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Erotics and Annihilation: Caitlín R. Kiernan, Queering the Weird, and Challenges to the “Anthropocene”

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Publication date31/07/2022
Host publicationDark Scenes from Damaged Earth: The Gothic Anthropocene
EditorsJustin Edwards, Rune Graulund, Johan Hoglund
Place of PublicationMinneapolis
PublisherUniversity of Minnesota Press
ISBN (Print)9781517911232, 9781517911225
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Recently, the ‘weird’ has found multiple points of connection with environmental philosophy and ecocriticism seeking to ‘unsettle the Anthropos of the anthropocene’. Weird’s preoccupation with geological spans of ‘deep time’, the inadequacy of human reason, and the mutual enfleshment of all material being, have been hailed as usefully chiming with core principles emerging in these fields of thought. This essay does not, however, merely wish to re-rehearse these existing arguments; nor do I wish to argue that the weird is always uniquely appropriate for representing a contemporary ecological orientation or perception, and indeed I will call into question some of the ways that Gothic and anthropocene have been combined in critical work to date. Rather, I tease out some specific ways that certain uses of weird may well be valuable in fostering such new noticing in a ‘vivid intimacy’ (as Timothy Morton phrases it), as well as ways in which certain iconic deployments of recent weird may actively obscure some forms of such noticing.

This chapter considers how some weird writing not only depicts epistemological disorientation, abject disgust or peaceful coexistence, but also offers a queer and nonreproductive erotics of nonhuman encounter and annihilation. This work may crucial exceed either revulsion or epistemological confusion, as hitherto emphasised in critical responses to the Weird and the Anthropocene. ‘Queering’ a discourse necessarily includes taking account of desire that exceeds heteronormative encounters. In addition, however, queering can include broader, stranger disruptions to hegenomic scripts for desire, and to explore some of these possible trajectories of longing I will draw on the writing of Caitlín R. Kiernan.

As such, this chapter will explore some of the ways that a weird poetics may simultaneously limit and enrich the ‘arts of noticing’, while remaining wary of elevating weird to an ideal response. Shudder, slither and strangeness are not always salvation. They are more interesting than that.