Body Positive: The Vibrant Present of Derek Jarman’s Edward II (1991)
Abstract

This essay considers Derek Jarman’s Edward II (1991) in relation to the film’s historiopoetic project that identifies the queer body as the site through which and upon which history is written. The analysis is developed by reading several key scenes in Edward II alongside Jarman’s own writing on his AIDS-related illness and the felt immanence of his own death. Employing techniques such as anachronism and prolepsis, Jarman crafts in his film a crystalline temporality that hybridizes past, present, and future. Yoking together disparate historical moments, Edward II illuminates a historical tradition of queer oppression and repression in the Renaissance, while also pointing to the twentieth-century rhetoric of HIV and AIDS as a systemic means of oppression by rendering the queer body as already dead. Thus, the queer body is always temporally and historically tensed and inflected, and the project of historicizing the queer body is a haunted or spectral process, unable to give up its ghosts. This essay argues that Edward II, through scenes of physical violence, erotic encounter, and haptic intimacy, theorizes the queer affective relations of the body to both itself and other bodies across time, as well as the erotic organization and management of the queer body in particular historical moments. It concludes by engaging in a Deleuzian critique of Jarman’s film to identify the “vibrant present” as above all a corporeal temporality, both written and read by the body–of the artist, viewer, and historical subject.


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