Embracing Queer Failure and Reaching for Queer Utopia within Chen Chen’s Poetry

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2023
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Haverford College. Department of English
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Thesis
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Award
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eng
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Open Access
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This thesis explores Jack Halberstam’s theory queer failure within his The Art of Failure and José Muñoz’s theory of queer utopia in his Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Futurity through two of Chen Chen’s poetry collections. The two collections of Chen Chen’s I include, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities and Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, navigate growing up as a queer child in a ChineseAmerican family, failing capitalist societal standards as a child of immigrants, and his nuanced relationships with his mom, other family, and partner. To fully elucidate these topics, I also include temporal queer theory from Elizabeth Freeman and Kathryn Stockton as well as queer grief theory from David Eng and Wen Liu. The main issue this thesis addresses is how queer people lead a fulfilled and hopeful life in a world that has expectations that do not serve or are not attainable for queer people under oppressive systems. I also address how we as individuals navigate our relationships and live within the United States when so much queer news, media, and experiences are surrounded by grief. Chen’s tragic and outreaching humor provides a wonderful medium to explore how we can embrace failure within our own lives and turn toward glimpses of utopia whether we find it in domestic bliss, erotic intimacy outside of a heterosexual gaze, or through mutual care and community building.
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