Written in 1987 in response to the aids emergency unfolding in the United States, Leo Bersani’s “Is the Rectum a Grave?” is often described as an early entry into the strain of queer theory that offers queerness as tarrying in abjection, failure, and antisociality. This essay, however, is much more interested in thinking about the ways Bersani mobilizes connections to femininity in “Is the Rectum a Grave?” As Bersani moves from “women and gay men” to “average, law-abiding family” to “being a woman,” femininity haunts, each of these individual nodes further illuminating an insight about femininity with and without women.
amber jamilla musser is a professor of English at the cuny Graduate Center. She is the author of Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism (New York University Press, 2014) and Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance (New York University Press, 2018) and coeditor along with the Feminist Keywords Collective of Keywords for Gender and Sexuality Studies (New York University Press, 2021). She is currently working on a project on noise.
Amber Jamilla Musser; Femininity. differences 1 May 2023; 34 (1): 113–118. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-10435632
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