Southern Sexuality, MLA-Style

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

At the Modern Language Association (MLA) 2013 Boston meeting, at least on the program, homosexuality seemed to be the new heterosexuality. This year’s conclave, where just about every English department is represented, at least once, featured panels on:

• Queer Theory without Antinormativity;
• Postqueer? Postrace? The Political Stakes of Queer;
• Queer Theory in a Post Colonial World;
• Queerness as Form;
• Transgender France;
• Movements, Incantations, and Parables of Queer Performance
• LGBTQI Graduate Students and Academia;
• Queer Sexualities in African Literatures and Film;
• Queer Occupations;
• Gay Culture in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union;
• Racing, Queering and Psychoanalysis;
• Queer Times: Affect, Phenomology, Temporality; and
• What is Post-AIDS Literature?

Looked at one way, that’s only 13 out of 795 panels at the MLA. By way of comparison, though, there were six panels on Shakespeare. Yet and still, in a conference broken up into 24 segments lasting 75 minutes each, that breaks down to one every other hour.

Moreover, even in panels without titles such as the aforementioned, that subject still came up. For example:

• A panel on Early American Sex featured a presentation on “Intimations: Queer Subculture and Social Vision in the Antebellum Novel” given by Christopher D. Castiglia of Penn State;

• A panel on Spectacles of Gender and Desire in Silver Age Spain featured a presentation on “A (Gay) Marriage Made in Heaven? Performance, Religious Rituals, and Nomadic Desires in Pasion y muerte del cura Deusto” by Alejandro Majias-Lopez of Indiana University;

• A panel on Theories of Close Reading in Socially Motivated Criticism featured a presentation entitled “No Good: On Sentimental Miseducations and Socially Motivated Queer Theory” by Lee Charles Edelman of Tufts;

• A panel on Picturing Photography in Graphic Memoirs featured a presentation on “The Queer Contest between Modern and Post-modern Modes of Vision in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home,” by Robin Bernstein of Harvard; and

• A panel on “All Black Everything”: Speculative Futures of Blackness in Literature, Film, and Performance featured a presentation on “Black Death, Black Life: Queer Female Vampires in Science Fiction” by Shante’ Paradigm Smalls.

Indeed, your correspondent went to a panel on The South and Sexuality in which homosexuality was the only form of sexuality discussed. One can understand the inclusion of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote but couldn’t the topic be diversified a bit with some Long, Hot Summer and Tobacco Road?

“I encourage my students to embrace the sexual imagery,” said Jaime Cantrell of LSU, who prides herself on the discontent her LGBT course caused in the state assembly. On that note…

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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