Influences: A New Series of Posts

Short Summary

When designing my university courses, I’ve always wanted to create a list of sources that embody aspects of the theories we discuss in class. These posts are aimed primarily at students, as well as anyone working with similar themes to those found in my course syllabi, which are available on this website via the link to “Publications.”

To get to the influences posts, look below the tag cloud at right to where it says “Categories” and click on the “influences” category, under “writing”. Posts will be intermittent given my current time constraints.

Background Context

The literary critic and accused sexual harasser Harold Bloom is famous for writing The Anxiety of Influence, a book about poets’ fear of simply reproducing the works of the poets who came before them. In my opinion it’s a very specific notion of writers’ relationships to those who have influenced us, grounded in a narrow western masculinism that sees these relationships as necessarily rooted in conflict rather than other conceptions of influence that focus on solidarity and community, influence as a strength, the feeling that one does not walk alone.

More than that, one of the things that struck me when first reading the book was how it assumes that the canon is just there, that a ready-made set of ancestors to call upon. This was particularly striking growing up as a young queer person at a time and place where the only queer people we heard of were those who had undergone some sort of calamity, succumbing to addiction or murder, the kind of morality tales we’d hear via neighborhood gossip or on the nightly news. As such I had zero role models in a strict sense. To be clear, there were plenty of people who could show me aspects of who I might become and how I would want to live, but no one who actually embodied the kind of person I myself could be. Rather than an anxiety of influence I, like so many, suffered from an anxiety of absence.

I also drew, and continue to draw upon, canonical sources. But given that the canon excluded me and erased the existence of pretty much everyone I cared about, there was never any fear that I’d simply reproduce those forebearers. Instead, I did my best to draw upon their work in very selective ways that involved endless refashioning and repurposing. In the absence of a small handful of ideal role models, like many I became a bricoleur, a Jess-of-all-trades, sampling extravagantly from heterogeneous sources, composing, refashioning, reclaiming, making gadgets out of words and images. My teaching and research are an outcome of this ongoing process, each project essentially an attempt to germinate a discipline with the hope that it too will be taken apart, translated and recombined over time. In that context, this list is an attempt to make some of my deeper commitments and influences explicit. Compared with the course readings, which focus on social theory, history, and geography, this list centers more on art, literature, music and media.

P.S. Feminist critiques of Bloom include Martha Noël Evans’s Masks of Tradition, and Gilbert and Gubar’s recasting of bloom as “anxiety of authorship,” the latter of which is briefly discussed here. I’m not a literary critic and am no expert on these debates.


Lastly, a side note about links: I have limited time to put these posts together, so apologies if links are broken or limited. Some of the lyrics links have mistakes and though I try to choose the best I can find, I don’t have time to check every word. Also sometimes I choose the links that have annotations of things that are referenced and sampled in the song, over precise accuracy of the lyrics themselves, because the annotations are potentially more helpful. These links are just to get started and offer videos and lyrics where possible. They aren’t what I’d reference in a published text. Most of these songs are also available on Spotify and other streaming services. Ideally I’d only link to open source options as well, or things on e.g. instead of purely commercial sites, so browse at your own risk.