The Disruption of Normativity: Queer Desire and Negativity in Morrissey and The Smiths


you must not tamper with arrangements
This is a 2017 scholarly essay up on Researchgate. I searched the title on Msolo which returned nothing. Perhaps it was missed. I looked to add it to one of the List of the Lost threads but they're read-only now. It stands by itself though.

The writer is Frederic Rukes, of the University of Cologne.


Two of the terms most frequently used by scholars and music journalists alike to describe former The Smiths singer Morrissey's persona are ambiguous and ambivalent-an evaluation that applies among other things to his attitude towards gender and sexuality. While Morrissey refuses to classify himself in any predefined categories of gender and sexuality, his own and his band's musical canon is rife with narratives of queer desire and instances of sexual intimacy, which often allow for both a gay and a straight viewpoint. It is precisely this ambiguity that offers the possibility of an interpretation offside a compulsory heterosexuality and-normativity, therefore opening it to a queer audience. It is furthermore among the reasons why lyrics by Morrissey and The Smiths, as I will argue, qualify as queer texts. In order to establish and defend such a view, this paper will draw on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's approach of a queer reading and her work on homosocial desire in literature, Harold Beaver's examination of homosexual signs, and Teresa de Lauretis definition of queer texts. One of the pillars of de Lauretis's classification is that of non-closure of a narrative and is thus closely linked to queer negativity and non-futurity. Morrissey and The Smiths' oeuvre offers a significant set of songs that embrace these ideas. Deriving from Jack Halberstam's concept of the queer art of failure, Lee Edelman's critique of reproductive futurism, Judith Butler's reflections on the term queer, and José Esteban Muñoz's conceptualisation of a queer utopia I will show how Morrissey uses different formulas of negativity and longing to generate power from, thus transforming them into critique of regimes of the normal. It is in this diverse and subversive expression of queer negativity and desire that Morrissey disrupts normativity and its underlying stigmatising and discriminating potential.

All online :love:
I started a thread on this a few years back in 2018. It's truly an interesting essay with some left-of-centre takes.

I really wish people would leave Morrissey alone about his sexuality

Well he did put it out there himself. He infused his sexuality into his lyrics and album covers. It's an aspect of him that is fascinating as he helped bring it into the public eye and people either identified with it or became more tolerant because of it. It's important in discussing his art.
I started a thread on this a few years back in 2018. It's truly an interesting essay with some left-of-centre takes.


Cross-referencing to the 1985 interview wondering if the public face of Morrissey isn't a little touched-up!

Also, to a List of the Lost thread because themes overlap -

In the section of the paper entitled Loss and Protest; How Soon is Now, from page 11, the keys to understanding the heart of the novel are given, in passages like this:

To accept loss is to accept the way in which one’s queerness will always render one lost to the
world of heterosexual imperatives, codes, and laws. To accept loss is to accept queerness—or
more accurately, to accept the loss of heteronormativity, authorization, and entitlement. To be
lost is not to hide in a closet or to perform a simple (ontological) disappearing act; it is to veer
away from heterosexuality’s path. […] Being lost, in this particular queer sense, is to
relinquish one’s role (and subsequent privilege) in the heteronormative order. (73)

Desire can only succeed in a future utopia, not in what the world offers. This seems to be a defining trait of the novel's characters. There must be another world; must be...

Another condition that has the same flavour crops up as a fundamental tenet of Buddhism. Dukkha: the persistent and universal gnawing of dis-satisfation.

The Buddha’s first noble truth is most often—but inaccurately—rendered in English as “life is suffering.” As is often the case, this piece of ancient text loses a lot in translation.

The Pali word dukkha, usually translated as “suffering,” has a more subtle range of meanings. It’s sometimes described metaphorically as a wheel that is off its axle. A more literal translation of the first noble truth might be “life does not satisfy.”

The Buddha taught there are three kinds of dukkha. The first kind is physical and mental pain from the inevitable stresses of life like old age, sickness, and death. The second is the distress we feel as a result of impermanence and change, such as the pain of failing to get what we want and of losing what we hold dear. The third kind of dukkha is a kind of existential suffering, the angst of being human, of living a conditioned existence and being subject to rebirth.

At the root of all kinds of dukkha is craving, or attachment. We go through life grasping at or clinging to what we think will gratify us and avoiding what we dislike. The second noble truth tells us that this very grasping, or clinging, or avoidance is the source of dukkha. We are like drowning people who reach for something floating by to save us, then discover that what we’ve latched onto provides only momentary relief, or temporary satisfaction. What we desire is never enough and never lasts.

The third noble truth assures us there is another way to find an end to suffering, and that way, as explained in the fourth noble truth, is the practice of the noble eightfold path. As we practice, we develop a happiness that is not dependent on external objects or life events but results from a cultivated state of mind that does not come and go as circumstances change. Even physical pain becomes less stressful with the awareness of a cultivated mind.

So, the teaching of the four noble truths is not that life is destined to be nothing but suffering, but that the means of finding liberation from suffering is always available to us. In this sense Buddhism is not pessimistic, as many people assume, but optimistic.



In the painting “Death of the Historical Buddha” from fourteenth-century Japan, witnesses to the Buddha’s passing display expressions of suffering. | Source: Met Museum
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