“The Mathematics of Marriage: Augusta Webster’s Combinatory and Fractional Intimacy.” Love Among the Poets. Eds. Pearl Chaozon Bauer and Erik Gray (under contract with Ohio UP).
This chapter in a forthcoming edited collection argues that Augusta Webster registers anxiety about the social mandate for women’s subjective wholeness in the prosodic and syntactic forms of her poetry. Webster’s work is perpetually attentive to the ways that intimacy causes women to be only ever half, at best, if not an aggregate of fractions or eliminated entirly. Her emphasis on love triangles in “Medea in Athens,” “With the Dead,” and “By the Looking-Glass,” troubles the Biblical prescription that married individuals are “no longer two but one flesh.” Rather than seeking union in marriage, Webster advocates for heterogeneous self-definition through complex numerical recombinations as a powerful political method of mattering. In these dramatic monologues, her poetic methods of quantification emerge in a relational fashion, one which organizes a logic of interconnected moving parts more closely akin to actual human affiliations and social networks than the impossible wholeness of an ideal Victorian marriage.
“Cultivating a Political Learning Ecology: An Experimental Cross-Institutional Course on Climate Change Amidst Global Precarity.” co-authored with Doreen Thierauf. Pedagogy 23.2 (Winter 2023).
In this paper, Drs. Thierauf and Huseby detail their experiences of collaboratively designing and teaching the honors course “Cultures of the Anthropocene: Climate Change and Survivance” during the 2020-21 COVID 19 pandemic and invite readers to consider inter-institutional political learning ecologies such as a viable and vibrant model of instruction, one which, Thierauf and Huseby argue, can be a model for early-career scholars seeking support with their teaching development and for experienced teachers looking for a profound pedagogical challenge. Although cross-institutional courses are becoming increasingly common, our experience differed from previous accounts in that the authors focused on teaching a literature and cultural studies course on climate change–which induced Thierauf and Huseby to consider both course content and its logistical execution under the umbrella “ecology”–in their institutions’ respective size, type, and demographics, as well as in the politico-pedagogical ambition of the project.
“Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things: The Queer Futurity of Westeros.” The End of Game of Thrones in History and Literature. Eds. Elizabeth Terry-Roisin and Tom Blake. (anticipated publication date early 2024).
Game of Thrones’s HBO outcome raises implicit questions about futurity: will Brandon Stark be able to father children, extending Stark rule of Westeros? will Sansa Stark, now Queen in the North, become Queen of Westeros if Bran leaves no heirs? Will Jon Snow father children in the North who pose a threat to the tenuous peace? Will Tyrion Lannister father children, efffectively repairing the Lannister line and creating another potential threat? Drawing on queer theorists Lee Edelman and Roderick Ferguson, this essays argues that Game of Thrones’s resistance to a “one-dimensional” notion of queerness conditions the possibility for rejecting the “reproductive futurism” of Westeros in the final season. Edelman argues in No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive that children represent a future against which queerness is positioned as antisocial, future-negating, and selfish. Instead, he asserts that queerness demands abandoning an investment in reproductive futurism to actuate a queer ethics rejecting social and political orders. Ferguson adds, drawing upon Herbert Marcuse’s classic 1964 text One-Dimensional Man, that multi-dimensional and intersectional queerness is key to building a society in which “former antagonists” unite in an “overriding interest in … imagining new kinds of peoples and collectivities.” This paper advances the claim that, although the War of the Five Kings revolves around questions of paternity (e.g. the Lannister/Baratheon children, Jon’s bastardy), the show’s conclusion embraces a queer ethics of refusal through which reproduction is no longer assured. It does so because the narrative’s multi-dimensional queer characterizations enable that outcome and lay a foundation for a new social order.
It is no accident that the majority of characters choosing a new ruler are queer characters. Explicitly sexually queer characters include Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand, Loras Tyrell and Renley Baratheon, and Yara Greyjoy. Added to this list are gender-nonconforming, asexual, and incestuous characters such as Brienne of Tarth, Arya Stark, Hodor, Robyn Arryn, Jaime and Cersei Lannister, as well as castrated characters: Lord Varys, Theon Greyjoy and the Unsullied. Indeed, Tyrion’s earlier “cripples, bastards, and broken things” encapsulates a broadened list of queer “others,” through which queerness is not only sexual but an inherently intersectional framework including disability, race, gender, family origin, and class. When Tyrion gifts Bran a saddle designed to allow Bran to ride despite his paraplegia, Tyrion explains that, as a dwarf, he has “a tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things.” And it is the cripples, bastards, and broken things that survive the Great Game in the final season: Bran becomes not only the Three-Eyed Raven but Bran the Broken, the First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Six Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm; Tyrion becomes (again) Hand of the King; and Jon’s real name, Bran reveals, “is Aegon Targaryen. He’s never been a bastard. He’s the heir to the Iron Throne.” This paper contends that the show’s capacious notion of a queerness facilitates the outcome in which family members from across Westeros gather, vote, and elect a different model of governance.
Select Prior Publications (click the article title for a downloadable copy):
Huseby, Amy Kahrmann. “Queer Social Counting and the Generational Transitions of Michael Field.” Women’s Writing 26.2, special issue in honor of the 25th anniversary of British Women Writers Conference, “Generations” (Spring 2019): 199-213.
By addressing how Michael Field’s (a.k.a. Edith Cooper and Katherine Bradley) poetry literally, figuratively, and formally counts on the lover’s return, this article demonstrates the ways in which queer poets actuate the complexities of generational and intimate transitions at the turn of the century. Cooper and Bradley, an aunt and niece, occupied several generational thresholds as they were collaboratively publishing work at the fin de siècle: they were two related women, and lesbian partners, writing as one man. Here, I contend that the quantification of sexual identity in Michael Field’s poetry recognizes that unity necessitates separation. In other words, in order for two to unite, first “ones” must be separate. As they phrased it in one of their poems, they wanted to be “together alone,” language which registers the impossibility of counting in this fashion: one cannot be simultaneously together—united as a fused entity with a lover—and alone—separated from that lover as an individual.This form of unity troubles recent critical assertions of Michael Field’s “idealized intimacy” by acknowledging that the wholeness of relationships necessitates fluidity and even a permanent state of transition. Instead of perseverating over the difficulties of letting go, Bradley and Cooper valorize transitions as a fundamental component of intimacy marked by both the instability of unity and separation. Rather than achieving an ideal intimacy characterized by a binary of detachment and attachment, Michael Field’s unity is an ethical position, or what I term “intimate integrity,” in which one’s ever-changing relationship and social conditions determine what constitutes wholeness.
Huseby, Amy Kahrmann. “‘Half Poets and Whole Democrats’: The Politics of Poetic Aggregation in Aurora Leigh.” Victorian Poetry 56.1 (Spring 2018): 1-26.
This article argues that Aurora Leigh seeks to redress the divisive work of women’s democratic political representation by way of poetic form to ask whether women must always be regarded as partial citizens. Through the trope of halfness, Barrett Browning establishes a connection between women’s ability to produce writing and produce children, as well as the violent division of women’s bodies, in order to formulate a corrective political relationship between women’s halfness and generativity. Though the fragmentary nature of Aurora Leigh is evident in its very form, my investigation of the diverse formal and thematic divisions in Aurora Leigh demonstrates the possibility of a different kind of relationship between the fragmentary work of poetic form in Barrett Browning’s text and the divisive work of the political in the nineteenth century. As the poem’s meter and language performs the halving, splitting, and parting out of women’s bodies, Barrett Browning demonstrates that a cohesion of the poetic and the political is enabled by aggregation, a form of poetic counting closely aligned with both social representation and mathematical collection. Barrett Browning’s attention to halfness reflects a commitment to the value of poetic counting. Fundamentally, and more than other quantifying discourses, poetry captures “the world’s necessities” in their variety and sheer number in ways that do not reduce or flatten their value (or assimilate these necessities into the prerogatives of the economic).