This article reads the transformation of urban space in US cities during and since the urban renewal of the 1950s and 1960s in dialogue with queer and disability theories of access to the social and the built environment. Knittle focuses on obsolescence as an urban planning strategy used to justify the removal of buildings and people from the present, as he explores how queer and disability studies have negotiated and advocated for access to the present and the future while refusing assimilation to normative social forms. He reads across body and city scales to consider access as dynamic and to map how the ableist expectations projected onto disabled bodies in what Alison Kafer describes as a “curative imaginary” appear on the city scale as an “urban curative imaginary.” To explore resistances to obsolescence that refuse assimilation while demanding access, Knittle reads the “window poems” of queer New York School poet James Schuyler. In these poems, Schuyler documents small and large forms of urban transformation from his Manhattan apartment during the 1950s and 1960s. Schuyler’s poems, Knittle argues, model strategies for how to identify the obsolescence of normative space rather than the obsolescence of queer and disabled bodies. He uses the poems’ focus on the queer potential of how urban spaces change to argue for a queer disability urbanism that takes the dynamism of access as a precondition for negotiating equitable forms of social participation and public life.
“Hints That Are Revelations”: James Schuyler, Obsolescence, and the Urban Curative Imaginary
Davy Knittle (he/they) is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania. His critical work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in WSQ and Planning Perspectives. He lives in Philadelphia, where he curates the City Planning Poetics series at the Kelly Writers House.
Davy Knittle; “Hints That Are Revelations”: James Schuyler, Obsolescence, and the Urban Curative Imaginary. GLQ 1 April 2021; 27 (2): 173–200. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-8871649
Download citation file: