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Queer trauma in world literature

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Organizer: Anchit Sathi

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This seminar is interested in exploring and interrogating queer trauma in literature, which is to say, it is interested in probing the varieties of traumatic experience that impinge upon the lives of queer characters in works of literature. To this end, it invites its participants to present papers that attempt an answer to the following question: What can we theorize about the nature of queer trauma based on the representation of such trauma in literature? As such, the seminar sees itself as making a crucial contribution to the field of literary trauma studies—a field that, despite a robust history of scholarship dating back to the 1990s, remains deficient when it comes to its engagement with queer themes in literature.

It further bears highlighting that the mention of world literature in the seminar's title is not gratuitous. Indeed, this seminar does not seek to constrain itself to the literature of any particular time, place, language or genre. To list just a few (solely indicative and, by corollary, non-exhaustive) examples of topics that would have their place at this seminar:

A study of how, in Kim de l’Horizon’s Deutscher-Buchpreis-winning Blutbuch (2022), the non-binary narrator experiences language as a traumatising regime.
An analysis of lesbian trauma against the backdrop of religious doctrine and conversion therapy in Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are not the Only Fruit (1985).
A reading of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (1956) that investigates the extent to which David’s shame and self-loathing might derive from the traumatic memory of his first homosexual experiences.
An investigation of how Maximiliano Rubín’s gender-non-normativity in Benito Pérez Galdós’ Fortunata y Jacinta (1887) leads this character to experience emotional distress and psychological trauma.
An examination of how, in the 11th-century Japanese text The Tale of Genji, Genji’s homosexual encounter with Kogimi causes the title character to experience ‘dissociation, amnesia, hypervigilance, and ongoing disorientation in time’ (Morrigan, 2017)—to wit, features that are often characteristic of trauma.
An exploration of transgender trauma through the character of Shikhandi in the classical Indian epic, The Mahabharatha.
A survey of the manifestations of trauma that are attendant to the themes of love, loss and lesbian desire in the poetry of Sappho (6th century BCE).

From a methodological perspective, the seminar particularly welcomes papers that build upon historical context alongside philosophy or theory. That said, it also remains open to other compelling methodologies and perspectives.

Note: This seminar's organizer ran another queer-themed seminar (on queer kinship) at ACLA 2023 in Chicago. That seminar has now led to a book deal for the participants. If the participants of this seminar on queer trauma are also interested in pursuing something similar, the organizer is willing to approach publishers to pitch the idea.

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