Assistant Professor of English: Indiana University Bloomington
Queer Sex Magic, Transindividual Affect, and Nonrepresentational Criticism
Rebekah Sheldon is Assistant Professor of English at Indiana University Bloomington. Her first book, The Child to Come: Life After the Human Catastrophe, is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press.
This presentation sketches a speculative ontology of magic through the rubric of the transindividual. It is a part of a broader investigation into 20th century Anglo-American queer magicians influenced by Aleister Crowley. In its fullest ambitions, the project looks to the nonrepresentational qualities of theurgic practice such as composition, movement, gesture, sound, and rhythm to unfold a theory of and method for nonrepresentational criticism. Ritual practices such as these are explicitly calibrated to produce future effects. I argue that they implicate a performative causality markedly distinct from either representational modes of persuasion commonly employed by scholarly exposition or the embodied performativities theorized by queer studies. My project is not to produce knowledge about esoteric or scholarly traditions but to generate new intuitions from out of existing philosophical, literary, theoretical, and aesthetic modes and schemas.
My more limited remit in this talk responds to the following questions: What ontological conditions are necessary for us to be able to affirm the productivity of magic (and its nonrepresentational qualities) on the unfolding of the future? With what notions of individual agency and systemic causality? To think these things, I propose reconsidering the presumptive emptiness and passivity of the future. Rather than understanding the future as a necessary entelechy or as container for the present’s consequences, I offer a conception of the future as an active plenum rippling with the forces of distortion, iteration, resonance, and distribution. To do so, I take up Kenneth Anger’s short film “Invocation of my Demon Brother” as a case study in the aesthetic-cum-magical torquing of the future and as an apt location to make good on the title’s promise to theorize the role of queer sex in ritual magic.