CSGS Visiting Scholar: spring 2011
Dr. Kaye Mitchell is Lecturer in Contemporary Literature in the Department of English and American Studies at the University of Manchester, UK, and the author of A.L. Kennedy (Palgrave, 2007) and Intention and Text (Continuum, 2008). Her recent research focuses in particular on issues of gender and sexuality within contemporary literature and culture.
I am currently in the early stages of working on my third book, provisionally entitled Queer, Pulp, and the Politics of Unintelligibility. The new book presents a dual investigation – of lesbian pulp fiction/pulp sexology and contemporary queer theory – considering the relationship between the two. It analyses lesbian pulp by placing it in the context of its production (roughly 1950-1965), considering it as an oft-neglected and politically fraught flowering within the longer history of lesbian literature, but also seeking to situate it in the context of its recent rediscovery and recuperation (1990s-present).
The book thus comprises a re-reading of the 1950s which is alert to its incipient ‘queerness’, a literary analysis of popular depictions of lesbianism in 1950s pulp fiction and pulp sexology, a detailed engagement with contemporary critical readings of pulp as ‘queer’, and an interrogation of contemporary theoretical writing on queerness. The aim is to demonstrate the investment of a certain strand of queer theory in incoherence and unintelligibility, and to use the recuperation of pulp – increasingly viewed as possessed of an anticipatory queerness – as exemplary of this, whilst considering what uses and meanings lesbian pulp might possess for us now. The central question of the book concerns how useful and/or limiting the embrace of unintelligibility is for queer politics, and the etiology of that reduction of sexuality to questions of meaning will be traced. There will also be an exploration of broader questions concerning pulp’s foregrounding of shame and trauma (again, connecting this to contemporary queer debates on lesbian history and literature), the constitution of the ‘queer archive’ (its investment in affect and ephemera), the commodification of queerness, and the nature and methods of queer ‘recuperation’ – taking into account recuperation’s concomitant meanings of ‘regaining’ or ‘taking back’ and ‘recovery from illness’. The recuperation of pulp, I suggest, amounts to more than simply its re-publication, for it welcomes back into the corpus of queer texts and histories what was once abjected, but I remain interested in what may be at stake in this process.