There is a present need in contemporary queer theory to join forces with ecological criticism, specifically with the burgeoning field of animal studies, to critically assess the controversial life and writings of self-proclaimed “eco-warrior” Timothy Treadwell (1957 – 2003). For thirteen summers on Alaska's Katmai coast, Treadwell maintained a dangerous intimacy with a population of grizzly bears, a species of totemic significance with the power, he believed, to both redeem and destroy him. Theoretical works by Jacques Derrida and Donna Haraway help illuminate the vexed power relations between human and animal subjects as well as the queer contours of Treadwell's conservationism. Drawing on his 1997 memoir, Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska, as well as film representations of his life's work (principally, Werner Herzog's acclaimed 2005 documentary, Grizzly Man), I ground the queerness of Treadwell's environmentalism in his radical view that Ursus arctos is not exactly nonhuman and therefore capable of loving man in ways that disturb any easy distinction between the “human” and the “animal.” Treadwell's relentless personification of other species is the clearest expression of his queer anthropomorphism, the belief that animals are not only human-like but that humans are irrepressibly animal-like because of their shared sexual nature. Through a highly confessional and sexualized discourse, Treadwell's text registers a sacrificial and masochistic desire to ultimately die for his culture's fantasy of a masculine nature. The article turns finally to the fetishized status of the bear within a sizable gay male subculture known as “bear culture” to align such sexualized iconography with Treadwell's own cross-species identification.
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Colin Carman; Grizzly Love: The Queer Ecology of Timothy Treadwell. GLQ 1 October 2012; 18 (4): 507–528. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-1600716
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