Collations: Book Forum on Abigail Joseph’s Exquisite Materials: Episodes in the Queer History of Victorian Style
The V21 Collations: Book Forum welcomes Shannon Draucker, Julia Fuller, and Kate Thomas in conversation about Abigail Joseph’s Exquisite Materials: Episodes in the Queer History of Victorian Style (Delaware, 2019). As evocative and suggestive as the works she addresses in it, “the project of this book,” she says, “is to explore the histories and pathways of the ‘coded,’ complicated relationships between homosexuality and material culture, seeking to move beyond the language of stereotype in which it is often ensnared” (3). Joseph traces “complex strains of material, aesthetic, and relational interchange” between dominant normative and queer cultures as those dynamics play out in and around a wide variety of “material objects–primarily dress, domestic furnishing and decoration, and books and letters” (7-8). She weaves together diverse critical theoretical approaches into the fabric of her “curatorial enterprise,” seeking meaning in the “fragile” things and histories with which writers, then and now, engage (22, 245).
Exquisite Materials offers up a celebration of these objects and stories about them while revealing their anticipation of critical theory’s engagement with materialism and “the idea of ‘thingness’” elaborated in recent decades (18). Taking inspiration from one of these objects, Joseph looks to “fashion’s timeline” as an expression of what she theorizes as a practice of “archival presentism,” which is, she says, “twisty and recursive, multiple and unstable: shaping the swiftly moving present through innovations that are almost always backwards-reaching citations, it implicitly queers any linear notion of history’s progress” (21-22). The work strategically resists critical distance, offering an account that is searching and self-aware–a model for how scholarship can honor and animate the past in the present.
|Reflection by Shannon Draucker||Reflection by Julia Fuller||Reflection by Kate Thomas|
Maeve Adams, Convener and Co-Editor
Justin Raden, Co-Editor