Heather Love

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20042005 Forum on Sleep and Dreams

Heather Love

Associate Professor, English

Cultural Fantasies and Queer Lit

In a book Project tentatively titled: Marked For Life: Modernity and Its Others, Dr. Love plans to connect her earlier work on cultural fantasies and same-sex desire with a broader study of the ways modernity has marked particular bodies as “other.” In attempting to construct a positive genealogy of gay identity, queer critics and historians have often found themselves at a loss about what to do with the difficulties of the queer past. Some have disavowed such difficulties, arguing that a “true” history has not yet been written and focusing on the more heroic episodes in queer history and representation. Others admit such difficulties in order to imagine themselves as the heroic rescuers of isolated queer figures in the past. In contrast, Dr. Love argues that queer critics and historians need to address such fantasies of rescue directly and develop a form of historiography that acknowledges the damage of social exclusions, past and present. 

Dr. Love’s work on fantasy in psychoanalysis and cultural studies includes an article on the figure of the lesbian in Mulholland Drive. Many have identified David Lynch’s representation of female same-sex desire in this 2001 film as a textbook example of male fantasy. Dr. Love argues that the film offers a significant reworking of twentieth-century plots of the lesbian—as either a tragic or failed lover or as a fantasy figure thoroughly identified with the image of jouissance. Mulholland Drive insists on the importance of clichés “in dreams”; through its insistence on taking fantasy seriously, the film warns viewers against dismissing any representation as “mere” fantasy. Dr. Love believes that categories of identity cannot be separated from the cultural clichés—both positive and negative—that surround them. In this Project, she traces out the ways that society’s “others” are marked off as different and at the same time made to appear as visible representatives of difference itself.