Graduate Summer 2022: Elizabeth Schoppelrei

Speculative Formations: Queer and Trans Communities in the Long Twentieth Century

Department of Comparative Literature; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; German

How do we recognize and enter conversation with queer and trans communities of the past and future? What new or speculative ways of caring for and establishing solidarities among persons with shared marginalities might we imagine? The literary work of reaching out to, caring for, or advocating for those who fall outside of normative power rests upon naming, labels, and legibility. In this way, locating queer and trans folks of the past, or crafting an imagined future where nonnormative bodies and species can thrive, is speculative. In my dissertation, I trace the literary impulse to connect with other queer and trans persons through poetry, science and speculative fiction, novels, and graphic narratives, with attention to traditions in Germany, Western Europe, and the U.S. I argue that the literary deployment of taxonomies fundamentally shifts their meaning and the social uptake of these labels. Literature calls attention to the failure of taxonomies and explores the communities and potential solidarities that spring forth from this failure. Engaging with and contributing to queer and trans studies, critical race studies, and ecofeminism, this project focuses on moments when lived experience and relationality escape appellation and expand the possibilities of community, kinship, and solidarity. This interdisciplinary approach, combined with archival research and textual and visual analysis, shows how the unmaking and remaking of taxonomies through literature is fundamental to the work of speculative community formation—of finding, providing for, and knowing queerness and other queer/trans persons.