This article traces the development of Jarman's imagination of medieval reliquary devotion as a practice of queer mourning and memorialization between 1981 and ca. 1993: from draft scripts for the unrealized film Bob-up-a-Down to Blue (1993) and his last hospital journals. In Jarman's works, the reliquary appears not merely as image but also in active use, evidenced in his assemblage paintings and his garden at Prospect Cottage, Dungeness. Jarman's reliquaries are analyzed in their archival contexts, drawing on medieval and modern repositories. These reliquaries are considered in relation to Jarman's own canonization by both the queer community and the artistic establishment. Before and after his canonization by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in 1991, Jarman was deeply engaged with medieval mystical and medical representations of relics. Working amidst devastating losses and in the knowledge of his own approaching death, Jarman created reliquaries to challenge the denial of public mourning during the AIDS crisis. Jarman's archives emerge as inescapably plural, even within one repository. Like Jarman's imagined reliquary, these archives are made of jewels and ashes, the aesthetic and bodily remains.
Queer Remains: Derek Jarman's Archives and Medieval Reliquaries, 1981–ca. 1993
E. K. Myerson is the Parker-Library Early-Career Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Their first book, The Desire for Syria in Medieval England, is forthcoming. Their work on Derek Jarman's medievalism was completed as an ISSF Research project at Birkbeck College (ISSF/Wellcome Trust). In addition to their written output, Myerson collaborated on an essay-film response, “submerged reliquary of a Kentish saint,” together with artist Sophie Mei Birkin and cinematographer Bartek Dziadosz, which was screened at the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image in December 2022. Myerson was a Genesis Jewish Book Week Emerging Writer for 2021–22.
E. K. Myerson; Queer Remains: Derek Jarman's Archives and Medieval Reliquaries, 1981–ca. 1993. GLQ 1 January 2024; 30 (1): 1–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-10920606
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