Reading Hair Queer
by Dr Louise Tondeur
Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Louise Tondeur
Congratulations to CIRCL PhD student Louise Tondeur for completing her PhD and viva on 12-01-2007 with her thesis on ‘Reading Hair Queer’. Supervisor: Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein. Viva External examiner: Dr Emma Francis, Warwick University, Internal examiner: Prof. Peter Stoneley.
Abstract of thesis
This thesis is concerned with the production of hair as a bodily materialisation in line with Judith Butler’s theory of the materialisation of sex. It engages with the three terms in the title, and their connections, in order to create a methodology for a particular kind of disruptive reading. In order to do so, whilst working with Sedgwick’s notions of queerness, it links reading with hairy bodies and, critically, with the production of the I’ who can say ‘I write’.
Chapter One engages with the term ‘hair’ whilst reading the first part of Bodies That Matter, using as examples Wolf’s ‘The Caricature of the Ugly Feminist’ and Connor’s work on the skin, which can be said to hold the self together. Chapter Two discusses the term ‘reading’, firstly drawing together the current body of work on hair. Secondly, it uses hair-as-death as a motif for the return of the haunting presence of death, suggesting that such a haunting presence is a way of reading queer, where Elizabeth Siddal, whose hair ’tilts’ and sends ‘askew’, is an example. Chapter Three uses the term ‘queer’ to discuss the Medusa and to claim her as a lesbian hero, in line with Munt’s methodology for claiming space, and Cixous’s call to write in ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’. The Medusa’s snakes are a link with Goddess imagery, an association which allows for a queering of traditional Medusa motifs. Mary Magdalene is also used as an example of figure who can inform a queer reading of hair.
The conclusions reached are to do with disruption through reading, which is demonstrated via the writing process at the end of Chapter Three. The capacity Medusa’s snakes have to squirm, wriggle, overlap, entangle, reach out, and double back describes the methodology for reading queer which this thesis discovers.
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