Benjamin Bateman, literary scholar based at the University of Edinburgh, offers an advanced seminar on queer theory at FAC Research. The two-hour seminar, entitled “Vaporous Vows,” is aimed at people who have a background in queer theory, an interest in literature, and are fluent in English.
“Vaporous Vows” connects Eve Sedgwick’s early work on queer performativity to her much later essay, “The Weather in Proust.” Using as a literary touchstone the critically neglected American autobiography, Story of a Life (1901), penned under the pseudonym Claude Hartland, Ben argues in conversation with object relations theory that the weather’s rhythms teach presence and absence and generate an environment inclusive of queerness in all its errancy and fallibility. The seminar concludes by considering how an accelerating Anthropocene threatens not only the predictability of the climate, but also the psychological conditions in which queerness can flourish. A discussion, driven by participants’ own interests, will follow.
To participate in the seminar, please send an expression of interest (with your name and contact information) by February 14, 2020 at the latest. To allow for rich exchange in discussion, the seminar will be capped at 10 participants. Participants will be sent relevant texts in advance to prepare for the seminar.
Ben is the author of The Modernist Art of Queer Survival, published by Oxford University Press in 2017. Whether we speak of queer bodies targeted for harassment, queer sensibilities derided as dangerous, or queer intimacies denied legitimacy, we acknowledge a close companionship between queerness and precariousness. Queerness remains continuously under threat; these threats to survival can be immediate, as in the AIDS crises, or more subtle and entrenched. Many queer lives thus end prematurely and drastically-but not all end in the physical expiration of life. Some terminate gradually and even unconsciously in the countless concessions to normativity demanded by dominant cultures that perceive, through a perverse set of projective identifications, their own survival as imperiled by queerness. The Modernist Art of Queer Survival explores an archive of modernist archive of modernist literature that conceives survival as a collective enterprise linking lives across boundaries of race, time, class, species, gender, and sexuality. As social Darwinism promoted a selfish, competitive, and combatively individualistic understanding of survival, the five modernists examined in The Modernist Art of Queer Survival countered by imagining how postures of precarity, vulnerability, humility, and receptivity can breed pleasurably and ecologically sustainable modes of interdependent survival.