This is a response to a question i was asked, which became far too long and i decided i should keep somewhere semi-permanent.
Can you recommend good writers on children and queer theory?
yeah, read Co-ire. oh, weird, the translation still hasn’t come out. hmm…
the answer to this kinda depends on if you want any kind of books about children and any kind of queer theory or queer theory type books involving children. either way, you can find some good stuff by poking around in the “child question” and “queer theory” tags in my book library. the stuff in there is not limited to what i have actually liked, or even what i have actually read, though.
specific recs are as follows. all of these are in my library, and a lot of them are the “canonical” stuff that you’ll hear from anyone you ask about queer theory. i’ll try to focus on the other angle more. i may have forgotten some important things, though!
- bædan, especially the first issue. this somewhat kicked off my interest in futurity/”queerness”/children considered as connected.
- Guy Hocquenghem, especially Homosexual Desire.
- Paul Preciado — Anal Terror, a postscript to Homosexual Desire. you can find it in bædan 3.
- Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. i’ve only read Epistemology of the Closet and Between Men, and the latter made more of an impact on me, for giving a different approach to the social role of male-male feelings than the Freudish one you’ll find in e.g. Hocquenghem.
- Lee Edelman — No Future. this is queer theory, more about “the Child” as a social symbol than actual children, but plenty relevant. a lot of people have reacted to this one with either “hell yes this is groundbreaking” or “i am deeply mad about this for one of ten possible reasons.” i like to think we are moving into a post-debacle phase now where we can take the interesting stuff and leave the stuff we don’t like without making such a big deal about it. you might want to just read the summary in bædan and skip the original, though, unless you really care about Lacan. i read it to be sure there was nothing i was missing by not reading it, and my conclusion was no.
- Leo Bersani has mostly not grabbed me, but his essay Is the Rectum a Grave? is canonical and made me think a lot.
- Emma Heaney — The New Woman is about what transfemininity means in relation to women and in relation to queer theory. i don’t like its conclusions, very standard transfeminist, but i think it’s right to investigate how those speaking for fags tend to pick certain subgroups to either minimize or eject.
- Steven Angelides, especially the article “Feminism, Child Sexual Abuse, and the Erasure of Child Sexuality,” or the chapter adapted from it in his book The Fear of Child Sexuality. the whole book is good, though i have reservations about its angle. that article makes what i think is an important critique of (radical) feminist notions of power.
- Janet Halley — Split Decisions, for more criticism of feminism regarding sex, with queer theory (especially Bersani) used as a point of comparison.
- Jacqueline Rose — The Case of Peter Pan. psychoanalytic and historical take on what “children’s literature” (which is written by adults, did you know?) is all about. splendid book.
- Shulamith Firestone — The Dialectic of Sex. this book is very ’70s U.S., which is part of the charm of course but makes some of the chapters a drag. the one on childhood is exemplary, though. i recommend her short stories as well.
- Sally Shuttleworth — The Mind of the Child. people have a habit of calling things “Victorian,” especially where attitudes to children are concerned, and they probably are right to think the Victorians set off a shift in those attitudes that still holds today among english-talkers, but they could do with studying what exactly the discourse was all about back then.
- John Boswell — The Kindness of Strangers. argues for the importance of child abandonment as an accepted part of family life in a significant swathe of European history, and that “exposure” does not mean infanticide. i know Boswell has written about gay history (whatever that is!) as well, though i’ve mainly heard it described critically.
- Wally Seccombe writes Marxist history with a focus on social reproduction and the economic role of the family. not necessarily concerned with the subject of children per se, but i think it’s vital as context.
- Jacques Donzelot — The Policing of Families, for similar reasons.
- Guy Davenport has some lovely stuff about kids in A Balthus Notebook and Apples and Pears, and though the latter is fiction, it cites enough to deserve a bibliography
- Tony Duvert again mostly wrote fiction, but there’s his Good Sex Illustrated. it’s “sex liberationist” in a way i can’t agree with, but too important to too many people to leave out. it’s like a tract; i recommend it in the way people will tell you to read Capitalist Realism even though they immediately start complaining about it.