This essay argues that queer experimental literature provides a hermeneutic mode to resist the gentrification of LGBTQ literature in the aftermath of the AIDS crisis. Queer experimental literature elicits “bad reading,” affective relations of reading that disrupt the corporeal norms that fuse readers into the heteronormative public sphere. Bad reading conjures new economies of social and erotic relation in historical moments when queer belonging is foreclosed, stigmatized, or forgotten. Locating bad reading beside paranoid, reparative, and postcritical reading, the essay situates queer reading within the wider social field from which it emerges. To do so, I turn to Samuel Delany’s experimental AIDS writing. Delany rewrites academic discourses of deconstruction, forcing critics to confront their affective and historical implication in the AIDS crisis. He uses queer experimental literature to recuperate the radicalism of queer eroticism disavowed by mainstream gay literature and safe-sex discourses alike. The Mad Man (1994) contests the conceit that experimental literature is politically solipsistic and affectively unpleasant by inviting readers into the incipiently social relations of queer eroticism. The novel’s provocations of bad reading condense an affective archive of unsanctioned queer hermeneutics, which have been elided in disciplinary debates over critical reading.

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