The Queer Child in Contemporary Literature & Culture [UPDATE]

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NeMLA 2015
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NeMLA 2015
Session ID: 15163

From Michel Foucault's foundational assertion that by the nineteenth century, the homosexual had become 'a personage, a past, a case history, and a childhood' (The History of Sexuality Vol 1) to Kathryn Stockton's modern conflation of the two — 'the grown homosexual is a child; or at least is often metaphorized as a child. Said to be marked by sexual immaturity and arrested development, adult homosexuals in the popular political imagination are regarded as those queer children, who remain children, precisely by failing to have their own' ('Eve's Queer Child') — homosexuality and childhood have been strange but necessary bedfellows. This figure, at once a retroactively created image and a seemingly conceptual impossibility, has increasingly been deployed in contemporary queer literature and cinema: from Alison Bechdel's cartooned lesbian childhood in Fun Home to Jeffrey Eugenides' intersexed child protagonist in Middlesex, from the media firestorm that crafted a mythified Matt Shepard to Dan Savages's high-school targeted 'It Gets Better' videos, the aesthetic and cultural implications of the figure of the queer child have taken center stage amidst a highly politicized environment. Looking into these representations, the panel hopes to stage a productive conversation that would not only inquire into the effect and purpose of these representations but would contemplate the way they speak back to certain conservative and liberal positions that are invested in keeping childhood and (queer) sexuality in separate categories.

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