Detailed information about the course

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Queer and Now


27 October 2023

Responsable de l'activité



Prof. Rory Critten, UNIL


Prof. Glenn Burger, Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center, US


This workshop will offer PhD students in English the opportunity to take stock of recent developments in queer studies and to brainstorm future directions for research. The invited speaker, Prof. Glenn Burger, is Distinguished Professor of English at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center.

As a medievalist, Prof. Burger is famous for being amongst the first scholars to apply queer theoretical approaches to readings of Chaucer and his contemporaries (in e.g. his Chaucer's Queer Nation, 2003), and he has remained at the cutting edges of both medieval studies and gender studies. Prof. Burger's most recent book treats the invention of wifehood in the long fourteenth century (Conduct Becoming: Good Wives and Husbands in the Later Middle Ages, 2020).

Prof. Burger has agreed to lead a workshop aimed at students of English working across all periods (medieval, early modern, modern) and media (literature, film, online culture). His arguments may begin with medieval materials--one of the aims of the day will be to demonstrate the centrality of the Middle Ages to historical understandings of gender--but his goal will be to include all English PhD students with an interest in gender studies.

Possible topics for discussion include: the development of the field and its institutional purchase; intersections between queer studies and other branches of gender studies (e.g. feminism and transgender and intersex studies); and intersections between queer studies and critical race studies.

The day will comprise, in the morning, 1) a lecture from Prof. Burger and 2) a workshop that Prof. Burger will lead (readings to follow). In the afternoon, PhD students and early post-docs in English Studies with an interest in gender will present work in progress. Prof. Burger is an expert in queer approaches to the Middle Ages but has interests in queer theory and culture that range more widely. He will thus be able to provide informed feedback across a number of possible topics. There will be a group meal (lunch), coffee in the morning, an apéro in the afternoon, and an evening meal for the speaker and organizers.


9.00-10.30: Keynote lecture, Glenn Burger: "Feeling Premodern: Then and Now"

10.30-11.00: Coffee

11.00-12.30: Workshop: Gerwig's Barbie, Chaucer's Miller's Tale, and Ahmed's Queer Phenomenology

12.30-14.13: Lunch

14.30-16.00: Work-in-progress presentations.




An abstract for Prof. Burger's keynote lecture: 

It can seem that the variety and vitality of LGBTQAI+ and trans* experience has never been so clearly visible and so fully recognized as it is in the present moment. At the same time, we are reminded on a daily basis of the continued vulnerability of queer and trans* lives. Whether this occurs as a result of ruthless legal attempts to criminalize such experience or by acts of slyer brutality through the banning of young adult books because they deal frankly with queer or trans* life, institutional and governmental attempts to excise queer/trans agency and humanity are increasing. This talk considers how queer theory has attempted to unpack crucial issues that both determine and resist how "we" engage with and create a "now" that increases possibilities for queer agency and animacy: for example, rethinking our categories of the human and our relationships with the animal and nonhuman, reconfiguring how we think about global and racial capitalism, or reorienting our relationship with time and space and our understandings of the historical archive.


While much of queer scholarship has been focused on a queer "now" in relation to the inheritances of modernity-the effects of modern colonialism, capitalism and neoliberalism, the restrictive power of the nation state, and so on-this talk will also focus on the re-orienting possibilities of different temporal and spatial relationships opened up by an engagement with the premodern. If such a conceptual and historical reorientation affirms Bruno Latour's claim that "we have never been modern," it also allows the queer medievalist to delineate how "we have therefore never been heterosexual." This talk will explore how "the touch of the queer" (in Carolyn Dinshaw's words) opens up a different approach to temporality and spatiality for the medievalist, one in which a premodern past registers in very different ways from how right wing nationalists or religious/cultural traditionalists would have it: where the premodern (along with the indigenous) haunts the modern, and where both "then" and "now" can become places of profound animacy for queer subjects.



Deadline for registration 20.10.2023
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