I hope queer theory isn’t having a near death experience, but its life just flashed before its eyes. Over at the Chronicle Review, Michael Warner has penned a mid-length intellectual memoir of the first twenty years of the project, on the occasion of the conclusion of Series Q at Duke University Press.
Generously, Warner resists the temptation to call the project over, or failed (although he does nominate his preferred theoretical concerns — secularism and normativity — as the ones that ought to preoccupy queer theorists most, at the expense of other keywords like — affect, temporality, and empire):
Far from being conceptually vacuous, queer theory now has the shape of a searching and still largely undigested conversation, rich enough to have many branches, some different enough to be incommensurate with one another.
Out of curiosity, after reading Warner’s essay I went through the Worldcat catalogue this morning, looking for books with the phrase “queer theory” in the title. To my surprise, I had read almost none of them. Most were trots of various genres: introductions, ‘key concepts,’ etc. This makes me think that, at least in terms of book publishing, queer theory is not so much undigested as ,predigested, something that people already think can be summed up and sorted. As a phrase it has fallen victim to the very powers of ignorant knowingness that the late Eve Sedgwick anatomized in The Epistemology of the Closet.
I look forward to celebrating the publication of the Sedgwick’s posthumous collection of essays, The Weather in Proust, later this week at the MLA in Seattle.
This blog is beginning with words, but I’ll be getting back to music anon. Happy New Year!