Synopses & Reviews
The Queer Art of Failure is about finding alternatives—to conventional understandings of success in a heteronormative, capitalist society; to academic disciplines that confirm what is already known according to approved methods of knowing; and to cultural criticism that has extensively theorized hegemony but paid little attention to counterhegemony. Judith Halberstam proposes “low theory” as a means of recovering ways of being and forms of knowledge not legitimized by existing systems and institutions. Low theory is derived from eccentric archives. It runs the risk of not being taken seriously. It entails a willingness to fail and to lose one’s way. Tacking back and forth between high theory and low theory, high culture and low culture, Halberstam looks for the unexpected and subversive in popular culture, avant-garde performance, and queer art. She pays particular attention to animated children’s films, contending that new forms of animation, especially CGI, have generated narratives filled with unexpected encounters between the childish, the transformative, and the queer. Dismantling contemporary logics of success, Halberstam demonstrates that failure sometimes offers more creative, cooperative, and surprising ways of being in the world.
"A lively and thought-provoking examination of how the homogenizing tendencies of modern society might be resisted through the creative application of failure, forgetting, and passivity, actions generally deemed of little value within today's capitalist models of success. Halberstam (In a Queer Time and Place) finds her ideas supported and exemplified in as unlikely places as the Pixar animated worlds of Finding Nemo, children's cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants, and the narcotized bromance that is Dude, Where Is My Car? She argues that such works represent radically innovative ways to avoid the 'phallus-centric' and production-oriented bias of male-centered capitalist ideologies through a celebration of queerness and oddity, an emphasis on collectivities over individual power, and a rejection of competitive values. The author also draws on the work of visual and performance artists like Kara Walker and Yoko Ono to flesh out her strategies of cultural resistance. With the exception of one remarkable chapter examining the relationship between homosexuality and fascism, Halberstam is too often uncritical in her application of the notion of queerness, allowing the term to absorb virtually any kind of 'heteronormative' position of which she approves. Nonetheless, as a close reader of popular culture, she is exemplary, and as a valiant attempt to find value in positions and attitudes such as negativity that our modern success-oriented society disdains, this study is never less than thrilling. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Prominent queer theorist offers a "low theory" of culture knowledge drawn from popular texts and films.
The Queer Art of Failure is about finding alternativesandmdash;to conventional understandings of success in a heteronormative, capitalist society; to academic disciplines that confirm what is already known according to approved methods of knowing; and to cultural criticism that claims to break new ground but cleaves to conventional archives. Judith Halberstam proposes andldquo;low theoryandrdquo; as a mode of thinking and writing that operates at many different levels at once. Low theory is derived from eccentric archives. It runs the risk of not being taken seriously. It entails a willingness to fail and to lose oneandrsquo;s way, to pursue difficult questions about complicity, and to find counterintuitive forms of resistance. Tacking back and forth between high theory and low theory, high culture and low culture, Halberstam looks for the unexpected and subversive in popular culture, avant-garde performance, and queer art. She pays particular attention to animated childrenandrsquo;s films, revealing narratives filled with unexpected encounters between the childish, the transformative, and the queer. Failure sometimes offers more creative, cooperative, and surprising ways of being in the world, even as it forces us to face the dark side of life, love, and libido.
About the Author
“‘All losers are the heirs of those who have lost before them.’ The Queer Art of Failure narrates hilarious and swerving outlaw comedies of refusal, absurdity, and exuberant being, acting in solidarity with its resident artists—from SpongeBob SquarePants to Yoko Ono. But the book hums a dark tone too. The arts of normative style, playing out on sexual, racialized, gendered, and colonial bodies and landscapes, are painful to witness, even here. No artist or critic can repair the damage, erasing history; but Judith Halberstam wields all of the weapons that intelligence (and cartoons) can bring against the harsh work of conventionality.”—Lauren Berlant, author of Cruel Optimism“The Queer Art of Failure is a manifesto for cultural studies. It self-consciously risks being dismissed or trashed in order to rescue alternative objects of analysis, methods of knowing, and ways of communicating. Its stakes are clear. It’s not attempting to argue for the recovery of its materials from obscurity; it values forgetting and obsolescence. It’s not claiming to retool our understanding of major work; it traffics unapologetically in the minor. And it doesn’t pretend to comprehensive scholarship; it offers up plot summaries and allegorical readings with glee.”—Elizabeth Freeman, author of Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories“The Queer Art of Failure is inspired, provocative, and hilarious. More significantly, it is a deft evisceration of the regulative rigidities of disciplinarity and the pretensions of ‘high theory.’ Judith Halberstam’s advocacy of ‘silly archives’ and ‘low theory’ is much more than a carnivalesque skewering of the earnest self-seriousness of much academic scholarship; it is a populist clarion call for expansive democratic visions of what it is we are writing about and for whom we think we are writing.” —Lisa Duggan, author of The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy“Failure abounds all around us: economies collapse, nation-states falter, and malfeasance rules. In the face of our dismal situation Judith Halberstam distills and repurposes the negative for the purpose of thinking outside the tyranny of success. The Queer Art of Failure finds a new vitality in not winning, accumulating, doing or knowing. Both counter intuitive and anti-anticipatable, this compelling book pushes beyond many of the impasses and blockages that limit our critical horizons today.”—José Esteban Muñoz, author of Cruising Utopia: The Here and Now of Queer Futurity