web site hit counter Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History

Availability: Ready to download

"Feeling Backward" weighs the costs of the contemporary move to the mainstream in lesbian and gay culture. While the widening tolerance for same-sex marriage and for gay-themed media brings clear benefits, gay assimilation entails other losses--losses that have been hard to identify or mourn, since many aspects of historical gay culture are so closely associated with the p "Feeling Backward" weighs the costs of the contemporary move to the mainstream in lesbian and gay culture. While the widening tolerance for same-sex marriage and for gay-themed media brings clear benefits, gay assimilation entails other losses--losses that have been hard to identify or mourn, since many aspects of historical gay culture are so closely associated with the pain and shame of the closet. "Feeling Backward" makes an effort to value aspects of historical gay experience that now threaten to disappear, branded as embarrassing evidence of the bad old days before Stonewall. It looks at early-twentieth-century queer novels often dismissed as "too depressing" and asks how we might value and reclaim the dark feelings that they represent. Heather Love argues that instead of moving on, we need to look backward and consider how this history continues to affect us in the present. Through elegant readings of Walter Pater, Willa Cather, Radclyffe Hall, and Sylvia Townsend Warner, and through stimulating engagement with a range of critical sources, "Feeling Backward" argues for a form of politics attentive to social exclusion and its effects.


Compare

"Feeling Backward" weighs the costs of the contemporary move to the mainstream in lesbian and gay culture. While the widening tolerance for same-sex marriage and for gay-themed media brings clear benefits, gay assimilation entails other losses--losses that have been hard to identify or mourn, since many aspects of historical gay culture are so closely associated with the p "Feeling Backward" weighs the costs of the contemporary move to the mainstream in lesbian and gay culture. While the widening tolerance for same-sex marriage and for gay-themed media brings clear benefits, gay assimilation entails other losses--losses that have been hard to identify or mourn, since many aspects of historical gay culture are so closely associated with the pain and shame of the closet. "Feeling Backward" makes an effort to value aspects of historical gay experience that now threaten to disappear, branded as embarrassing evidence of the bad old days before Stonewall. It looks at early-twentieth-century queer novels often dismissed as "too depressing" and asks how we might value and reclaim the dark feelings that they represent. Heather Love argues that instead of moving on, we need to look backward and consider how this history continues to affect us in the present. Through elegant readings of Walter Pater, Willa Cather, Radclyffe Hall, and Sylvia Townsend Warner, and through stimulating engagement with a range of critical sources, "Feeling Backward" argues for a form of politics attentive to social exclusion and its effects.

30 review for Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Margaux

    Feeling Backward takes up the notion of queer failure first explored by Lee Edelman’s No Future and by Judith Halberstam’s “Notes on Failure” (presented at UCI’s Visual Studies conference in 2006). Arguing that “Although many queer critics take exception to the idea of a linear, triumphalist view of history, we are in practice deeply committed to the notion of progress; despite our reservations, we just cannot stop dreaming of a better life for queer people” (3), Love offers the notion of “feeli Feeling Backward takes up the notion of queer failure first explored by Lee Edelman’s No Future and by Judith Halberstam’s “Notes on Failure” (presented at UCI’s Visual Studies conference in 2006). Arguing that “Although many queer critics take exception to the idea of a linear, triumphalist view of history, we are in practice deeply committed to the notion of progress; despite our reservations, we just cannot stop dreaming of a better life for queer people” (3), Love offers the notion of “feeling backward” as an antidote to the problem of compulsory gay pride. Love defines feeling backward as a “tradition of queer experience and representation” that constitutes “an account of the corporeal and psychic costs of homophobia” (4). In her discussion of this “archive of feeling,” Love focuses on “feelings such as nostalgia, regret, shame, despair, ressentiment, passivity, escapism, self-hatred, withdrawal, bitterness, defeatism, and loneliness [because such] feelings are tied to the experience of social exclusion and to the historical ‘impossibility’ of same-sex desire” (4). She explores these feelings through ambiguously modernist texts by Walter Pater, Radclyffe Hall, Will Cather, and Sylvia Townsend Warner. Love’s aim in excavating figures of queer backwardness is “to create an image repertoire of queer modernist melancholia in order to underline both the losses of queer modernity and the deeply ambivalent negotiation of these losses within the literature of the period” (5). In the process, she argues against models of progress, queer utopianism, queer modernity, and pride-as-normativity. I have a great deal of sympathy for Love’s interests in this text. I agree, along with so many other queer critics, that the “pride” model is flawed and participates in capitalism’s logic of progress and market normalization. I also believe that melancholia and grief can be fruitful thematics for queer theory, as Judith Butler demonstrated so elegantly. That said, I find Love’s negotiation of these terms frustrating and poorly managed. She begins by arguing that queerness itself participates in a legacy of backwardness: “Accounts of queer life as backward are ideological, however backwardness has the status of a lived reality in gay and lesbian life. Not only do many queers, as I suggest, feel backward, but backwardness has been taken up as a key feature of queer culture” (7). Love also cites the history of queers as “backward race” (a problematic use of the term race, I believe) understood as “perverse, immature, sterile, and melancholic” (6). Other parts of her argument, however, frame this “backwardness” as a trait that characterizes only some queer modernisms, namely, those performed by the authors in her study. This slippage of the location of backwardness produces an ambiguity around the term: is backwardness a queer trait? Or are certain queer figures backward in relation to an otherwise forward-looking tradition? This ambiguity is further complicated by Love’s argumentation: once she has argued for a queer relationship to backwardness in her introduction, the relationship between queerness and negativity goes unquestioned, meaning that terms as diverse as loneliness, passivity, victimization, and refusal are each approached as implicitly queer. The problematic reading of these terms is reproduced because Love fails to manage their differences. Victimization, for example, requires a deft touch; here, it is joined with apostasy, refusal, and domination with no argument to justify such a grouping. Love’s failure to manage these terms becomes, for me, one of the major problems of this work: she fails to read the idea of negativity in general. In her first chapter, Love declares her intent to “think with [the authors in her study] rather than against them, identifying with rather than critiquing their refusals and their backwardness” (23). This methodology seems to result in an insufficient analysis of the figures of refusal and backwardness. Although she identifies such figures, and launches thorough arguments against the recuperation of this negativity, the figural significance of negativity as such remains untheorized here. For me, this is deeply dissatisfying and reproduces the problem of the queer imperative: Love has deconstructed the imperative to pride, but has replaced it with an imperative to embrace our shame. I’m all for exploring that negativity, but she has not persuaded me that it is a specifically queer component of modernism (see, for example, the work of my fellow grad student, Mia McIver at UCI, whose dissertation explores exactly the same modernist affects—passivity, suspension, etc—with nary a queer reference). Finally, the most interestingly argued moments in Feeling Backward are, in fact, generally optimistic. Her discussion of Pater’s “epistemology of the vestibule,” for example, is interesting not because of its purported passivity, but because of the reformation of kinship that this semi-public space accomplishes. On the other hand, Love’s argument demonstrates a certain weakness here as well: her examples of negativity often veer in the direction of messianic and spectral futurity which, although superficially negative, participate in a pervasively optimistic philosophical gesture. Thus, her concluding sentence performs the very recuperation against which she claims to argue: “the question that faces us is how to make a future backward enough that even the most reluctant among us might want to live there” (163).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Piers Haslam

    This book puts forward an argument which I think is very relevant. The kinds of feelings of backwardness found in the works of the 20th century queer authors she looks at are undoubtedly key. A calm, sombre melancholy binds so many queer cultural products, and Love articulates the reasons for this theme and how it operates. Most importantly, she argues that these feelings can't be dispensed with by gay pride. I can't help but wonder where we might take her arguments from here ... This book puts forward an argument which I think is very relevant. The kinds of feelings of backwardness found in the works of the 20th century queer authors she looks at are undoubtedly key. A calm, sombre melancholy binds so many queer cultural products, and Love articulates the reasons for this theme and how it operates. Most importantly, she argues that these feelings can't be dispensed with by gay pride. I can't help but wonder where we might take her arguments from here ...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dunya Nadar

    Heather Love's book intentionally forces her readers revisit sites of pain and sites that have already been inscribed with 'set' meaning. Coming out is not quaint; it is still dangerous and fraught with anxiety. Most people have a level of investment in that paradigm because there seems to be no outside, regardless of any our level of awareness or level of disdain toward the larger hegemonic hetero-normative paradigms that rule our social identities. Mourning and loss seem to be part of the sham Heather Love's book intentionally forces her readers revisit sites of pain and sites that have already been inscribed with 'set' meaning. Coming out is not quaint; it is still dangerous and fraught with anxiety. Most people have a level of investment in that paradigm because there seems to be no outside, regardless of any our level of awareness or level of disdain toward the larger hegemonic hetero-normative paradigms that rule our social identities. Mourning and loss seem to be part of the shame paradigm. It does not mean that the shame should exist, but that in rejecting heterosexual models and ways of being, we will destroy certain ties that are emotional, cultural, and intellectual while creating new bonds. There are lessons to be learned. Love harkens us to Odysseus (via Horkeimer & Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment): "One might argue that Odysseus survives his encounter with the Sirens: though he can hear them singing, he cannot do anything about it. What saves him is that even as he looks backwards he keeps moving forward. One might argue that Odysseus offers an ideal model of the relation to the historical past: listen to it, but do not allow yourself to be destroyed by it" (Feeling Backward, 9). In essence, Love tells a cautionary tale as central to her argument: "…we need to pursue a fuller engagement with negative affects and with the intransigent difficulties of making feeling the basis for politics" (14). I wanted to read Love's chapter on Radclyffe Hall ("Spoiled Identity") and her novel The Well of Loneliness. I always stayed away from that book because of the bad rap it received as being dated and politically embarrassing. I knew that Hall would say something productive though. Love takes up Hallberstam's reading of the novel in Female Masculinity while creating her own reading: "I argue that in her portrait of Stephen's 'loneliness' Hall offers us a portrait of a complex and historically specific structure of feelings…As a result, loneliness is not primarily a question of epistemology in the novel but of ontology. Loneliness afflicts Stephen's being; it is deeply inscribed in her body" (107). I want to take this idea and connect it with the loneliness of transgender identities within a queer context. The Policing and politics of identity politics is clearly a site of fissure for those who want to navigate genderqueer spaces. Many are subject to judgmental reactions when they don't 'fit' the codes/coding inscribed in queer spaces. Dean Spade, for example, in "Undermining Gender Regulation," often finds people "disappointed" and "aghast." They thought ze would be "older, taller, more confidently looking, look like a lawyer, and, more importantly look like a man" (Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity 65). Spade ends the story with this cautionary tale from within: "Folks were concerned that the legitimacy of trans identity in the eyes of a transphobic culture is frequently tied to how normal and traditionally masculine or feminine trans people appear. I was ruining it for everyone" (65).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ai Miller

    A really interesting engagement with questions about what it might mean to embrace negative feelings (especially shame) when thinking about queer history, and how to hold that shame with the seemingly-compulsive need to paint a progressive queer history--and how it might be useful to consider given the room it leaves for the "tragic" figures of early queer history (esp. sad queens and butches.) I should say that this book barely brushes up against actual queer historiography as a field (she ment A really interesting engagement with questions about what it might mean to embrace negative feelings (especially shame) when thinking about queer history, and how to hold that shame with the seemingly-compulsive need to paint a progressive queer history--and how it might be useful to consider given the room it leaves for the "tragic" figures of early queer history (esp. sad queens and butches.) I should say that this book barely brushes up against actual queer historiography as a field (she mentions Gay New York in a footnote, to talk about Foucault and not even the historiographical work itself, but otherwise doesn't actually speak about any works of historiography) so if that's what you're looking for, this is probably not for you. She's engaging really more with queer theory and queer literary readings than she is with historiography itself, but what she has to say about thinking about a queer past is nonetheless really valuable, I think, and could really aid those of us who are interested in history itself as a practice. Her focus on texts might benefit the reader who has a greater familiarity more than it did me, but honestly it made me more excited to read The Well of Loneliness. I would also have liked to see her use Jose Esteban Muñoz's Disidentifications a little more, as I think it serves one possibility of how to grapple with what she's working with, but I guess I get to write that paper later, then. (For the record, she cites it as an important text she's drawing from in her readings, and she uses disidentification as a methodology when talking about the texts/authors themselves, but not when considering how critics approach the texts, which I found weird? But again, I am a pendant and officially the Worst because of grad school, so this is a complaint like two people care about.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    A very interesting work, Love argues for a queer politics that incorporates the negative affects of queer experience (in place of pride culture's denial of negative emotions) like shame, self-hatred, and loss. Although the premise is really interesting, she is somewhat vague on defining what this new version of queer politics would look like in practice. Also at times she seems to universalize the queer experience, while at other times she minoritizes it. Love's work, I think, opens up a really A very interesting work, Love argues for a queer politics that incorporates the negative affects of queer experience (in place of pride culture's denial of negative emotions) like shame, self-hatred, and loss. Although the premise is really interesting, she is somewhat vague on defining what this new version of queer politics would look like in practice. Also at times she seems to universalize the queer experience, while at other times she minoritizes it. Love's work, I think, opens up a really fascinating realm of ideas about the political usefullness of negative emotions, as well as the divide between personal experience and political usefullness. Also, Love makes several very interesting points throughout her analysis of several literary works, but they mostly remain minor points subject to her theme at large.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    my only quibble is that she might have taken on too many "backward feelings". i think her connection between loss and the impossibility of love was really powerful (though i'm really interested in how lacan argues that love is impossible in the first place.) however, how is that relationship between queerness and loss different than the relationship between queerness and shame, paranoia or depression? maybe it's the specific temporal/ phenomenological - i don't think i'm using that word right - my only quibble is that she might have taken on too many "backward feelings". i think her connection between loss and the impossibility of love was really powerful (though i'm really interested in how lacan argues that love is impossible in the first place.) however, how is that relationship between queerness and loss different than the relationship between queerness and shame, paranoia or depression? maybe it's the specific temporal/ phenomenological - i don't think i'm using that word right - implications: loss puts us in time; shame and depression might remove us from it. not all feelings are necessarily backward-looking or feeling. just a thought?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Madeleine

    Lovely, utterly necessary theory. Love is at the forefront of this theoretical moment, speaking to a conversation on generational trauma, affect, Benjaminian flashes of history, ghosts, injury, and ruined or isolated identity. We would all do well to tarry more with the difficult historical work Love urges us to do.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Acacia

    It was an interesting and well thought out book that touches on so many important topics and it would have been four stars but for some reason i kept getting slightly bored and putting the book down.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mason

    A wonderfully nuanced critique of the queer community's impulse to only claim the positive from trash bin of history. Love makes a convincing argument re: the need to engage with shame and loss in our attempts to understand the way forward. A wonderfully nuanced critique of the queer community's impulse to only claim the positive from trash bin of history. Love makes a convincing argument re: the need to engage with shame and loss in our attempts to understand the way forward.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    I read the introduction thoroughly but only skimmed the rest of the book (mostly due to lack of time). Overall, I like what Love argues. I don't agree 100% with everything, more like 90%. However, I think she has a lot of good ideas on how to approach queer history and queer texts. I read the introduction thoroughly but only skimmed the rest of the book (mostly due to lack of time). Overall, I like what Love argues. I don't agree 100% with everything, more like 90%. However, I think she has a lot of good ideas on how to approach queer history and queer texts.

  11. 4 out of 5

    нєνєℓ ¢ανα

    Informative

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sohum

    I think that Love's analysis is quite strong at points, but it was difficult to cohere until the last two chapters (Warner and the epilogue). I really enjoyed this book. I think that Love's analysis is quite strong at points, but it was difficult to cohere until the last two chapters (Warner and the epilogue). I really enjoyed this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nomountain

    Everyone interested in historical references to LGBT work must read this. It is on the academic side, however, so I don't recomend it as a casual read, as key insights would be missed. Love's look at historical references to queer bodies and how the written of people, such as Radclyffe Hall are used as the benchmark of all queer lives. Love discusses the concept of a one size fits all history of queer folks. Everyone interested in historical references to LGBT work must read this. It is on the academic side, however, so I don't recomend it as a casual read, as key insights would be missed. Love's look at historical references to queer bodies and how the written of people, such as Radclyffe Hall are used as the benchmark of all queer lives. Love discusses the concept of a one size fits all history of queer folks.

  14. 4 out of 5

    John

    An attempt to reclaim all the "bad" feelings and backwards mentalities that are part of queer history in light of today's 'gay pride' mentality. Dr. Love tackles the problem largely via analysis of fiction, which can be a bit distracting. She also conflates various ideas of what backwardness or backwards feeling means. I kept getting confused as to what exactly her project was, but her intro and conclusion are strong. An attempt to reclaim all the "bad" feelings and backwards mentalities that are part of queer history in light of today's 'gay pride' mentality. Dr. Love tackles the problem largely via analysis of fiction, which can be a bit distracting. She also conflates various ideas of what backwardness or backwards feeling means. I kept getting confused as to what exactly her project was, but her intro and conclusion are strong.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jesi

    Feels like a solid model for a first book. Upon rereading this, I think that I've kind of grown out of early Love (although to be fair, she has too, based on her newer stuff). Feels like a solid model for a first book. Upon rereading this, I think that I've kind of grown out of early Love (although to be fair, she has too, based on her newer stuff).

  16. 5 out of 5

    svnh

    Pretty excited about this one.

  17. 4 out of 5

    ND

    Engaging, and only occasionally hard to understand. A lot to think about in there! Even the footnotes are pretty interesting...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    306.76609 L8973 2009

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    Heather is brilliant, and this is her brilliant book! And I am mentioned in the credits :) I'm really too stupid to say anything more about it. Heather is brilliant, and this is her brilliant book! And I am mentioned in the credits :) I'm really too stupid to say anything more about it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  22. 4 out of 5

    Quincykitson

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sun Praboonya

  24. 4 out of 5

    Victor

  25. 5 out of 5

    Seb

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey Jandrey

  27. 5 out of 5

    Natasha Gr

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shane

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robin Bernstein

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alisha

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.