The music of the spectralist composer Claude Vivier is often considered through the lens of autobiography. However, from his abandonment as an infant to the circumstances of his murder at the age of thirty-four, certain aspects of Vivier’s life also seem to resist any straightforwardly autobiographical account. Borrowing the concept of “autothanatography” from Jacques Derrida and others, this essay explores how Vivier’s works inscribe a relationship to death, to the end and impossibility of autobiography, into its very origin. I argue that such an inscription occurs prominently in Vivier’s musical and dramatic portrayals of childhood, particularly those in Kopernikus: Opéra—Rituel de mort and Lonely Child. Drawing on Kathryn Bond Stockton’s writing on queer childhood and Lee Edelman’s early essay on homographesis, I further argue that this displacement of the autobiographical in Vivier’s works is also marked by his sexuality, or, more precisely, by its spectral repercussions.
Death and Fairy Tale: Queer Autothanatography in Claude Vivier
andrew kingston received a PhD in comparative literature from Emory University in 2019. His dissertation examined figures of corruption in the performing arts, drawing on work by Jacques Derrida, Stéphane Mallarmé, Arnold Schoenberg, and others. His recent academic writing has appeared in Postmodern Culture and The Undecidable Unconscious: A Journal of Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis.
Andrew Kingston; Death and Fairy Tale: Queer Autothanatography in Claude Vivier. differences 1 September 2020; 31 (2): 30–57. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-8662160
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