Well, That’s Awfully Nice

Eileen Joy, one of the driving forces behind the terrific medievalist blog In The Middle, has had the astonishing kindness to cite me in a paper delivered at the 42nd International Congress on Medieval Studies. Her citations were from “Why I’m Not A Radical,” which you can find here.

Her paper is available here. I recommend it to all and sundry. It begins with a critique of destructive negation, figured as masculinism, via a really terrible joke played by Jean Genet’s novel Funeral Rites on Leo Bersani. (As in, Genet lays the trap, begging to be read unironically, and Bersani jumps right in.)

From there, it moves towards a version of utopianism that relies on the strength of the word “utopia” itself, and its performative efficacy — in other words, if you’re looking for a utopian possibility, and you find others who are also looking, that may even be better than theorizing perfect and imaginary worlds.

I’m reminded of a wonderful quote from the 1999 Preface, by Judith Butler, to her breakout work Gender Trouble:

The term [“universality”] has important strategic use precisely as a non-substantial and open-ended category […] the assertion of universality can be proleptic and performative, conjuring a reality that does not yet exist, and holding out the possibility for a convergence of cultural horizons that have not yet met.

Exactly; but these sorts of exchanges move in the right direction.