Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Queer Constellations

Subcultural Space in the Wake of the City

2004
Author:

Dianne Chisholm

Queer Constellations

Discovers parallels between modern gay and lesbian views of urban life and Benjamin’s Paris, “the capital of the nineteenth century”

Queer Constellations investigates the dreams and catastrophes of recent urban history viewed through new queer narratives of inner-city life. Dianne Chisholm introduces readers to new practices of walking, seeing, citing, and remembering the city in works by Neil Bartlett, Samuel R. Delany, Robert Glück, Alan Hollinghurst, Gary Indiana, Eileen Myles, Sarah Schulman, Gail Scott, Edmund White, and David Wojnarowicz.

Queer Constellations sets a new standard and methodological trend in queer studies. A major contribution to the space/place debates.

Cindy Patton, author of Globalizing AIDS

Queer Constellations investigates the dreams and catastrophes of recent urban history viewed through new queer narratives of inner-city life. The “gay village,” “gay mecca,” “gai Paris,” the “lesbian flaneur,” the “lesbian bohème”—these and other urban phantasmagoria feature paradoxically in this volume as figures of revolutionary utopia and commodity spectacle, as fossilized archetypes of social transformation and ruins of haunting cultural potential.

Dianne Chisholm introduces readers to new practices of walking, seeing, citing, and remembering the city in works by Neil Bartlett, Samuel R. Delany, Robert Glück, Alan Hollinghurst, Gary Indiana, Eileen Myles, Sarah Schulman, Gail Scott, Edmund White, and David Wojnarowicz. Reading these authors with reference to the history, sociology, geography, and philosophy of space, particularly to the everyday avant-garde production and practice of urban space, Chisholm reveals how—and how effectively—queer narrative documentary resembles and reassembles Walter Benjamin’s constellations of Paris, “capital of the nineteenth century.” Considering experimental queer writing in critical conjunction with Benjamin’s city writing, the book shows how a queer perspective on inner-city reality exposes contradictions otherwise obscured by mythic narratives of progress.

If Benjamin regards the Paris arcade as a microcosm of high capitalism, wherein the (un)making of industrial society is perceived retrospectively, in contemporary queer narrative we see the sexually charged and commodity-entranced space of the gay bathhouse as a microcosm of late capitalism and as an exemplary site for excavating the contradictions of mass sex. In Chisholm’s book we discover how, looking back on the ruins of queer mecca, queer authors return to Benjamin to advance his “dialectics of seeing;” how they cruise the paradoxes of market capital, blasting a queer era out of the homogeneous course of history.

Queer Constellations

Dianne Chisholm is professor of English at the University of Alberta and the author of H. D.’s Freudian Poetics: Psychoanalysis in Translation.

Queer Constellations

Queer Constellations sets a new standard and methodological trend in queer studies. A major contribution to the space/place debates.

Cindy Patton, author of Globalizing AIDS

Chisholm’s theoretical rigor and political commitment, and her perceptive readings of significant but underexplored texts, make Queer Constellations an impressive model of what we might gain by blasting apart our expectations of environmental writing—and indeed, environmental activism. Queer Constellations shows how a sophisticated, theoretically grounded approach can productively expand, redefine, and re-politicize our notions of literature and landscapes.

American Literature

Dianne Chisholm has a well-developed interest in contemporary queer fiction and politics. Chisholm seems genuinely to believe in revolutionary potential, revolutionary energy, and ‘the revolutionary value of sexual transgressivity.’

Modernism/Modernity

For queer urban dwellers it’s a fascinating exploration of queer narratives of urban life and discourses of space. The book’s genius is its tacking back and forth between theorists and contemporary queer commentators. It will alter your relationship with the places you inhabit and traverse and give you a deeper understanding of what it is to ‘queer space.’

Melbourne Star

What makes her book a unique and powerful contribution to the field of Benjamin studies is that she builds upon both Buci-Glucksmann’s gendered analysis and Benjamin’s concept of the ‘dialectics of seeing,’ particularly as this concept was developed in Susan Buck-Morss’s unsurpassed book, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1989).

Topia

An interesting and original critique of gay historiography.

South Atlantic Review

Inspired, eloquent, and compelling. Its recuperation and rereading of Walter Benjamin with and against queer narrative is an ambitious and tantalizing intellectual project, and it produces a unique level of theorization of queer social space. It freshly and bravely revisits gay and lesbian culture tropes and questions cultural assumptions from all quarters. The apparent hedonism and frivolity of consumerism is given a tough dressing down through its links to wreckage, displacement, and ruin, while its connection to cultural production and urban economics is underscored. And most significant of all, the powerful concept of ‘queer constellation’ is developed and forged into a real tool for understanding the trans/formations of queer cultures. Notwithstanding silences, erasures, and prohibitions, it allows for a simultaneous reading of a space and time over which a locked-down exclusionary normative history has lost its hold.

Journal of the History of Sexuality

Queer Constellations

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations

Introduction. Sodom and Gomorrah in the Era of Late Capitalism; or, A Return to Walter Benjamin

1 Love at Last Sight; or, The Dialectics of Seeing in the Wake of the Gay Bathhouse
2 The City of Collective Memory
3 Queer Passages in Gai Paris; or, Flâneries through the Paradoxes of History
4 The Lesbian Bohème

Conclusion. Millennial Metropolis: Blasting a Queer Era out of Homogeneous History

Notes
Bibliography

Index