Starting in earnest on my scholarly project analyzing personal and rhetorical strategies of authoring queer memoir. Started with a review of this past summer’s retrospective exhibits on the work of David Wojnarowicz, who will be a major subject of my book. Check out some of my initial thoughts at LARB!
I’ll be in Boulder this Thursday and Friday, October 11 & 12 for a talk and a workshop. If you’re in the area, stop by!
Reading + Exhibition: Burning Time
with Jonathan Alexander & Antoinette LaFarge
Come to a special reading, exhibition, and reception on Burning Time, a graphic book collaboration between writer Jonathan Alexander and artist Antoinette LaFarge that explores the intimacies of imagined memory and sexuality.
AN OFFICIAL EVENT of the 2019 LA LAMBDA LITERARY FESTIVAL
October 2, 6:30 Pm - 8:30 pm, FREE
115 North Orange Street, right off Plaza Square Park in Old Town Orange
Orange, CA 92866
Burning Time consists of cycle of 8 poems and 8 associated panoramic paintings to tell the story of a young gay man arriving in New Orleans in the late 1950s to start a new life. Text and image interweave to evoke a particular time and place while also summoning the timelessness of self-exploration and desire— experience reimagined as mythic adventure. In this presentation, Alexander and LaFarge read poems and present art from the book, discuss their collaboration, and consider the possibilities of multimedia for queer storytelling.
Sponsored by the 1888 Center and the 2018 Lambda Literary Festival
Jonathan Alexander is a writer, critic, and digital artist. Previous graphic collaborations include the digital book Techne: Queer Meditations on Writing the Self and the graphic book Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing. The author, co-author, or editor of fifteen books, he is Chancellor's Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine.
Antoinette LaFarge is an artist and writer whose beat is virtuality and its discontents. She is especially interested in exploring text-image dynamics through artists’ books, interactive narrative, and experimental performance. She is Professor of Art at the University of California, Irvine.
Memoirist, composition theorist, and educator Jonathan Alexander joins hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf to talk about his new critical memoir Creep: a Life, a Theory, an Apology. With wit and sharpness, Alexander walks us through the definitional morass that informs our cultural accounts of the “creep” in a wide ranging discussion that shuttles from the Deep South to Hollywood to the White House.
Hear the full interview at the LARB Radio Hour.
Delighted to get my copy of the Writing Program Administration journal, 41.1 (Fall2017) with my review article, "Queer Ways of Knowing." Here's an excerpt:
In the spirit of thinking openly—and being open—to a future of writing that cannot yet name what it knows about itself, I have begun to think of writing studies broadly, and my own writing program administration in particular, with both queer suspicion and a queer utopian hermeneutics in mind. In terms of the former, I think a queer approach suggests we can—and should—interrogate how norms for proficiency shape expectations for writing. A queer approach—with its valuing of excess, multiplicity, the odd, the stray, and even the unforeseen—might offer counter paths into both construing transfer and undertaking assessment—or at least a revaluation and re-appreciation of the complexity of writing and learning to write across multiple domains, platforms, and ecologies, as well as for a variety of situations, necessities, and possibilities. Such might also attune us to the varying motivations for writing that differently situated folks bring to the classroom, to writing itself. These possibilities put me in mind of the utopian, and I mean utopia in the sense of not just a future that is desired, but also—and here is the queer take on utopia a la Muñoz—a future that is ultimately not yet knownable, even as it is rooted in practice, in the ongoing necessity of living a life, making a living, and making a life work. That is, I mean utopia in the sense of striving for the thing and the place and the being in the world that is not pre-determined, that we can only barely glimpse, and that we perhaps can’t even catch sight of yet at all. With that striving in mind, as both a writing studies scholar and a WPA, I keep asking myself questions like these:
- To what extent does our field attempt to pre-determine the future of writing?
- Then to what extent does such a predetermination foreclose on an understanding of writing as an opening into the unknown?
- And then yet further, how might we use and understand writing to approach that unknown—openly, critically, carefully?
I was reminded recently of the need to remain open about my own understanding of writing—and of writing as the technology of opening into the not-yet known—by a study we've been conducting at UCI. Over the past three years, we have been surveying senior-level students who have completed all of their writing requirements, asking them where they have felt they have learned the most about writing, both in curricular and extra-curricular contexts. I’ve also asked them to define writing, to tell me what they think it is. Of the nearly 150 responses we’ve collected so far, their overwhelming answer is that writing is a form of expression. Not communication, not a strategy for information sharing, not a transferable skill, but expression. There are many ways we could interpret this response, and it’s one that begs for interpretation precisely because I cannot locate in our formal curriculum any student-learning outcome or particular focus on the expressive dimensions of composing. But I’m tempted to understand WRITING IS EXPRESSION, this student-driven naming of what they know about writing, to be a deeply felt and intuited understanding of writing as connecting who we are, and who we might be, across multiple identities, differences, collectivities, and potentialities. Or, put another way, WRITING IS A CONFRONTATION WITH SELF, with what we know, and what we could know. Thinking of my own experience as a writer, I know deeply that, through writing, we explore, encounter, contend, and create. At times we repeat and reify existing norms and ways of thinking, but we also open ourselves to the not-yet-known. We probe and invent; we generate thoughts, ideas, affects, feelings, and insights we didn’t know we had, or even could have. Put another way, there’s something that seems to me a bit potentially queer about writing, as though the act of writing might itself be a queer utopian hermeneutic. I can imagine some in our field suggesting that I’m overstating the case, and that we should hesitate to “define” either writing or queerness. Agreed, so instead of defining, I want to ask: is there something potentially generative about pausing here to consider writing as the technology that opens us into the not-yet?