A Queer method? Samuel Delany's empiricism and the uses of the literary

Gisbert Kapp N329
Monday 20 February 2017 (17:15)
  • Centre for Contemporary Literature and Culture

Speaker: Dr Heather Love (University of Pennsylvania) - Session curated by Dr Angus Brown, Leverhulme ECR Fellow (University of Birmingham)

Venue: Gisbert Kapp Building, Room N329


In this essay, I situate the work of Samuel R. Delany in the context of post-War social science studies of sexual deviance, arguing that he shares with these figures a commitment to observational research methods; an ecological view of small social worlds; a belief in the ordinariness of deviance; and an ethics grounded in practices of documentation. I argue that the rise of queer theory at the height of the linguistic turn resulted in a narrowing of the epistemological and methodological range of the field. I suggest that Delany’s account of experience in his non-fictional writing—attuned to both material conditions and the complexities of representation and feeling—offers a model for an empirical turn in contemporary queer studies. 


Heather Love received her A.B. from Harvard and her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Her research interests include gender and sexuality studies, twentieth-century literature and culture, affect studies, sociology and literature, disability studies, film and visual culture, and critical theory. She is the author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (Harvard) and the editor of a special issue of GLQ on Gayle Rubin (“Rethinking Sex”) and the co-editor of a special issue of Representations ("Description Across Disciplines"). She has written on topics including comparative social stigma, compulsory happiness, transgender fiction, spinster aesthetics, reading methods in literary studies, and the history of deviance studies. She is currently completing a book on practices of description in the humanities and social sciences after World War II.

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