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Committed to the End: On Care Work and Rereading

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Birkbeck College

Malet Street

Bloomsbury

London

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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Lecture by Professor Elizabeth Freeman

This paper will explore how the spatiotemporalities of domestic fiction, of the act of rereading, and of caretaking intersect with one another productively for queer theory, particularly for queer theories of relationality and commitment. The intersections between domestic fiction, rereading, and caretaking, I argue, include a compression of space to the room and the body inside of it, a dilation of time that refuses clock and calendar, and a refusal of innovation—even of liberation. Engaging both Lisa Baraitser’s Enduring Time and Christina Lupton’s Reading and the Making of Time in the Eighteenth Century, I will argue that the genres and kinds of reading that index caretaking seem especially important for a queer theory that has questioned the hegemony of developmental-futural thinking, and yet in that questioning may have abandoned the necessity of care and the feminized, racialized, class-inflected kinds of seemingly meaningless labor that comprise it. But while Baraitser privileges the time of the maternal as a way to rethink the queer time of the death drive, I will use Susan Sontag’s 1986 short story “The Way We Live Now” to focus on the reiterative, repetitive time of caretaking during the early AIDS epidemic, where care did not follow the downward logic of generationality. In the acts of caretaking this short story portrays, and in the acts of rereading that it demands, suspended time and repetitive actions materialize a de-individuated and nonfutural social field that is nonetheless thickly relational.

Biography:

Elizabeth Freeman is Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of three books from Duke University Press: The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture (2002); Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (2010) and Beside You in Time: Sense Methods and Queer Sociabilities in Nineteenth Century America (2019).

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Birkbeck College

Malet Street

Bloomsbury

London

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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