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You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Volcanoes, guts, and cosmic collisions: The queer sublime in Frankenstein and Melancholia.


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Eric Robertson. The accuracy of t he Cont ent should not be relied upon and should be independent ly verified wit h prim ary sources of inform at ion. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, act ions, claim s, proceedings, dem ands, cost s, expenses, dam ages, and ot her liabilit ies what soever or howsoever caused arising direct ly or indirect ly in connect ion wit h, in relat ion t o or arising out of t he use of t he Cont ent.

This art icle m ay be used for research, t eaching, and privat e st udy purposes. Any subst ant ial or syst em at ic reproduct ion, redist ribut ion, reselling, loan, sub- licensing, syst em at ic supply, or dist ribut ion in any form t o anyone is expressly forbidden. This queer sublime is the violent manifestation of material instability felt keenly by the abject, nonprocreative body. Can we find existential comfort in considering the recycling of the human body, not as a spiritual rebirth, but as a vibrant material up-cycling?

Can volcanoes, cosmic collisions and queer bodies become an integral part of human ecological ontologies? Jane Bennett Introduction There is a Catalonian idiom that expresses both the independent spirit of the people living on the Mediterranean Coast of southern Spain and a state of mind that exists in which the social constructs of culture meet the workings of the material body. Even the Pope poops. The exalted, socially constructed Pontificate cannot escape the inevitable confrontation with waste and decay and the embarrassment of a bared ass and a grimace as he evacuates his bowels.

Just what does the Pope think of himself in such instances? The material Pope is a Pope who poops, and with that realisation an abject figural position is added to his ecclesiastical designation. Guts, biles, gases, feces and jizms of many kinds — states of matter that appear to lack material agency and therefore consciousness, what some consider mistakenly dead matter — challenge the reasoned mind as it believes in the autonomy of the body it thinks it controls.

Robertson reasoning mind, abject states that exist outside scientific or socially constructed rubrics are to be measured, explained, categorised and controlled. Yet we are still drawn to mythic representations of disfigurement and destruction, which are representations of these less visible, more chaotic states of matter.

These authors address how nonnormative sexual practices and gender expressions transgress the bound- aries set by socially constructed notions of what is natural and what is unnatural. This critical point of attack is much more narrow than the various socially constructed views taken in Queer Ecologies. But by narrowing the scope to a single material condition I hope to build upon the constructivist assessments of queer ecologists and engage, if only as precursors, categories used in behavioural ecology.

As a nonprocreator, the queer body invites the attention of material discourse, particularly that of behavioural ecology, as well as acceding to a unique creative figural position. Though I heartily align myself with this perspective, I seek to move deeper into the queer body, past queer politics to a conceptual spot where the matter of subjective social reordering breaks down and we imagine nature in her hiding places.

I seek a vantage point where queer becomes a mythical conduit to an abject material state in addition to being a transgressive social practice. As with these queer political perspectives highlighted in Queer Ecologies, I too seek biophilic ends. I offer up an additional notion of the queer nonprocreative body as a figure that cares little for politics and is more concerned with living and dying. Kristeva offers us this prelude: A wound with blood and pus, or the sickly, acrid smell of sweat, of decay, does not signify death. In the presence of signified death—a flat encephalograph, for instance—I would understand, react, or accept.

No, as in true theater, without makeup or masks, refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live. These body fluids, this Downloaded by [Mr Eric Robertson] at 13 February defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being.

Instead, the sexuality of the nonprocreative body, divorced from an object of desire — a child, a marriage, a new normal — is abjectly aware of the material contingencies into which all matter finds itself temporarily organised. This reading begins our exploration and highlights the connection between abject states of being and an object-oriented experience of the sublime. A volcano destroys itself in Victor Frankenstein, a Gothic character created a year later in , is forced from a heteronormative coupling and violently compelled into a queer relationship.

If there is a project here, it is to provide space for myth making that relies not on the disavowal of procreation, as we view that as inevitable, but on a wider meditation on figures that give metaphoric weight to mortality — death as destiny. Robertson radically local. Those cold and wet days and nights on the shores of Lake Geneva set a dreary Swiss stage that was primed for the creation of ghost stories and dark poetic indulgences. In anticipation of that event, Trier creates Justine who is a character with whom the viewer experiences a violent cosmic reordering.

As these Downloaded by [Mr Eric Robertson] at 13 February material processes undo linear notions of time, a material analysis of vastly different works of art helps to trouble constructed literary taxonomies and allows a convergent analysis to take place inspired by shifting states of matter and the forces that move that matter around.

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Victor and Justine can be read as new types of queer ecological mythic figures expressing a long-held human longing to weigh correctly our insatiable desire to live against our moral duty to die. When objects threaten subjects with annihilation an abject state is produced and experienced as sublime. This is a state that flashes between identity and utter dissolution and engages the process of once again becoming part of the cosmic maelstrom. Schopenhauer, a hundred years before Jane Bennett, argued for the agentic capacity of inorganic matter or matter we think of as dead, lifeless or inert.

In Frankenstein , we see the sublime quality of the destructive object. This relationship is queerly sublime in that it insists on an ecstatic force that revels in the disassembling of human matter.


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  7. Victor wants a beautiful man. He seeks sameness. To his great disappointment, his creation is monstrous. When Victor discovers that his creature is hideous, plagued with jaundiced eyes and a lifeless skin, he quickly abandons it. He utters no threatening or destructive intent. He is simply unattractive. He is shunned because he is ugly. How different the story could have been had the creature been as beautiful as Victor intended. What a life they could have had together. How do we evaluate such an odd occurrence, what appears to just be a same-sex relationship gone horribly wrong?

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    Frankenstein takes the reader into a liminal space between the subject and the object, between Victor and his creature. This is the creative vantage point of the abject and the queer sublime. This figural position understands the destructive object can and will eventually destroy human subjected identity and turn the subject back into base matter — the dust of the earth, the cosmic soup, the jizz.

    This is matter churned from a vibrant materiality ready for reordering. I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye Downloaded by [Mr Eric Robertson] at 13 February and brain. I paused, examining and analyzing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me. These hiding places are where nature matter manifesting itself in any way does strange and abject things.

    Worms eat eyeballs and brains. Victor studies decay and finds that matter is never destroyed, but always reused. In his desire to queerly reconfigure matter, Victor experiences the abject qualities of a nonprocreative life that are normatively hidden. Shelley creates her horrible tale from this ecstatic desire between men who will never seed children. Death is their shared destiny and it is to be experienced without the hope of offspring. The abject is a state in between personhood and dissolution. The creature is abject because his birth is queer, as is his desire for Victor.

    Objects of infinite reproducible beauty are what drive the full force of the Kantian sublime — giant trees, falling water, mountain ranges and awesome thunderstorms. These are life-giving and life-sustaining. This state understands the impossibility of the divine subject, which contains the permanently beautiful and life-sustaining Kantian sublime. Desire performed in an abject state is expressed without an object — without the Child. Robertson To figure the undoing of civil society, the death drive of the dominant order, is neither to be or to become that drive […] Rather, acceding to that figural position means recognizing and refuses the consequences of grounding reality in the denial of the drive.

    Victor chooses to construct a sexed and gendered male and by purposefully denying that creature his rightful avenue to reproduction, activates and amplifies the death drives lurking within both of them. Nonprocreative desire troubles the notion of an autonomous self.

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    Both Victor and his creature rise to queer mythic positions as figures experiencing the ecstatic nature of the abject. Death without progeny becomes a type of queer rapture. Victor becomes one of those destructive forces. He becomes a phantasm that can both create life and tear it apart. But what he creates is wrought from supernatural desire and from supernatural forces. He tears apart the sutured female flesh of a reproductive partner as the creature watches.

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    Queer desire returns to Victor on his wedding night. After the creature kills Elizabeth, Victor is also no longer one half of a procreative relationship. A queer sublime lingers, which produces an abject awareness of matter as it acts on immeasurably small material levels mostly ignored by human subjects.