Closing Down

I am closing down the ol’ blogaroo for our “Theories of Failure” class. It’s been a pleasure working with everybody!


Prof. Epstein


Reuse tags! Request for blogs due 2/3

Hi all:

For this week’s bloggers, my advice is to reuse tags that previous bloggers have created, rather than creating new ones. (As you can see, our tags are proliferating!) This way we can make next week’s “tag exercise” easier and more useful.

I think that, for that exercise, if you want to combine a couple tags, you may (i.e. if you’d like to look at a couple tags that you see as connected in some kind of complex way). We’ll talk more about this in class. Now a word from our class mascot.

Image result for grumpy cat fail

Some possible prompts for your first blog posting

Your first blog posting is due by the end of the day on 13 January. It should address the reading from Jack Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure (you may, if you like, put that reading into dialogue with some of the excerpts we read in class on Tuesday, but that is not required). Below are some prompts you may consider while writing your posting, but you are not limited to these. If you’d like to come up with a topic of your own, feel free. Just make sure you cite specific claims/language from the reading that you can use to develop arguments and critical questions. You can (and should) cite those claims parenthetically by page number, like this: “refusal of identity” (132). Feel free to include images, links, etc. using the text editor–it’s pretty user-friendly–but don’t substitute pretty pictures for good reading and writing.

Finally: about “Tags.” Please append two or three tags to your blog post. When you click the button to write a blog, there will be a menu on the left of your screen that says “Categories & Tags.” A tag might be a specific concept or keyword from the reading (“negative affects,” “shadow feminism,” “legibility,” “low theory,” “suspect memorialization” . . .?), a specific theoretical framework (“queer theory,” “disability studies,” whatever), or something else.

I want to encourage you to find a tag that pushes beyond the obvious (I’d avoid “failure,” for example–too easy!), but that is broad enough that future bloggers will be able to reuse the tag.

Now, some prompts to get the ball rolling:

  • What is Halberstam doing with the concept of “low theory,” or positioning “low theory” against “high theory”? How is low theory related to the question of “failure” generally, and/or to the political questions Halberstam’s analysis asks?
  • What is the form of “masochistic passivity” that Halberstam endorspharrell-esquirees, and what is supposed to be radical or critical about it? How does it feed into Halberstam’s analysis of Jamaica Kincaid’s novel–or, if you haven’t read that novel, can you think of a different literary text to which it might apply?
  • What does Halberstam mean by the word “queer”? How does Halberstam want to propose “failure” as an approach to literature/culture that has specific relevance for queer or non-normative sexualities or “alternative political formations” (19)?
  • How do you assess Halberstam’s claims about pedagogy (teaching/learning), either on intellectual grounds or on political grounds (or both)?

Course Description

In The Queer Art of Failure, Jack Halberstam speaks up for the generative possibilities of “failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, and not knowing.” Political, aesthetic, and interpretive failures, Halberstam argues, allow for “more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world” than those practices we qualify as “success.” This class will examine literary representations of failure, in dialogue with various modes of queer, postcolonial, and affect theory, exploring various forms of failure that question our ideals of productivity and value, wholeness and health, beauty and truth.

We will use this course blog to develop a conversation about various kinds of failure. To each blog you should attach a few tags; feel free also to include images, hyperlinks, etc.