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 Master class and Lecture organized by Ben Moore | 23 May 2024, Masterclass 13.00-15.00, Lecture 17.00-18.30 | University of Amsterdam, P.C. Hoofthuis (Masterclass: Room 5.08, Lecture: Room 1.04) | Registration: | Registration deadline: Friday 17 May 2024 | Credits: 1 ECTS
Event details of ‘Queer Rigidity’ – Masterclass and Lecture by S. Pearl Brilmyer
23 May 2024
13:00 -18:30

This two-part event with visiting speaker S. Pearl Brilmyer explores the concept of ‘queer rigidity’ and its relation to philosophy, literature, psychoanalysis and desire. Starting from a set of nineteenth-century texts, we will move towards an interdisciplinary conversation about the implications of thinking through and against queer rigidity. Graduate students and scholars from all fields are invited to attend.

In the graduate masterclass (13.00-15.00) we will read a forthcoming article by S. Pearl Brilmyer entitled “Queer Rigidity: Habit and the Limits of the Performativity Thesis,” along with a series of responses to it written by Heather Love, Bejamin Kahan, Karen Tongson, Robyn Wiegman, and David Kurnick, all of which will appear in the journal Critical Inquiry later in 2024. Brilmyer’s article explores the contributions of nineteenth-century philosophers of habit to understanding the rigidity of desire. Focusing on the work of Félix Ravaisson, she argues that Ravaisson’s treatise Of Habit (1838) makes sense of something that much queer theory fails to address in its investment of the subversion of identity: the tendency of desire to return to known objects and follow well-worn paths, a tendency that does not always result in the affirmation of norms or the consolidation of power. In so doing, it offers an alternative to queer theories that, indebted to Judith Butler’s performativity thesis, attribute the rigidities of sexual life entirely to the productive power of cultural prohibitions and discursively constructed norms. Total reading: 50-60 pages.

This will be followed by a public lecture by S. Pearl Brilmyer at 17.00, titled “The Anal Character: Walter Pater and the Return to the Inorganic.” The talk reads Walter Pater’s short story “Emerald Uthwart” (1892) as a case study for the theory of desire qua habitual tendency developed in Brilmyer’s larger book project Queer Rigidity. It will frame Pater’s story through the Russian-born psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé’s theory of the anal stage, a phase that is never fully surpassed, but to which the subject unconsciously desires to return—a theory that departs from Freud’s own theory of anality at the same time that it anticipates his theory of the death drive. There will be time for questions and discussion.

S. Pearl Brilmyer is Associate Professor of English & Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is also core faculty in the Women’s & Gender Studies program. She is the author of The Science of Character: Human Objecthood and the Ends of Victorian Realism (Chicago, 2021) along with various essays on nineteenth-century literature, philosophy, and science. She is also the co-editor of two special issues, one in the journal GLQ on “The Ontology of the Couple,” and another in Psychoanalysis & History on Lou Andreas-Salomé’s 1916 essay, “‘Anal’ and ‘Sexual,’” featuring the first English translation of that essay.

The event is organized by Ben Moore of the UvA English Department

Credit Breakdown

RMA students who participate in both parts of the event (including preparing discussion questions) can receive 1EC. To register for the masterclass and receive the readings and further details, please email Ben Moore at No registration is required to attend the lecture only.

To obtain credits, students are asked to do the following:

  • Prepare the readings
  • Write three detailed discussion questions that respond to the set texts for the masterclass
  • Attend and participate on the day