Animal Possessions: Queer Time and Queer Morphologies in the Cinema of Kelly Reichardt
Walter, Ryan Lee
This thesis provides a reading of two films by American filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, Old Joy (2006) and Wendy and Lucy (2008), exploring the animal, or animality, as a figure articulating queer lives refused or refusing dominant modes of sexual and economic reproduction. Over the past decade queer theory has become increasingly concerned with the kinds of futures available to queer lives, given that viable "futures" are typically measured by the chronological achievement of capitalist milestones centered around the family: marriage, home-owing, childrearing, and retirement. Queer politics have always rejected definitions of kinship based on filial, oedipal enclosures meant to enforce a compulsory heterosexuality that understands alternative sexualities as immoral, pathological, dangerous, and impractical. However, more recently, theories of queer temporality have identified collective experiences of time as an important critical object, insisting that if normative futures necessitate reproduction, queers might look to embodied, temporal practices that build complex, even pleasurable continuities with the past and the present as a strategy for securing futures offering possibility over mere reproduction.By pulling together these divergent discourses in readings of Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy, I am attempting to show that the animal -- specifically human-animal relations that are ambiguously companionate and erotic -- provides a method of queer historical identification across time, bodies, and species. In Reichardt's work, human and non-human animal bodies are constantly in flux, identified by corporeal rhythms, non-linguistic verbal communication, desire for lost objects, and erotic relations that eschew phallic, reproductive models of heterosexuality. I argue that, for Reichardt, these values are inherently pleasurable, and serve as the raw material for fashioning new forms of queer subjectivity as well as generative and generous futures no longer bound to the repetitive symmetry of material wealth and filial relations.
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