The Queer Art of Failure
About the book
The Queer Art of Failure is about finding alternatives-to conventional understandings of success in a heteronormative, capitalist society; to academic disciplines that confirm what is already known according to approved methods of knowing; and to cultural criticism that claims to break new ground but cleaves to conventional archives. Judith Halberstam proposes "low theory" as a mode of thinking and writing that operates at many different levels at once. Low theory is derived from eccentric archives. It runs the risk of not being taken seriously. It entails a willingness to fail and to lose one's way, to pursue difficult questions about complicity, and to find counterintuitive forms of resistance. Tacking back and forth between high theory and low theory, high culture and low culture, Halberstam looks for the unexpected and subversive in popular culture, avant-garde performance, and queer art. She pays particular attention to animated children's films, revealing narratives filled with unexpected encounters between the childish, the transformative, and the queer. Failure sometimes offers more creative, cooperative, and surprising ways of being in the world, even as it forces us to face the dark side of life, love, and libido.
A lively and thought-provoking examination of how the homogenizing tendencies of modern society might be resisted through the creative application of failure, forgetting, and passivity, actions generally deemed of little value within today's capitalist models of success. . . . [A]s a close reader of popular culture, she is exemplary, and as a valiant attempt to find value in positions and attitudes such as negativity that our modern success-oriented society disdains, this study is never less than thrilling." - Publishers Weekly "Queer Theory using Spongebob Squarepants? Totally there... Underdogs and shoddy queers can take wordy, erudite solace in Halberstam's words." - Gay Times "[H]ere is a book well worth the time and attention it takes to read it and to consider its implications. Most especially in that Judith Halberstam writes not only with authority, but also with genuine wit, which leaves the reader laughing out loud from time to time, something quite unknown until now in books of queer theory. Further, Ms. Halberstam presents her case with deep insight into human nature, and into our deepset cultural need to simplify our definition of the word success-and, up until now, our seeming need to ignore the creative implications of failure." - Vinton Rafe McCabe, New York Journal of Books "'All losers are the heirs of those who have lost before them.' The Queer Art of Failure narrates hilarious and swerving outlaw comedies of refusal, absurdity, and exuberant being, acting in solidarity with its resident artists-from SpongeBob SquarePants to Yoko Ono. But the book hums a dark tone, too. The arts of normative style, playing out on sexual, racialized, gendered, and colonial bodies and landscapes, are painful to witness, even here. No artist or critic can repair the damage, erasing history, but Judith Halberstam wields all of the weapons that intelligence (and cartoons) can bring against the harsh work of conventionality."-Lauren Berlant, author of Cruel Optimism "The Queer Art of Failure is a manifesto for cultural studies. It self-consciously risks being dismissed or trashed in order to rescue alternative objects of analysis, methods of knowing, and ways of communicating. Its stakes are clear. It's not attempting to argue for the recovery of its materials from obscurity; it values forgetting and obsolescence. It's not claiming to retool our understanding of major work; it traffics unapologetically in the minor. And it doesn't pretend to comprehensive scholarship; it offers up plot summaries and allegorical readings with glee."-Elizabeth Freeman, author of Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories "The Queer Art of Failure is inspired, provocative, and hilarious. More significantly, it is a deft evisceration of the regulative rigidities of disciplinarity and the pretensions of 'high theory.' Judith Halberstam's advocacy of 'silly archives' and 'low theory' is much more than a carnivalesque skewering of the earnest self-seriousness of much academic scholarship; it is a populist clarion call for expansive democratic visions of what it is we are writing about and for whom we think we are writing." -Lisa Duggan, author of The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy "Failure abounds all around us: economies collapse, nation-states falter, and malfeasance rules. In the face of our dismal situation, Judith Halberstam distills and repurposes the negative in order to think outside the tyranny of success. The Queer Art of Failure finds a new vitality in not winning, accumulating, doing, or knowing. Both counterintuitive and anti-anticipatable, this compelling book pushes beyond many of the impasses and blockages that limit our critical horizons today."-Jose Esteban Munoz, author of Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity "Because Halberstam uses pop-culture examples, The Queer Art of Failure is an ideal text for introducing queer theory to beginners. The politics of heteronormativity and sexual dissidence has never appeared as lucid as it does now that we have SpongeBob SquarePants as our guide." -- Chase Dimock * Lambda Literary Review * "Before the Stonewall Riots, 'queers' lurked in the cultural shadows, and Halberstam finds that environment to be fruitful and even revolutionary. This book is guaranteed to be controversial. It would make a good basis for discussion after seeing one of the movies, performances, or bodies of visual pieces that analyzed in its pages." -- Jean Roberta * Gay & Lesbian Review * "Declaring her intent to celebrate failure in its many forms, Halberstam invigorates this potentially droopy topic with a flair that feels almost inspirational." -- Monica Nolan * Bitch * "Judith Halberstam . . . is insightful and intellectually brave in places, and makes a significant intervention in the development of queer theory. The Queer Art of Failure is also utterly charming." -- Robert Eaglestone * Times Higher Education * "[H]ere is a book well worth the time and attention it takes to read it and to consider its implications. Most especially in that Judith Halberstam writes not only with authority, but also with genuine wit, which leaves the reader laughing out loud from time to time, something quite unknown until now in books of queer theory. Further, Ms. Halberstam presents her case with deep insight into human nature, and into our deepset cultural need to simplify our definition of the word success-and, up until now, our seeming need to ignore the creative implications of failure." -- Vinton Rafe McCabe * New York Journal of Books * "Queer Theory using Spongebob Squarepants? Totally there... Underdogs and shoddy queers can take wordy, erudite solace in Halberstam's words." * Gay Times * A lively and thought-provoking examination of how the homogenizing tendencies of modern society might be resisted through the creative application of failure, forgetting, and passivity, actions generally deemed of little value within today's capitalist models of success. . . . [A]s a close reader of popular culture, she is exemplary, and as a valiant attempt to find value in positions and attitudes such as negativity that our modern success-oriented society disdains, this study is never less than thrilling." * Publishers Weekly *
Judith Halberstam Biography
Jack Halberstam (; born December 15, 1961), also known as Judith Halberstam, is an American academic. Since 2017, he is a professor in the department of English and comparative literature and is the director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University. Previously, Halberstam was a professor of American studies and ethnicity, gender studies, and comparative literature, and the director of The Center for Feminist Research at University of Southern California (USC). Halberstam was the Associate Professor in the Department of Literature at the University of California at San Diego before working at USC. Halberstam is a gender and queer theorist and an author.Focusing on the topic of tomboys and female masculinity for his writings, his 1998 book, Female Masculinity, discusses a common by-product of gender binarism, termed "the bathroom problem." This outlines the awkward and dangerous dilemma of a perceived gender deviant's justification of presence in a gender-policed zone, such as a public bathroom, and the identity implications of "passing" therein. Assigned female at birth, he accepts masculine and feminine pronouns, and the name "Judith" in addition to "Jack," for himself.Halberstam lectures in the United States and internationally on queer failure, sex and media, subcultures, visual culture, gender variance, popular film, and animation. Halberstam is currently working on several projects including a book on fascism and (homo)sexuality.
Early life, education and gender identityHalberstam earned a B.A. in English at the University of California, Berkeley in 1985, an M.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1989, and a Ph.D. from the same school in 1991. Halberstam is Jewish of Bohemian descent.Halberstam goes by the pronouns he/him and the name "Jack", but says that he is "loosey goosey" and a "free floater" when it comes to his gender. He says "some people call me Jack, my sister calls me Jude, people I've known forever call me Judith" and "I try not to police any of it. A lot of people call me he, some people call me she, and I let it be a weird mix of things." He says that "the back and forth between he and she sort of captures the form that my gender takes nowadays" and that the floating gender pronouns have captured his refusal to resolve his gender ambiguity. He does, however, say that "grouping me with someone else who seems to have a female embodiment and then calling us 'ladies', is never, ever ok!"
Female MasculinityIn Female Masculinity (1998), Halberstam seeks to identify what constitutes masculinity in society the individual. The text first suggests that masculinity is a construction that promotes particular brands of male-ness while at the same time subordinating "alternative masculinities." The project specifically focuses on the ways female masculinity has been traditionally ignored in academia and society at large. To illustrate a cultural mechanis ... Read full biography
|Publisher:||Duke University Press|
|Languages:||| English ||
|Illustrations:||37 illustrations, incl. 14 in color|
|Publication date:||Sept. 19, 2011|
|First Publication Date:||None|
|Publication City/Country:||North Carolina, United States|