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    Reading for queer openings: moving. archives of the self. Fred Wah

    Rudy, Susan (2020) Reading for queer openings: moving. archives of the self. Fred Wah. In: Morra, Linda M. (ed.) Moving Archives. Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, pp. 169-190. ISBN 9781771124027.

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    Fred Wah is a writer of the contemporary, not the archive. He writes poetry “as a way of reading and thinking” (Faking It 1). I read his poetry as a way of thinking and writing. My focus therefore is on “the archive effect” as an act of reading, “an experience of reception rather than an indication of official sanction or storage location” (Baron 7). Many affect theorists assume that “a vital re-centring of the body” necessitates a shift away from “the text and discourse” (Gregg and Siegworth 1). But, as I will argue, if bodies are at the centre of “the affective turn” (Clough and Halley; Pedwell and Whitehead), readers, texts, and language remain key theoretical touchstones. In Denise Riley’s words, there is a “forcible affect of language,” which courses through us “like blood” (Impersonal Passion 1). In Faking It (2000), Wah’s millennial collection of essays on poetics and hybridity, he speaks of the poet as archivist and of poetry being written out of “archives of the self ” (237). For Wah, writing involves rereading such archives, not to confirm what is known, but to “get through” (232) to someplace else. From the vantage point of some new place, we see the “openings” that enabled the transformation. The experience of reading the work of Fred Wah is similarly transformative and requires active, embodied readers. In Wah’s investigative writing practice, he explores his mixed Chinese/English/Swedish identity. I found in it queer openings where I could examine the experience of being a white, supposedly heterosexual, woman who felt like and eventually came out as a lesbian. Although scholars across the social sciences and humanities agree that there is no “singular crosscutting definition of affect” (Cifor and Gilliland), affect is, as Marika Cifor argues, “a force that creates a relation between a body and the world” (8).1 As Ann Cvetkovich says in the interview cited as an epigraph to this chapter, “the archive of feelings” gives us permission “to turn down the volume on the voice of critique and pay attention to the strong feelings that get attached to things” (Carland and Cvetkovich 73). My strong feelings have always been attached to the things we call poems. This chapter explores therefore what it means to access archives of the self through reading. I consider the reasons why and how I read, and reread, the work of Fred Wah in my early essays on his work (Rudy Dorscht, “mother/ father things”; Rudy, “& how else”), during our collaboration on the Fred Wah Digital Archive (S–2010), and since I began writing this essay in 2016. Along the way, I say something of what I’ve learned about archives, queer openings, affect, and my body.


    Item Type: Book Section
    Additional Information: Book synopsis: The image of the dusty, undisturbed archive has been swept away in response to growing interest across disciplines in the materials they house and the desire to find and make meaning through an engagement with those materials. Archival studies scholars and archivists are developing related theoretical frameworks and practices that recognize that the archives are anything but static. Archival deposits are proliferating, and the architects, practitioners, and scholars engaged with them are scarcely able to keep abreast of them. Archives, archival theory, and archival practice are on the move. But what of the archives that were once safely housed and have since been lost, or are under threat? What of the urgency that underscores the appeals made on behalf of these archives? As scholars in this volume argue, archives—their materialization, their preservation, and the research produced about them—are moving in a different way: they are involved in an emotionally engaged and charged process, one that acts equally upon archival subjects and those engaged with them. So too do archives at once represent members of various communities and the fields of study drawn to them. Moving Archives grounds itself in the critical trajectory related to what Sara Ahmed calls “affective economies” to offer fresh insights about the process of archiving and approaching literary materials. These economies are not necessarily determined by ethical impulses, although many scholars have called out for such impulses to underwrite current archival practices; rather, they form the crucial affective contexts for the legitimization of archival caches in the present moment and for future use.
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Susan Rudy
    Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2022 12:58
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:52


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