Oblique Genealogies: A Queer Analysis of the Life, Thought, and Works of Mario Mieli (1952-1983)
This doctoral dissertation project explores the life, thought, and works of Mario Mieli (Milan, 1952-1983), an Italian author whose theories, activism, and cultural production have had a significant impact on contemporary understandings of queer identities in Italy and elsewhere. While Mieli’s work has been studied by Italian Queer scholars, it remains largely unmentioned in North American Queer Studies, as well as in the study of Italian cultural history. This project analyzes Mieli’s revolutionary thought and creative work to show important lineages between this thinker and contemporary theories on gender and sexuality. It also argues for the relevance of Mieli’s forward-looking reflections on human emancipation, through sexual liberation, in our current times of global crisis. Furthermore, this analysis helps to identify a root of Queer thought in Italy, pointing to the importance of this cultural setting in scholarly conversations on sexual diversity while recognizing that the often perceived universality of Queer discourses, mainly produced in the English-speaking world, must be challenged by efforts to localize sexual diversity such as this dissertation’s. The project begins with an introductory chapter, offering an overview of the Queer theoretical phenomenon, of male same-sex desire in the Italian context (before and after Italian unification in 1861), and a biographical introduction to Mieli. It then discusses Mieli’s main theoretical work, Elementi di critica omosessuale (1977) by identifying its main tenets (transessualità, educastrazione, and the schizophrenic trip) and by placing Mieli’s thought in conversation with contemporary Queer theories on such topics as gender performativity, homonormativity, antisociality, death, and futurity. Finally, the project studies Mieli’s cultural production, particularly literature (the novel Il risveglio dei Faraoni, published posthumously in 1994) and theatre (the Collettivo Nostra Signora dei Fiori’s La Traviata Norma, ovvero: vaffanculo…ebbene sì!, 1976-1977). The examination of cultural production explores the dialectical relationship between theory and creative practice and highlights how Mieli’s cultural production can make evident both the (productive) impossibility and the potential of his radical theorizations. It also brings to light significant elements of queer culture, such as the importance of self-creation through autobiographical/autofictional literary practice and the productive tension between performativity and performance in theatre.