Solipsistic intimacies

A blog is an exercise in navel-gazing (except when it isn’t, and there are plenty on my blogroll which are not); even my earliest teenage paper diaries are filled with meditations on potential audience, on the question of who such excessive communication could be for. The pretext for this one is a graduate class on “Feeling Theory,” which I am auditing this semester. Readings for the first week are Lauren Berlant’s introduction to the 1998 Intimacy issue of Critical Inquiry and Berlant and Michael Warner’s article Sex in Public from that same issue (also reprinted in Warner’s Publics and Counterpublics). I’ve read both before, and the latter in particular I am quite intimate with, but I’m excited to talk about them tomorrow. I didn’t think they would make me gaze at my blogging navel. Yet here, apparently, I am, taking Berlant out of context and scrawling her all over the place.

Again and again, we see how hard it is to adjudicate the norms of a public world when it is also an intimate one, especially where the mixed-up instrumental and affective relations of collegiality are concerned. (Berlant 282)

In Berlant’s articulation of the public/private complexities of intimate spheres, I was surprised to recognize the root of my own reticence with regard to starting this blog, about which I have been talking for interminable months. For years, LiveJournal has been my primary conduit to online cultural participation: part of that has been engagement with media and sf fandom, but much has also been connected to feminist, queer and antiracist online micro-activism and most of all has been concerned simply with maintenance of friendship networks. Typing on the internet is a public act that has most often made an intimate world, for me; though instrumental relations of academic and other concrete sorts (from cowriting articles to finding roommates) have happened through it, connections were invariably primarily affective. Blogging my institutional, collegiate self places the instrumental unavoidably first, speaks me to classmates and teachers and students without a conveniently pseudonymous persona, breaks plausible deniability: this is writing to some end.

Or that’s how it feels. As Berlant insists here and elsewhere, that which feels private (even if publicly, collectively, illusorily so) and purely affective never is; the public, the instrumental, the purposeful and normative are always lurking somewhere. Berlant and Warner write that “there is nothing more public than privacy” (547) and it’s hard to imagine a place where that’s more self-consciously true than the interconnected personal enclaves of the internet(s). So here I am. Not deluding myself? Seeking new intimacies? Converging fragmented selves? Just taking a class, and initiating one more rapidly abandoned blog for the wastelands of the web? Will I soon be writing about my proverbial and entirely metaphorical cat? Time, I expect, will tell.

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One of the most fun feelings of theory must be inspiration; the excitement that makes you (me) have to get up and walk around the room thinking passionately. When Berlant and Warner write about their queer theory as both an account and an example of queer world-making practices, when they talk about thinking as “trying to bring that [nonheteronormative] world into being” (557), I come over especially utopian — just as much now as when I first read the article. I dare say that’s naive. But, for the moment and for the initial tone I would like to associate with this blog, I will try to embrace it.

Let there be queerly geekish feelings.

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