Contingent Figure: Chronic Pain and Queer Embodiment
A masterful synthesis of literary readings and poetic reflections, making profound contributions to our understanding of chronic pain
At the intersection of queer theory and disability studies, acclaimed theorist Michael D. Snediker locates something unexpected: chronic pain. Starting from this paradigm-shifting insight, Snediker elaborates a bracing examination of the phenomenological peculiarity of disability, articulating a complex idiom of figuration as the lived substance of pain's quotidian. This lexicon helps us differently inhabit both the theoretical and phenomenal dimensions of chronic pain and suffering by illuminating where these modes are least distinguishable.
Suffused with fastidious close readings, and girded by a remarkably complex understanding of phenomenal experience, Contingent Figure resides in the overlap between literary theory and lyric experiment. Snediker grounds his exploration of disability and chronic pain in dazzling close readings of Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and many others. Its juxtaposition of these readings with candid autobiographical accounts makes Contingent Figure an exemplary instance of literary theory as a practice of lyric attention.
Thoroughly rigorous and anything but predictable, this stirring inquiry leaves the reader with a rich critical vocabulary indebted to the likes of Maurice Blanchot, Gilles Deleuze, D. O. Winnicott, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. A master class in close reading's inseparability from the urgency of lived experience, this book is essential for students and scholars of disability studies, queer theory, formalism, aesthetics, and the radical challenge of Emersonian poetics across the long American nineteenth century.
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About the Author
Michael D. Snediker is associate professor of English at the University of Houston. He is author of Queer Optimism: Lyric Personhood and Other Felicitous Persuasions (Minnesota, 2008), a finalist for the MLA First Book Prize and Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Prize. He has written two books of poems, The New York Editions and The Apartment of Tragic Appliances.
"Contingent Figure is a book for the very best readers. Its meditation on chronic pain reimagines formalism's intimate attention to bodily distress, in turn impelling queer theory to reckon with how incapacity feels as opposed to just the uses to which it is put politically. Poetic, incisive, and continually surprising, Contingent Figure is one of a kind."--Elizabeth Freeman, author of Beside You in Time: Sense Methods and Queer Sociabilities in the American Nineteenth Century
"To learn the meaning of memory in the ruins of love, that is Michael D. Snediker's dare. The pages on Melville are harrowing and majestic, a wildly beautiful summons to throw ourselves into the visceral depths. Contingent Figure pushed me to experience both the deepest philosophy and the most obstinate invitation to the tremors of the flesh."--Colin Dayan, author of Animal Quintet: A Southern Memoir