Counterpublic Histories, Radical Queer Negativity, and Creaturely Life: Exploring a Literary Archive of Queer Spaces in New York City
Guenther, Faye Chisholm
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My dissertation is a comparative study of David Wojnarowiczs Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration (1991), Samuel R. Delanys Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999), and Eileen Myless Inferno (A Poets Novel) (2010). I conceive of the memoirs as a literary archive of queer spaces situated in New York City in the last quarter of the 20th century. Crucially, the memoirs recall queer spaces as sites of counterpublic experience. The guiding questions for my dissertation are: how does this literary archive function, how are the different queer spaces represented, and why is this archive significant. The queer spaces described in the memoirs include physical environments, relational practices, and queer imaginaries. The memoirs bear witness to the ways that the AIDS epidemic dismantled queer spaces. They also document the destructive impact of gentrification as a material and social process. In doing so they address how contemporary queer culture in North America is shaped by the losses of queer spaces. Wojnarowicz, Delany, and Myles use personal narratives to convey the ways struggles over visibility and freedom register on their bodies and resonate in their emotional and intellectual experiences. They explore the meaning of queer spaces in terms of the material nature of historyhow history moves within the body and through spatial relations. I theorize the materialization of history in the memoirs as expressions of creaturely life and radical queer negativity. These modes of expression primarily emerge from the memoirs central thematic concerns of freedom and visibility in relation to queer spaces. In conveying the materialization of queer history within the body and through spatial relations, the three authors become pivoting subjects. They bear witness to their own counterpublic experiences in queer spaces in order to consider the possibilities of liberated queer futures.