International Comparative Literature and Translation Studies seminar | Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: writing lives at the juncture of queerness, refugeeism and class
Seminar | Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: writing lives at the juncture of queerness, refugeeism and class
Dr Alexandra Kurmann (Macquarie University)
Thursday 3 Nov 2022, 5–6pm AEDT (Sydney time)
In-person: SLC Common Room 536, Brennan MacCallum Building (A18), University of Sydney
Online: Join via Zoom (ID: 82955153606)
Ocean Vuong, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for the poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds (2017), and lauded debut author of the novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019), is the most recently celebrated arrival on the flourishing Vietnamese American literary scene. His texts offer an intersectional poetics in the writing of lives – that of the author as well as proximate lives that have shaped his own.
Vuong makes a personal literary exploration of what it is to be a gay Vietnamese refugee coming of age in working-class America. Yet he also presents a heterobiography of an intimate entourage made up of Vietnamese and white Americans, both family members and lovers, negotiating queer or diasporic identifications in a changing social class landscape.
In this manner, Vuong makes a timely literary contribution to Intersectional Studies currently anchored in the Human and Social Sciences and tending towards pairings rather than inclusive considerations of the relationships between refugeeism, sexuality and class. The refugee experience of queer subjects is brought to bear in Area Studies and Social Geography for instance (Shakhsari 2020; Wimark 2021), and Cultural Studies interrogate how class politics affect expressions of queerness (Henderson 2013; Taylor 2007; 2009).
Vuong, however, specifically explores the relationality of all of these positionalities, avoiding the hierarchies of intersectionality by affording to each a distinct yet interconnected self-hood (Skeggs 2004). His confessional lyric poetry bleeds into the autofictional prose poetry of his novel in the creation of an intersectional poetics that diverts away from an investment in individual identity politics, to animate instead a Foucauldian ‘multiplicity of relationships’ (‘Friendship’, 1981, p. 135).
About the presenter
Dr Alexandra Kurmann is Senior Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies at Macquarie University. Her first book entitled Intertextual Weaving in the Work of Linda Lê: Imagining the Ideal Reader was published in 2016 and concerns the literary connections between the Vietnamese-French author, Linda Lê, and the European exile writing tradition. Kurmann has published widely on Vietnamese diaspora literature in journals such as Comparative Literature and The Australian Journal of French Studies. Her current research draws into dialogue the contemporary literary work of refugee and migrant writers across the Anglophone and Francophone worlds.
For more information, contact: Dr Sonia Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)