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Abstract: Two of the terms most frequently used by scholars and music journalists alike to describe former The Smiths singer Morrissey’s persona are ambiguous and ambivalent – an evaluation that applies among other things to his attitude towards gender and sexuality. While Morrissey refuses to classify himself in any predefined categories of gender and sexuality, his own and his band’s musical canon is rife with narratives of queer desire and instances of sexual intimacy, which often allow for both a gay and a straight viewpoint. It is precisely this ambiguity that offers the possibility of an interpretation offside a compulsory heterosexuality and –normativity, therefore opening it to a queer audience. It is furthermore among the reasons why lyrics by Morrissey and The Smiths, as I will argue, qualify as queer texts. In order to establish and defend such a view, this paper will draw on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s approach of a queer reading and her work on homosocial desire in literature, Harold Beaver’s examination of homosexual signs, and Teresa de Lauretis definition of queer texts. One of the pillars of de Lauretis’s classification is that of non-closure of a narrative and is thus closely linked to queer negativity and non-futurity. Morrissey and The Smiths’ oeuvre offers a significant set of songs that embrace these ideas. Deriving from Jack Halberstam’s concept of the queer art of failure, Lee Edelman’s critique of reproductive futurism, Judith Butler’s reflections on the term queer, and José Esteban Muñoz’s conceptualisation of a queer utopia I will show how Morrissey uses different formulas of negativity and longing to generate power from, thus transforming them into critique of regimes of the normal. It is in this diverse and subversive expression of queer negativity and desire that Morrissey disrupts normativity and its underlying stigmatising and discriminating potential.

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Author’s Bio: Frederic Rukes earned his bachelor’s degree in English Studies and German and General Literary Studies at RWTH Aachen University and is currently completing his master’s degree at Cologne University. He is employed in the editorial office of a Cologne-based publishing house and previously worked in the English Department for the chair of Prof. Beate Neumeier as general assistant for her quarterly publication, the peer-reviewed academic journal gender forum, for which he was guest editor of the Queer Cinema issue. Besides queer cinema, his research interests include queer and critical theory, popular culture, as well as American and British Modernist literature.

Abstract: What does it mean to be “retired from gender,” and what role does such an identity play in daily life? Engaging with the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Judith Butler, this project attempts to elucidate the experience of nonbinary – that is, external to the male/female gender binary – gendered individuals, and the ultimate unintelligibility of that experience. Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological approach to perception allows for an exploration of the social norms and regulations that determine how gender is defined in Western culture; combined with Butler’s significant work on gender, phenomenology proves a useful tool for revealing the constructedness of gender. Although an arbitrary system, the gender binary serves as a mechanism of so-called social truth: because the nonbinary reality rejects this truth the nonbinary gender performance not only appears unintelligible to the binary other but also represents a threat to social stability. This paper uses the memoirs in Gender Failure – written by two self-identified nonbinary individuals – to consider how social norms inform binary perception and how that perception constitutes the nonbinary self. Perceived from within the binary matrix, the nonbinary self appears unintelligible: as a result, the validity of their gendered reality is threatened. Conscious of the conceptual gap between nonbinary and binary individuals, this project explores gender as the subject of the perceptive act and not only outlines the delegitimization of the nonbinary reality but also suggests opportunities to make space for non-normative gendered experiences.

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Author’s Bio: James D Warwood earned their Master’s in English Literature and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Montana in 2016. They currently teaches English at the Université de Toulouse II Jean Jaurès. Their research interests include autobiography, the limitations and unreliability of language, bodily incoherencies, phenomenology, gender and queer studies, fan studies, and the post-human.

Abstract: George Lillo’s The London Merchant, 1731, was required viewing for leagues of apprentices due to its seemingly straightforward moral: men and women should do as their positions, masters, law, and God require; transgressions are not to be tolerated. However, Millwood, the play’s powerful prostitute, rails against the aforementioned ideals, pointing out how men consume all that is beneficial to them, and how they subsequently dispose of the rest. She seduces and manipulates George Barnwell and uses him to lie, steal, and murder. At the play’s end, Millwood and George are hanged. This suggests that her ideas and those influenced by them die with her. Since this play was so widely viewed, it is important to take note of which actors were filling which roles in the production. Charlotte Charke—a notorious cross-dresser—played the role of George in 1734 and 1744. She played the role of Millwood twice in 1735. In the role of George, Charke’s performances imbue the role with a sense of deviance, if not ridiculousness, before his encounter with Millwood, who is unfairly blamed for his transgressions. Millwood crafts a story of abandonment for economic survival; Charke’s lived experiences as a women abandoned by her husband, her father, and her family, imbue this role with authenticity. While scholars have respectively discussed Charke’s life and autobiography and The London Merchant’s morality, the intersection of this actress’s personal history and her performance in this play has not been analyzed. Charke’s life experiences, celebrity, and presence on stage point to the fact that the consumption of transgressive female bodies sustain the prevailing systems of morality of the play. Looking at the eighteenth-century drama and Charke’s role in it through Marvin Carlson’s work on the haunted stage, and Felicity Nussbaum’s work on celebrity culture, this play illustrates the ways in which performance serves to utterly disrupt the meaning of a play as cultural icon and broken hegemonic symbol.

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Author’s Bio: Molly Marotta is a PhD student in Literature with a focus on Restoration and 18th century British literature. Her research interests include the triangulation of women writers, scientific inquiry, and drama. Most recently her work has been featured at the SEASECS and SCSECS conferences.

Abstract: I shall examine the ways in which moving the excluded female body onto the Noh stage in this production constitutes a materialist feminist intervention both into the ‘form’ of historically all-male Noh performance, and into the ‘focalisation’ of Shakespeare’s narrative, providing a specifically female articulation of the memory and experience of trauma. Desdemona’s memory of the past becomes the dramatic plot of Othello re-constructed, to enact a new subject position: Desdemona’s ghost. This material intervention facilitates temporal and spatial mobilities unique to intercultural performance, opening possibilities for theorising at the intersection of interculturalism and gender. Noh is a classical Japanese performance form from the 14th century. However, Noh performance only allowed male actors, so there emerges a disjunction between female character-types, and codified performances that did not involve the actual participation of female actors. Consequently, feminine identity and subjectivity is rendered always performative, an effect of the citation and repetition of formal aesthetic codes. Casting actresses intervenes in the performance history of Noh – particularly because the visual presentation of the actress’s distinctly feminine features foregrounds the materiality of the female body on the Noh stage. Desdemona’s ghost inhabits the multiple temporal and spatial configurations of the narrative as well as that of the Noh stage, allowing for a complex working-through of her trauma. The material presence of the actress intervenes in the narrative focalisation of Shakespeare’s Othello – which concludes with the effacement and silencing of Desdemona’s agency and voice through death. By fracturing the temporality of Shakespeare’s Othello narrative, this intercultural Noh performance mobilises and re-constructs the working-through of traumatised female subjectivity as taking place in the present, shifting narrative authority to Desdemona’s ghost. The narrative is now focalised through her perspective as shite, the primary character in Noh, and is articulated in her own narrative voice: she is effectively wresting her narrative voice and agency from Shakespeare’s text in this intercultural performance.

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Author’s Bio: Rowena Yip is a doctoral candidate in Theatre Studies at the National University of Singapore. Her research interests are situated at the intersections of gender theory and performance studies. She received my Master’s degree in Renaissance Literature (2016) and undergraduate degree in English Literature (2015, First class Honours), both from the University of Edinburgh.

Abstract: Unequal roles in sexual and erotic practice are sometimes thought of as inherently abusive, especially to women. Although informed consent between adults is a mainstay of BDSM—bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadomasochism—its practitioners have had to fight accusations to the contrary. Though BDSM practices are generally consensual, assault undoubtedly occurs within the BDSM community. This paper focuses on how the idea of assault has been handled by BDSM community members; how survivors and perpetrators have been treated, how assault and consent have been defined, and how communities have approached preventing future assaults. In order to explore these issues, this paper historicizes the issue of rape in the BDSM community by examining academic and activist writing from BDSM focused community organizations and online forums throughout the 1990s. The growth in participation in online BDSM communities had a huge impact on social violence awareness within these communities. Community books, newsletters and conference materials from the 1980s suggest that prior to the existence of groups such as alt.sex.bondage on Usenet, nearly all conversations around rape and BDSM came from a subset of the feminist community (particularly kink organizations focused on queer women) interested in proving the consensual nature of BDSM practices. In the 1990s, for BDSM practitioners who were able to access the Internet, forums such as Usenet provided a new opportunity for anonymous and safer spaces in which to process and discuss assault within the community. Specifically, the alt.sex.bondage newsgroup was home to some of the first documented conversations about trigger warnings, BDSM specific anti-domestic violence resources, and community wide conversations about the existence of rape and abuse in BDSM. This paper will document the evolution of these conversations from the advent of BDSM specific newsgroups on Usenet through the late 1990s.

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Author’s Bio: Megan Lieff’s research focuses on narratives of sexual assault within the BDSM community. She has given conference talks at the 2013 CARAS (Community Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities) Conference, and the 2014 Women’s Liberation Conference at Boston University, as well as a large number of informal activist events within the LGBTQ and BDSM communities. She has worked as a sexual health educator and anti-violence advocate, with experience as a rape-crisis counselor, peer-educator, anti-street harassment organizer, and a leader of sexual-education discussion groups for teens. In 2013 she published an article on anti-rape activism in the BDSM community for Bitch Magazine.

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Author’s Bio: Ali Alsmadi is a PhD candidate in Hispanic Literatures and Associate Instructor of Spanish at the Indiana University Bloomington. His research interests include Early Modern Spanish literature, religion, ideology and identity in Early Modern Spain, Al-jamiado and clandestine literature, literary theory and criticism, as well as Spanish Golden Age Theater.

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Author’s Bio: Kirsten Stoddart is a PhD student at the University of Salford, researching the effects of the rising industry of Subscription Video on Demand on the employment of women writers for television.