Okay, so I last posted something in May and now I’m trying to start my routine again. I have no excuse for June and July, but August and September have been a bag of wank. I have been reading and pulling my ideas together and have actually started writing my PhD proposal, but I need to get back into a routine where I am actively thinking about the pros and cons of various texts, as well as writing in rough my ideas for my PhD (i.e. the whole point of this blog).
With that, I present to you “catch up shorts” – brief segments on the stuff I’ve read. Honestly, I’ve mostly forgotten the high level criticisms I had when I first read these books, but that’s what happens when personal crises fuck up your routine. Onward.
Pauline Palmer – The Queer Uncanny: New Perspectives on the Gothic
Some really interesting ideas in this one on the broader field of Queer Gothic. The main thing I took from this was an idea that queer Gothic can actively work to renegotiate the more standard paradigm of queer Others as monstrous, powerless and evil. My main issue with it was that there are clear influences of psychoanalysis within it, which is to be expected when it is drawing on Freud’s notion of the Uncanny. Largely though, the text didn’t overly rely on psychoanalysis to explain every goddamn thing. It was also well written, which is always a plus. There was a brief mention of a text with a cross-dressing character, but there was (as usual) little analysis of the way cross-dressing (drag) functions in the text within the context of the author’s main arguments. There are definite small jumps to be taken from this into an analysis of drag as a queer textual gender performance (which I guess I shall be doing).
J. Halberstam – Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monstrosity
Another good academic text. It provided a clear grounding with surface level analysis of the Gothic, and how the body functions as a necessary site for discourse generation. Halberstam made little effort to examine the regenerative and renegotiating possibilities of queerness within the Gothic at the site of the body, falling into a pretty dire belief that Others cannot use their Otherness to their advantage as a source of power. I also remember feeling like the two main Others – Queers and Jews – were fighting for critical attention in the book. This often left one or the other not receiving a full critical analysis in the text Halberstam discusses. Despite the analysis of the Othered (Gothic) body, drag had been reduced to an analogy on one page. That said, the one line is a good one that directly links drag and the Gothic as sharing a shared capacity for excessive fakery and performance.
George Haggerty – Queer Gothic
This one wasn’t bad, but the scope of the text was a little too large for something a little over 200 pages. There was also some drawing on psychoanalysis again, which I’ve just come to expect now. I remember having a big issue with how queerness was never really defined in the text, and there was this kind of expectation for the reader to know what exactly the queerness meant in Haggerty’s context. In my opinion, this serves to render a level of exclusivity to a critical work, and I found myself questioning if I knew what queerness Haggerty was on about. This text, for me, was the one that solidified a real problem with current analyses of queer Gothic – a tendency towards negativity and having to begrudgingly accept the status quo of Othering. Haggerty ends with the statement that ‘even gothic failure is a kind of success if it challenges the status quo and insists on behaviors otherwise invisible’. To me, this means that if a Gothic text challenges the status quo, it somehow becomes less Gothic. Consequently, this reduces the generative possibility of the Gothic. Adversely, a Gothic that reinforces the status quo is unable to be truly queering, and that kind of diminishes the challenges put forward in those queer Gothic texts Haggerty has been writing about. It kind of feels like a ‘well this was pointless’ sigh.
Julia Kristeva – Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection
I read this whole thing and there were some useful bits. It was written very beautifully, but in that dire and inaccessible way mid-to-late-twentieth century academic criticism is so often written. I don’t think I have anything new to say that would be adding to the existing discussions surrounding this text, so I’ll move on.
And that’s it. Well, not quite. I just finished Horner and Zlosknik’s Gothic and the Comic Turn, but that was literally this week, so I can write something a little more in-depth that these sound bites.