CFP: Backward Premodern, Queer Negativities (9/15/08; 2/26-3/1/09)

by Jessica C. Murphy

40th Anniversary Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
Feb. 26-March 1, 2009
Boston, Massachusetts

Session: “Rescue Me Not: Backward Premodern, Queer Negativities”

In her recent book, Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History, Heather Love reacts against the need of one dominant strand of queer studies “to turn the difficulties of gay, lesbian, and transgender history to good political use in the present” (104). Love contends that the faith in the power of Foucauldian reverse discourse, best exemplified in the ideology of gay pride that transforms sexual shame into social
affirmation, has resulted in a critical blind spot; too many critics have promised “to rescue the past when in fact they dream of being rescued themselves” (33). Resisting the idealization of cross-historical intimacies, Love postulates a queer critical practice rooted in a “backward future” that both insists on a rigorous embrace of the past and cleaves to negative affects that seem especially “bad” for political agency.

This session takes up the challenge of how far Love’s historiographic practice of backward feeling may be extended beyond High Modernism to the “premodern” past. How do premodern subjects construct their negative affectivity, backwardness, and/or futurity? What are the forms of their resistance to (post)modern rescues? And how does one engage with premodern subjects, both real and fictive, who have refused to behave themselves as redeemable (queer) subjects for (queer) critics? 300-word abstracts by 15
Sept; Wan-Chuan Kao (

Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation,
Email address
Postal address
Telephone number