An Autotheory of Intertextual Kinship: Ambivalent Bodies in the Work of Maggie Nelson and Paul B. Preciado

Published: Dec 20, 2022
synthesis journal comparative literature comparative literary studies autotheory intertextuality kinship queer theory citation Paul B. Preciado Maggie Nelson
Alex Brostoff

Diverging from understandings of “autotheory” as a mere merger of theory and autobiography, in this inquiry, I attend to practices of citation that transfigure the “auto” in “autotheory.” Combining intellectual and disciplinary history with close readings of Paul Preciado’s Testo Yonqui (2008) and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2015), I compare the historically and culturally specific ways in which these works of queer and trans life writing lay claim to autotheory’s dissident potential. I argue that citation, at once typographic and embodied, need not be reducible to conflicts of authority and influence. On the contrary, the life- sustaining social acts that characterise kinship as a practice enable us to re-envision formal practices of intertextuality as a queer mode of kin- fostering. By extending citational gestures across time, sex, and text, “intertextual kinship,” as I call it, performs a mode of queer belonging that contests the conceit of a single self. Preciado and Nelson proffer an autotheory that is neither a theory of a single self nor a single theory of the self. Rather, radical interdependency is what this corpus both thematises and formalises through its intertextual praxis. In reading intertextual kinship as a part of broader social struggles, I argue that autotheory challenges paradigms of self-knowledge production, opening up more inclusive methods of writing relationally and rewriting relationality.

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Author Biography
Alex Brostoff, Kenyon College

Alex Brostoff is Assistant Professor of English at Kenyon College. Their research and pedagogy converge at the crossroads of cultural criticism, critical theory, and queer and transfeminist cultural production in twentieth and twenty-first century hemispheric American studies. They are the guest editor of a special issue of ASAP/Journal on autotheory and their scholarship, translations, and public writing have appeared in journals including Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical TheoryRepresentationsAssay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, and Hyperallergic, among others.

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