Monday, October 25, 2010
Time and Perspectives
...I wish i had more time and a better perspective.
Here is a teeny tiny list of books i wish I had time to read. I was thinking of doing a holiday book club/Pot luck. wanna come?
The Promise of Happiness By: Sara Ahmed
The Promise of Happiness is a provocative cultural critique of the imperative to be happy. It asks what follows when we make our desires and even our own happiness conditional on the happiness of others: “I just want you to be happy”; “I’m happy if you’re happy.” Combining philosophy and feminist cultural studies, Sara Ahmed reveals the affective and moral work performed by the “happiness duty,” the expectation that we will be made happy by taking part in that which is deemed good, and that by being happy ourselves, we will make others happy. Ahmed maintains that happiness is a promise that directs us toward certain life choices and away from others. Happiness is promised to those willing to live their lives in the right way.
Ahmed draws on the intellectual history of happiness, from classical accounts of ethics as the good life, through seventeenth-century writings on affect and the passions, eighteenth-century debates on virtue and education, and nineteenth-century utilitarianism. She engages with feminist, antiracist, and queer critics who have shown how happiness is used to justify social oppression, and how challenging oppression causes unhappiness. Reading novels and films including Mrs. Dalloway, The Well of Loneliness, Bend It Like Beckham, and Children of Men, Ahmed considers the plight of the figures who challenge and are challenged by the attribution of happiness to particular objects or social ideals: the feminist killjoy, the unhappy queer, the angry black woman, and the melancholic migrant. Through her readings she raises critical questions about the moral order imposed by the injunction to be happy.
No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Series Q) by Lee Edelman
Queer theory, a fairly recent academic discipline, has been commonly used as an analytic tool to deconstruct literature, film and art, although writers such as Judith Butler and Michael Warner have also applied it to philosophy and sociology to subvert accepted concepts of the "normal." Edelman’s slim volume takes this idea further than anyone else to date. Arguing that the traditional Western concept of politics is predicated on making the future a better place and that the accepted—literal as well as symbolic—image of the future is the child, he states that "queerness names the side of those not ‘fighting for the children.’ " Edelman argues that homosexuality’s perceived social threat has to do with its separation from the act of reproduction, yet, he says, this non-reproductive capacity must be embraced as a social good. He illustrates his provocative stance by analyzing numerous cultural artifacts—Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (why do the birds keep attacking children?); A Christmas Carol (he favors Scrooge over Tiny Tim); the musical Annie (with its hit song "Tomorrow")—and by discussing the theories of post-modern writers such as Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizak, Jean Baudrillard and Barbara Johnson. While Edelman also focuses on recent events—the murder of Matthew Shepard, the bombing of abortion clinics, the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal—most of his book is densely written and theoretical. This is a notable contribution to post-modern theory, but Edelman’s knotted, often muddled writing will limit his readership to hard-core academics and students of post-modern thought.
Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity
By: Jose Esteban Munoz
Gay liberation's activist past and pragmatic present are merely prologue to a queer cultural future, Muñoz (Disidentifications) suggests in this critical condemnation of the political status quo. Casting his vision of a radical gay aesthetic through the prisms of literature, photography and performance, the author dismisses commonplace concerns like same-sex marriage as desires for mere inclusion in a corrupt mainstream. More defiantly, he exalts the persistence of commercial sex spaces in the face of antisex and homphobic policings, and celebrates the overlay of punk and queer in performance spaces. Muñoz draws on a dynamic roster of seminal artists to illustrate his vision of a utopian queer future, from the well-known (LeRoi Jones, James Schuyler and John Giorno) to edgy artists, including homo-core punk queen Vaginal Davis, club photographer Kevin McCarty and drag chanteuse Kiki (Justin Bond).