin and queer comic books in the 1980s. She quotes Adrienne Rich’s 1980 essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” She also references This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color, and Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera. At the end of the episode she references the Lesbian Avengers, who have amazing images.
Margaret Galvan is an assistant professor of English at the University of Florida. Her research examines how visual culture operates within the print media of feminist and queer social movements of the 1970s-1990s. Her brand new book In Visible Archives: Queer and Feminist Visual Culture in the 1980s, is out this fall from University of Minnesota Press‘s Manifold Scholarship Series. You should go check it out!
Because the amazing images Margaret talks about were drawn recently, they’re still in copyright. Our image this week is from Gladys Parker’s comic Mopsy which ran from 1937 to 1966. Parker was a successful female artist in a world of mainstream US comic books dominated by men.
We close Pride Month of 2023 with Jamie Staples talking about queer mysticism. This includes instances in medieval Christianity where an embodied and erotic experience of life, within and between persons, became the basis for an apprehension of divinity. The conversation particularly focuses on the poem “Dark Night of the Soul” by 16th century Spanish poet St. John of the Cross and the work of 14th-15th century English mystic Margery Kempe. Jamie shares his own story to show how queer mysticism can offer resources from within Christianity to build a personal and communitarian politics against fundamentalist discrimination and hatred.
Starting this fall, Jamie Staples will be Visiting Assistant Professor of Medieval English literature at Trinity College in Hartford. His research takes seriously the productive intersection of mystical theology and poetry in the development of alternative modes of critical thinking in the late Middle Ages. He’s recently written two articles focused more specifically on the queer mysticism that he will be discussing today, one on the fifteenth-century Book of Margery Kempe, published in Romanic Review, and the other on the fourteenth-century poem Cleanness, published in Exemplaria.
Image: © 2023 Saronik Bosu
In this episode of High Theory, Jack Jen Gieseking tells us about queer space. Queer geographies matter alongside queer temporalities. And it turns out that lesbian life in the 1950s cannot be generalized from the specific history of Buffalo, New York.
In the episode they reference a number of scholarly books including J. Jack Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (NYU Press, 2005); Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Duke UP, 2010); Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community (Routledge, 1993); Mairead Sullivan, Lesbian Death: Desire and Danger between Feminist and Queer (Minnesota UP, 2022); Henri Lefebre, The Production of Space (La production de l’espace, Editions Anthropos, 1974, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, Blackwell, 1919). He also names a number of scholars, including the geographer Gill Valentine, the historian David Harvey, and cultural anthropologist Gayle Rubin, and the 1982 Barnard Conference on Sexuality.
Jack Jen Gieseking is a Research Fellow at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center. Their book A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers was published by NYU Press in 2020, and has a companion website called An Everyday Queer New York. They are working on a new book called Dyke Bars*: Queer Spaces for the End Times that uses the trans asterisk to invite consideration of queer spaces not historically claimed as dyke bars.
Marquis Bey talks about the radical and abolitionist project of Black Trans Feminism. Rather than an identity formation, it is a politics and modality of being that vitiates the limits of subjectivity. Black Trans Feminism finds joy in irreverence, just like we try to do on High Theory.
You can recalibrate your understanding of the subject by reading Marquis’s forthcoming book Black Trans Feminism, published by Duke University Press. Released next week! On February 25th.
In the episode Marquis references a wonderful quote from Saidiya Hartman, that “A Black revolution makes everyone freer than they actually want to be.” It’s a hard quote to find, but it appears in Frank Wilderson’s interview with C.S. Soong, “Blacks and the Master/Slave Relation” in Afropessimism: An Introduction (Racked & Dispatched, 2017).
Marquis is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and English at Northwestern University. They also serve as Faculty Affiliate and Advisory Board Member in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Advisory Board Faculty Member in Critical Theory.
This week’s image was provided by Marquis.
Music used in promotional material: ‘Semiacoustic’ by Pk Jazz Collective
Kareem Khubchandani talks about aunties, figure across culture that stand for inquiry and succor, at limits of, or outside of traditional family structures. The conversation spans across genres and contexts, mainly focusing on work in the new field of Critical Aunty Studies.
Kareem Khubchandani is the Mellon Bridge assistant professor in theater, dance, and performance studies, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Tufts University. He is the author of Ishtyle: Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife (University of Michigan Press, 2020), which received the 2021 Association for Theatre in Higher Education Outstanding Book award, 2021 Dance Studies Association de la Torre Bueno book award, 2021 MLA/ASA Alan Bray Memorial Prize honorable mention, and the 2019 CLAGS: Center for LGBTQ Studies Fellowship. Kareem is also co-editor of Queer Nightlife (University of Michigan Press, 2021) and curator of criticalauntystudies.com.
Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu
Music used in promotional material: ‘Like Swimming’ by Broke for Free
Stephen Guy-Bray talks about sexuality, a concept that brings together the the use of sexual metaphors in the description of textual production and the erotics that inhere in reading praxes. Among other things, this concept is a critique of the use of popular heteronormative metaphors of reproduction to describe the creation of literature.
Stephen Guy-Bray is professor of English at the University of British Columbia. He specializes in Renaissance poetry, queer theory, and poetics. He has just finished a monograph on line endings in Renaissance poetry.
Image: © 2021 Saronik Bosu
Music used in promotional material: ‘The Gold Lining’ by Broke For Free
Eric Wade speaks with Saronik about lust. They discuss how depictions of sexuality in medieval literature have persisted through literary traditions and shaped modern ideas of Orientalism and the sexual other.
In the episode, Eric mentions a number of modern theorists, including Edward Said, Joseph Boone, Ghassan Moussawi, and Joseph Massad.
Dr. Erik Wade—a visiting lecturer at the Universität-Bonn—researches the global origins of early medieval English ideas of sexuality and race. He is co-writing a book with Dr. Mary Rambaran-Olm, titled Race in Early Medieval England, out next year from Cambridge University Press.
This week’s image is a medieval illumination of the Dream of the Magi, showing the three kings hanging out naked in bed, in the Salzburg Missal, Regensburg ca. 1478-1489 [München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 15708 I, fol. 63r].
Music used in promotional material: ‘Streets of Sant’lvo’ by Mid-Air Machine
Sandeep Bakshi (@sandeepbak on Twitter) talks to Saronik about understanding queerness and its emancipatory politics through transnational solidarity building, the persistent inclusion of trans and queer epistemological frames in social justice movements, especially in the work done by the Decolonizing Sexualities Network. Sandeep explains this concept and the DSN’s objective by referring to the works of Maria Lugones, Sylvia Tamale and the Fallist movement, and Karma Chávez and Against Equality.
Sandeep Bakshi researches on transnational queer and decolonial enunciation of knowledges. He received his PhD from the School of English, University of Leicester, UK, and is currently employed as an Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Queer Literatures at the University of Paris. He heads the “Gender and Sexuality Studies” research group and coordinates two research seminars, “Peripheral Knowledges” and “Empires, Souths, Sexualities,”. Co-editor of Decolonizing Sexualities: Transnational Perspectives, Critical Interventions (Oxford: Counterpress, 2016) and Decolonial Trajectories, special issue of Interventions (2020), he has published on queer and race problematics in postcolonial literatures and cultures. He is the founder and serves on the board of the Decolonizing Sexualities Network.
Image: Cover of the book Decolonizing Sexualities: Transnational Perspectives, Critical Interventions
Music used in promotional material: “Hear Me Out” by Ketsa
Emma Heaney talks about the social organization of the supposedly biologically derived terms of the sex binary into a hierarchy of persons and qualities. She speaks widely about the work that she and her colleagues are doing, drawing on a tradition of scholarship that includes the work of Luce Irigaray, Hortense Spillers, Cathy J. Cohen and others.
Emma Heaney is a teacher, researcher, and writer living in Queens. Her first book, a study of the
medicalization of trans femininity and the uptake of the diagnostic figure in works of twentieth-
century literature and philosophy, is The New Woman: Literary Modernism, Queer Theory, and
the Trans Feminine Allegory (Northwestern, 2017). Her forthcoming second book, Feminism
Against Cisness, is an edited collection of essays by Trans Studies scholars who use anti-colonial,
Black, and Marxist feminist methods to address the many legacies of the historical emergence of
the idea that assigned sex determines sexed experience. Her introduction for that collection,
entitled “Sexual Difference Without Cisness” provides the basis for this interview.
Image: © 2021 Saronik Bosu
Music used in promotional material: “Flow” by dustmotes
Angelina Eimannsberger talks to Saronik about cultural phenomenon Jonathan Van Ness, and movements in queer femininity that they represent.
They touch briefly on Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Jean Genet’s Notre Dame des Fleurs, Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, and the hashtag #transisbeautiful inaugurated by Laverne Cox. They also talk about Michel Foucault’s interview “Friendship as a Way of Life“.
Angelina and Saronik had a post-recording conversation about the activistic work that JVN does. On that note, here is a list of organizations they support, and that you can support too:
Planned Parenthood, RAINN, Phoenix House, The Trevor Project, National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs, Advocates for Youth, GLSEN, Peer Health Exchange, ASPCA.
The image for this episode is a frame titled “Flowering Tree” by the fin de siècle English artist Aubrey Beardsley.