Richard Kaye responds to Jill Ehnenn

I’m glad Jill Ehnenn has highlighted the way in which Before Queer Theory departs from the “anti-social” and “no future” arguments that more or less began with the publication of Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004). I, too, often have thought that the stance against “reproductive futurity” was more a case of radical-seeming position-taking than a convincing political or ethical strategy. Even an otherwise admiring Leo Bersani noted of No Future that “we can perhaps reproach [Edelman] only for not spelling out the mode in which we might survive our necessary assent to his argument.” Once again, Friedman laudably takes on some of the seemingly unassailable fundaments of Queer Theory and does so with boldness and style.

At the same time, I still very much admire the implicit aesthetic and cultural values of No Future, which are informed by a (psychoanalytic) sense of the mischievous, socially un-positive chords that cultural works strike in readers and audiences. Edelman eschews the art-as-good-for-you-idealism in the appreciation of a variety of cultural works he considers in No Future. That allows him to side, if that is the word, with the cantankerous Scrooge of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and even the malevolent Leonard of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (although Edelman seems to draw a line with the murderous feathered vertebrates of Hitchcock’s The Birds, who, being animals, of course cannot be either good or evil). Having myself been cast as Scrooge in a junior-high school production of A Christmas Carol at a private school in which I
seemed to have been the only Jewish kid, I can speak to the special pleasures that outsider, disruptive, and self-creating fictive characters can offer.

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