Thursday, September 15, 2011

Urban fantasy and the normative other

I apologize to our professor now for this may repeat some of what we have discussed before class; however, as I do not wish to overtake the class with a discussion on queerness in the novels we have read thus far (whether it be aesthetic, temporal or embodiment of the term) I will use this blog as a sounding board for my research.

Going into this class I had some background in fantasy; although, much of my foray came early in life or, in recent years, had related primarily to dystopian/utopian and speculative fiction. I expected that the depiction of "otherness" in fantastic literature would attempt to break free from normativizing discourse. I was apparently incorrect in my estimation. Gaiman's Neverwhere and Kittredge's Street Magic have moments that approach a discussion of queer spaces and times, but often the inclusion of queer figures and worlds serves as a source of friction and for the development of antagonism than as a haven for those who are non-normative. Certainly, Gaiman's "London below" allows for non-normative beings to continue to exist (in some form or another) but London below runs parallel to London above more than it tries to distinguish or position itself as phenomenologically askew. This parallelism means that the normative ideology of London above translates to London below (we see this in the development of hierarchies, the role of gender--even though Door and Hunter have some stereotypical masculine traits, their feminine gender is never in question--and the use of a genderless angel as the main villain). The possibilities that a London below allows for in the development of a queer space is stultified by this rigid structure transferred from a well recognizable London. Thus, those that embody queerness in London above remain so in the discourses of London below.

1 comment:

  1. I am really glad someone commented on this.

    I would even argue that in the case of Neverwhere, Gaiman creates a space that is distinctly desexualizing and very anti-feministic. After returning to London Above, the normative "frame world," Richard has then outgrown his own sexual desires, seemingly disinterested in any sort of relationship with Jessica or his co-worker at the bar, and inevitably longs to return to London Below. Moreover, in London Below, the Velvet (i.e. the archetypal Succubus) have become the abject space, the vessel, into which the Otherness of the feminine (or sexuality) is cast.

    I wonder whether Gaiman had put any thought to these aspects during the writing of Neverwhere? Assuming he had, I think his decision in the phallic naming of Richard's character has some interesting implications....

    I do rather enjoy the idea of fantasy (urban and otherwise) as a mode for investigating non-normative and queer spaces, though.