Queer Experimental Literature

Queer Experimental Literature: The Affective Politics of Bad Reading, was published in the Palgrave Studies in Affect Theory and Literary Criticism series, edited by Adam Frank and Joel Faflak. This volume argues that postwar writers queer the affective relations of reading through experiments with literary form. Tyler Bradway conceptualizes “bad reading” as an affective politics that stimulates queer relations of erotic and political belonging in the event of reading. These incipiently social relations press back against legal, economic, and discursive forces that reduce queerness into a mode of individuality. Each chapter traces the affective politics of bad reading against moments when queer relationality is prohibited, obstructed, or destroyed—from the pre-Stonewall literary obscenity debates, through the AIDS crisis, to the emergence of neoliberal homonormativity and the gentrification of the queer avant-garde. Bradway contests the common narrative that experimental writing is too formalist to engender a mode of social imagination. Instead, he illuminates how queer experimental literature uses form to redraw the affective and social relations that structure the heteronormative public sphere. Through close readings informed by affect theory, Queer Experimental Literature offers new perspectives on writers such as William S. Burroughs, Samuel R. Delany, Kathy Acker, Jeanette Winterson, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Alison Bechdel, and Chuck Palahniuk. Queer Experimental Literature ultimately reveals that the recent turn to affective reading in literary studies is underwritten by a para-academic history of bad reading that offers new idioms for understanding the affective agencies of queer aesthetics.

To read the Preface and Introduction to Queer Experimental Literature, click here.



“Gorgeously expansive, Bradway’s book understands reading queer experimental literature as an experience of intensity that precipitates new ways of being relational and collective in advance of existing social forms.  Bradway’s own writing is both lush and lucid, and will doubtless constellate new readerships too.  If this is what bad reading gives us, I’m all in.”

— Elizabeth Freeman, Professor of English, University of California, Davis; Editor, GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies; author of Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories.

“Tyler Bradway’s book is a bold and much-needed intervention on several fronts: queer theory, experimental writing, and affect studies. In incisive and spirited prose, it exposes tacit assumptions about what counts as good and bad reading and pushes current debates in new directions—the case for “queer exuberance” is especially powerful. A major resource for anyone concerned with the affective politics of reading.”

— Rita Felski, Professor of English, University of Virginia; Editor, New Literary History; author of The Limits of Critique.

“Tyler Bradway has written a beautiful, nuanced analysis of the power of queer experimental writing to elicit bad readings, readings that affirm the affects and bodily forces that texts can generate. Reading key texts by Acker, Burroughs, Delany, Winterson, and others affectively, Queer Experimental Literature affirms that some writings impact us, affect us, directly, generating new relations to ourselves and the world.”

— Elizabeth Grosz, Professor of Women’s Studies and Literature, Duke University; author of Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art.