Queer Procreation: Reading Kleist Plantwise

Date: April 1st, 2019
Time: 4:30pm – 6:00pm
Speaker: Katrin Pahl
(John Hopkins, Associate Prof. of German Studies, co-editor of MLN; gender, philosophy, psychoanalysis)
Location: East Pyne 205

At the intersection of two imaginative fields of inquiry that seek real change—the study of human-plant relations and the even less charted study of queer procreation—this talk explores queer ways of procreating that humans may learn from plants. In particular, stolon formation and grafting are considered here because they are vegetative forms of procreation that are not rooted in sexual difference and create collective lifeforms that are based on dividuality rather than individuality. Both characteristics are mobilized for a queer imagination. Analyzing two plays by Heinrich von Kleist—the comedy Amphitryon (1807) and the tragedy Penthesilea (1808)—the piece argues that Amphitryon’s servant Sosias mulitplies by way of runners (or stolons) and that the Amazons in Penthesilea are grafted creatures with an ongoing desire to form new grafts. The analysis draws upon Deleuze’s theory of masochism to shift attention away from genital intercourse while sexualizing what in biology is called asexual.