Staging a queer methodological provocation, this essay brings together Julia Kristeva’s abject and Michel Foucault’s genealogy, formulating the concept of “abject genealogy.” By doing so, it argues for pursuing combinations—of ideas, individuals, language, and methodologies—that do not necessarily “fit” with each other. In order to make this theoretical argument, the essay dwells on the figure of Kenneth Halliwell, the boyfriend and eventual murderer of the British playwright, Joe Orton. It examines archival materials in order to construct a microgenealogy of Halliwell, and of particular interest are the library books that Halliwell and Orton defaced in the early 1960s. This essay contends that these artworks dramatize the queer methodological provocation described above. In the spirit of Halliwell and Orton, this essay uses their abject genealogical collage method to think through the political and intellectual potential of the improper, queer, and conflictual juxtapositions their artistic practice enacts.
The Abject Genealogies of Kenneth Halliwell (and Joe Orton)
ashley t. shelden is an associate professor of English at Kennesaw State University. Her book Unmaking Love: The Contemporary Novel and the Impossibility of Union was published in 2017 by Columbia University Press. She is currently working on her next book project, “Queer Revolt,” which focuses on the abject.
Ashley T. Shelden; The Abject Genealogies of Kenneth Halliwell (and Joe Orton). differences 1 May 2020; 31 (1): 36–63. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-8218760
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