Monday, 20 February 2017

Reparative Reading at 21

It has taken me almost one week after the Reparative Reading at 21 event held at University of York to think about what I would like to reflect on it, yet I remain at a loss. It was one of those rare days where academia and the intimacy of emotional life come into contact in a most genuine and insightful way. It consisted of a gathering of people who loved to ask questions and I was reminded anew of why I love to study.

My aim in this post will not be to try to write something meaningful about Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick or about her 1996 essay 'Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You're So Paraonid You Probably Think This Essay is About You'. Instead, I will note down certain key points that came up during the day that I wish to remember in the future, which may now, collected as such, seem disparate, although they are indeed related. It is exciting to feel this is only the beginning of my engagement with Sedgwick and her ideas.


- Trump's deployment of the spectacle to propagate his power; people at Trump rallies taking pleasure in the crowd and activist environment which seems to be perverse as it is the same pleasure of being part of a rally for causes that we feel are good and worthy (Katie Kent)

- visibility as constituting violence (Katie Kent)

- 'willed ignorance'

- you can never be paranoid enough

- mixing policies with pleasure

- to take pleasure in objects of study/or to keep scholarship separate from pleasure

- In Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts, Rosalind Krauss rejects the personal in academics (Ben Nichols)

- how far does liking things constitute study/change?

- should what extent should love enter work? Does love substitute insight? (Jason Edwards, Ben Nichols)

- DIY academics/professionalism; professional as egalitarian or elitist? Who is excluded from academia? who has access?

- value in affect over truth value? (issues around Trump)

- reading as rhetoric, discourse language

- 'getting stuck' - intellectual and emotional risk (Angus Brown)

- should we want close reading to hurt? (Angus Brown)

- the category of queer as dissolving binaries such as gay/straight and therefore the closet (Monica Pearl)

- sexuality and shame

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Baudrillard and the pornographic

“We no longer partake in the drama of alienation, but are in the ecstasy of communication. And this ecstasy is obscene. Obscene is that which eliminates the gaze, the image and every representation. Obscenity is not confined to sexuality, because today there is a pornography of information and communication, a pornography of circuits and networks, of functions and objects in their legibility, availability, regulation, forced signification, capacity to perform, connection, polyvalence, their free expression”. [1]

“The entire universe also unfolds on your home screen. This is a microscopic pornography, pornographic because it is forced, exaggerated, just like the close-up of sexual acts in a porno film. All this destroys the stage, once preserved through a minimal distance and which was based on a secret ritual known only to its actors”. [2]

[1] Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication, 26-27.

[2] Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication, 26.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

I'm thinking about Fogo again...

A quote by John Grierson, in my ever-running thoughts on Fogo Island...

"Propaganda shows a way by which we can strengthen our conviction and affirm it more aggressively against the threat of an inferior concept of life, we must use it to the full, or we shall be robbing the forces of democracy of a vital weapon for its own security and survival. It is not just an idea : it is a practical use of modern scientific warfare".

From "The Nature of Propaganda"


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Two quotes from Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes

“a specific photograph, in effect, is never distinguished from its referent (from what it represents), or at least it is not immediately or generally distinguished from its referent (As is the case for every other image, encumbered from the start, and because of its status – by the way in which the object is simulated): it is not impossible to perceive the photographic signifier… but returned a secondary action of knowledge or of reflection”[1]

“it is as if the Photograph always carries its referent with itself, both affected by the same amorous or funereal immobility, at the very heart of the moving world: they are glued together, limb by limb, like a condemned man and the corpse in certain tortures; or even like those pairs of fish (sharks, I think, according to Michelet) which navigate in convoy, as though united by an eternal coitus”[2]

[1] Barthes, Camera Lucida, 5.
[2] Barthes, Camera Lucida, 5-6.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Freud's 'Three Essays' and the Critique of Heteronormativity

"Lecture and Discussion: Re-reading Freud's 1905 edition of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality

This book presentation is devoted to the newly translated and annotated English edition of Freud’s 1905 Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (Verso, 2016)."

I immensely enjoyed attending the lecture by and questions with Philippe Van Haute and Herman Westerink last night at the Freud Museum in London regarding their new translation of Freud's 1905 version of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. What most resonated with me was their re-reading and presentation of this early version of these texts by way of a contemporary understanding of important issues concerning psychoanalytic theory on infant sexuality as well as urgent concerns today on heteronormativity. Unlike his predecessors, Freud in 1905 suggested that heteronormative or procreative sex constituted a form of sexuality developed in puberty in such a way that is culturally determined through distinctions such as normal and natural. On the contrary, infantile sex is autoerotic and not directed toward an object, but rather concerned with sensual and physiological sensations of for example, pursing lips on a nipple whilst being breast fed. 

This proved to be interesting to me for a multitude of reasons. One main concern is that it presented a version of child sexuality that I felt was unproblematic and attentive to the actual experience of infant sensation. This is opposed to an alternative Oedipal or perhaps literal reading of some of Freud's other theories, which I feel risk projecting adult sexual experience onto children, which I feel to be wrong and potentially dangerous. 

Another aspect I enjoyed was the notion that sexual drive or, as Van Haute and Westerink wished to distinguish, instinct, is relational so that the parent might not even know that he or she is being confronted (though not as a direct object of drive) by an infant's drive, or I would extend, energy. 

With regard to heteronormativity, the notion of a polymorphous, non-object based drive, but also one that is non-procreative and thus 'perverse' is an urgent issue in today's opening of sexuality and understanding of sexual experience in an expanded manner that is inclusive and rejects human sex as limited to reproductive instinct. Freud presents four examples of such kinds of perversions: sadism, masochism, masturbation and inversion (or homosexuality). 

What was particularly interesting was the historiographical research conducted by Van Haute and Westerink, wherein they were able to determine at which moments Freud went back and altered his original statements in the 1905 editions of these three essays and were able to trace at which point he was influenced and encouraged to change or add elements to the texts, which ultimately were more in conjunction with much of the precursive research on sexology that he originally had wished to undermine and depart from. Reading his 1905 essays through the contemporary and relevant lens of Van Haute and Westerink allow for an estimation of Freud as just as challenging and subversive as we like to think he is, not only for his own era, but for our own conceptions of sexuality today.