Bio: Eleri Anona Watson is completing a DPhil in English Literature at the University of Oxford. Eleri is a lecturer and tutor in Women’s Studies and English Literature at Oxford and is a Junior Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum. Eleri is the current Christopher Isherwood Fellow at the Huntington Archive in California. Eleri has previously held a Visiting Fellowship at the University of Southern California and is a co-founder of the Queer Studies Research Network (Oxford) and Queer Research UK (University of Cambridge). Eleri’s thesis offers a new reading of Jacques Derrida’s ‘Choreographies’ and writings with/against/alongside Hélène Cixous. Eleri mobilises this reading to examine the role of ‘bumping’ in queer life and friendships in American Literature, particularly the cross-gender and often cross-sexuality ‘fag-hag’ relationship. Eleri has published on topics relating to the history and possibilities of Women’s Studies, the ‘queer sublime’ in Modernist fiction, ‘bumpy relationality’ in AIDS activism and cinema, and on (anti-) relational debates in queer theory. Currently, Eleri is supporting the production of an online archive for South London’s Gay Community Centre and Squats.
Thesis Title: Bumping as a Way of Life: the pursuit of a queer relationality to come in the work of Jacques Derrida, Hélène Cixous, and Christopher Isherwood
Supervisors: Prof Lloyd Pratt & Ms Jeri Johnson
Research Interests: Queer Theory; Feminist Theory; French Philosophy; Queer Literature; Feminist Literature; Post-1945 American literature; Art & Architecture; Comparative Literature
My thesis proposes that a queer ‘way of life’ is fundamentally relational, involving new and ever-mutating cross-identarian relationships. From the crossed paths while cruising to the jostling and dancing of the gay bar, and from the bumping of bodies at protests to the very nature of the interpellation ‘queer’, bumping, I argue, is the physical and psychic manifestation of an ever-supplementing queer ‘way of life’. This, I argue, might promise a pleasurable relationality to come that implicates a bumpy identification politics and ethics of respectful, ever-expanding relationalities and identifications with the other.
This bumpy, queer ‘way of life’ and relating must acknowledge its predecessor in the bumpy crossing points and relational ‘transfers’ of Michel Foucault’s gay ‘way of life’. Foucault’s gay ‘way of life’ permeates anti-anti-relational approaches to queer theory and trans studies. However, scholars’ elision of Foucault’s gay ‘way of life’ and a queer ‘way of life’ is misleading. Limited in relational possibilities, Foucault’s gay ‘way of life’ cannot be considered ‘queer’. Countering these limitations, my thesis proposes the possibility of a relational queer ‘way of life’ articulated by the ‘bump’, promising loving, respectful, ever-supplementing relationalities with others. My thesis recognises ‘queer’ as a bumpy relational politic and engages in a queer reading of Jacques Derrida and Hélène Cixous’ accounts of their life-long pursuit of a bumpy aimance to come. Their ‘bumps’ implicate an identification and disidentification politics articulated by the bump.
Chapter 2 proposes that Cixous and Derrida’s bumpy approaches and strategies for overcoming possible violence are ‘something of an event’, informed by structural oppressions and contextual constraints. In turn, Chapter 3 examines Isherwood’s representation of the (im)possibilities of queer bumping in the post-war Los Angelean context of ‘Afterwards’ (1959) and A Single Man (1964). I argue that Isherwood’s violent depictions of the ‘Viper-Mother’ and consuming ‘fag hag’ underpin Isherwood’s political and pedagogic project. By trafficking horrific images of the fag hag between men (including his peers in Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams), I argue that Isherwood seeks a shared conception of homosexual identity and separatist way of life that precludes bumping into difference. Like the aimance to come, George’s ‘dream’ in the denouement of A Single Man might offer a hopeful vision of a queer ‘way of life’ and relating to come. However, the utopic bumpy ‘way[s] of life’ offered by Isherwood, Derrida and Cixous is flawed. In light of these criticisms of their bumpy relationalities ‘to come’, I ask, are their bumpy modes of relationality what queers want?
Lecturer for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies M.St core module
Tutor for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies M.St module ‘Kinship and the Nature of Queerness’ (tutorials and seminars)
Tutor for English Literature undergraduate courses, including
PRELIMS Paper 1: Introduction to English Language and Literature
PRELIMS Paper 3: Literature in English 1830-1910
PRELIMS Paper 4: Literature in English 1910-present
Paper 6: Writing Feminisms and Feminist Writing
Paper 7: Dissertation in English (topics supervised include: Sarah Waters’ lesbian historical fiction; James Baldwin and the city; Queering Motherhood; Sarah Schulman’s AIDS writing; Christopher Isherwood’s early novels).