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HISPANISM, QUEER HISTORY AND COMMUNITY Israel Burshatin Haverford College The three terms that I have loosely assembled as a title, "Hispanism", "queer history" and "community", are meant to stand as temporary markers for the comments and many questions that follow. The first two especially, "Hispanism" and "queer history" (or queer anything), can arouse deeply held convictions and disciplinary anxieties. With "Hispanism" one treads perilously across a once imperial and now trans-national field whose demarcations have been intensely questioned in recent years. The name itself is one that many have grown increasingly weary of. In this sense, Hispanism is quickly finding its own queer turn, a discipline that nowadays dares not speak its name. I like the provisional and functional definition that Sylvia Molloy and Robert McKee Irwin give in their introduction to Hispanisms and Homosexualities : Hispanism ... is more than a linguistic bond: it is a conviction, a passion, a temporal continuity, an imperial monument. Iffor some of us it may mean a (provisional) way of organizing the study ofa set ofcultures, we should remember that we are, most assuredly, in a minority; that what for us is functional, either as a way of organizing a subject of study or even as a means of postulating strategic identities, is for others an article of faith and a clear call to the heart, (x) They go on to observe, accurately I think, the extent to which Hispanism "has traditionally conceived itself in monolithic terms, as an oddly defensive family whose members supposedly share cultural values and engage in common cultural practices" and, I would add, who are expected to follow narrowly prescribed disciplinary protocols La corónica 30.1 (Fall, 2001): 252-59 Return to Queer Iberia253 (x-xi). For the medieval and early modern periods, the disparities are, I believe, even greater. Attempts to write a queer history of Iberian culture will necessarily occupy an interstitial disciplinary location, against the grain ofthe fusty rules ofdecorum oftraditional Hispanism and on the margins of the incessant crossings of queer historiography. Is this interstitiality something to bemoan or to celebrate? I use the term "queer history" (rather than queer theory or queer studies) since one of the strengths of the essays in Queer Iberh is the historical grounding of the interpretations offered, even those of literary texts. In Getting Medieval Carolyn Dinshaw helps us to grasp queerness as a historical category in a tour de force of combined close readings and expansive theorization. As I understand her multiple and unbounded definitions of the queer, it designates a Derridian supplement . For instance, she calls Margery Kempe queer in the sense that her "body, does not fit her desires" (149). But the dissemination that accompanies Derrida's semantic supplementarity is reined in by the ethical stance inherent in the queer scholar's location in his or her communities (scholarly, gender, class, ethnic, etc.). The scholar's position depends on affiliations to communities past and present. For Dinshaw the queer is also both excess and the unsaid, "what is left out", "the leavings of categories": "queerness is just that relation of unfittingness, disjunctiveness - that uncategorizability, that being-leftout " (158). Especially useful, I find, is her attention to the alterity that medievalists and early modernists are accustomed to finding in their objects of study, the irreducible differences that arise as we interpret societies, texts, beliefs and cultural artifacts that only with difficulty or by some act of ethnocentric or presentist elision can be neatly mapped onto our world. Dinshaw's exhortation tojoin her in queer historicization makes the interstitiality I referred to earlier a very good thing, nurtured by affiliations that are partial and contingent: Let us imagine the widest possible usable field of others with whom to make partial connections [...and] a process that engages all kinds of differences, though not all in the same ways: racial, ethnic, national, sexual, gender, class, even historical/ temporal. Thus ... the medieval, as well as other dank stretches of time, becomes itself a resource for subject and community formation and materially engaged coalition building. By using this concept of making relations with the past we realize a temporal dimension of the self and of community. (21) 254ForumLa corónica 30...


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