A Summary Account . . .
(I should say somewhere about here that when I say “he” I also mean “she”: as the late President Smith used to say, man generally embraces woman.)
Northrop Frye By Liberal Things (1959). This is his address upon his installation as Principal of Victoria College.
The aside can be read as a humorous touch of heteronormativity. Tone is all. But for even the tone-deaf, it is the “generally” that once spotted works its magic. It signals exceptions. Other ways.
Indeed the context of the aside is set in the commonplace of attending university to find oneself.
How is it that I come to read “generally” as offering a sliver? By training as a reader. Training I generally received at university.
Such close reading partakes of the moves made by José Esteban Muñoz in Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (2009). He draws upon the work of Ernest Bloch (The Principle of Hope) to carve out space for the work of the experience-not-yet-had.
The point is once again to pull from the past, the no-longer-conscious, described and represented by Bloch today, to push beyond the impasse of the present.
Between the then of Frye and the then of Muñoz lies the publication of The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing: For writers, editors, and speakers first published in 1980 by Casey Miller and Kate Swift. And after them all a challenge to recite the specificity of desire: “Every gay person has been in a situation where less specific pronouns are useful, perhaps even a safety measure […] “you” has fallen out of favour and pop seems joyfully full of new young artists not only being candid about who their songs are lusting after, but celebrating that point of difference, too.”
I remember as a youth before attending university listening to “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” lifted from Jesus Christ Superstar and performed by Helen Reddy. Long before I learnt about shifters like the pronoun “I” (Émile Benveniste), long before I could claim experience of many before, long before the mysteries of incarnation shone for me, I was queering the text:
I don’t know how to take this
I don’t see why he moves me
He’s a man he’s just a man
And I’ve had so many men before
In very many ways he’s just one more
Queerness’s form is utopian. Ultimately, we must insist on a queer futurity because the present is so poisonous and insolvent. A resource that cannot be discounted to know the future is indeed the no-longer-conscious, that thing or place that may be extinguished but not yet discharged in its utopian potentiality.
insolvent – discounted – discharged
Bills come due. But who is doing the accounting? Who keeps the general ledger?
And so for day 2128