Lindsay Wilhelm responds to Kimberly Hall
All three of us, it seems, were struck by the contemporaneity and urgency of The Mediated Mind. Importantly, however, Hall draws our attention to the redemptive potential in mediated constructions of identity: Zieger’s chapter on Wilde suggests how, in Hall’s words, “practices of mediated selfhood offer productive frameworks for identity formation not otherwise available, particularly for socially marginalized individuals.” Wilde’s exuberant public persona—dependent on articles of dress and collectible objects, not to mention saleable pieces of his personality in the form of portraits and newspaper interviews—speaks to the sheer pleasure of mediated performativity. We might argue that the very mediation of his selfhood is what allowed Wilde to broadcast affirmative modes of queer identity around which generations of queer admirers could (and still do) rally. Wilde is a compelling figure, both in Zieger’s book and in media studies more broadly, in part because his life and work reveal how self, media, style, and camp all shade into one another.
Within this context, Hall also helpfully broaches what she terms the “politics of authenticity” in the age of Instagram. Hall’s comments remind us how these politics, like all politics, often reinforce extent inequities: consider how much of the “hand wringing” (to use Hall’s astute phrasing again) around social media self-presentation targets women, queer people, and people of color. That Zieger withholds judgment about the role of media in self-formation, in the Victorian era and now, offers us a model for how to discuss these issues with fairness and equanimity.