Back To Schedule
Friday, April 27 • 5:45pm - 7:15pm
Roundtable: The Butch Throat

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

Taylor Black, E Glasberg, Sarah Kessler, Mairead Sullivan
“The Butch Throat” 
            This roundtable on “The Butch Throat” begins in unashamed appreciation for Wayne Koestenbaum’s 1993 The Queen’s Throat, a book so full of strange insight and recondite lore on vocal training, voice, gender, sexuality, and race that its very diva-like boldness of its central claim: that “[v]oice is a system equal to sexuality…” (155); “sexuality is structurally vocal” (172) has nearly smothered out its possible refrains. Perhaps too easily dismissed because of its experiential specificity and campy object, opera, its obsessions of a stereotypic gay male fan, The Queen’s Throat (if not Koestenbaum) might well be rolling its eyes these days in mock surrender: ok, ok, let’s be really straight and earnest about voice and sexual identity. In following Koestenbaum’s critique of “voice culture’s … training and liberating of the natural voice,” we don’t want to be sociologically correct in describing – or elegizing -- yet another voice or identity category. Rather, we want to emphasize the butch throat as a passageway through which we plan to force new air to think of new voices and bodies -- beginning but not trilling -- on the note of butch.
            Panelists will discuss the butch throat in relation to region, class, and race (voice placement), as species (posthuman categorization), mimicry (taking on Female Masculinity and its origin story). The panel will offer new ways to engage mind-body split, transgender bodies, inter-species, bodiless bodies, disabled bodies and cracked voices, extending the conversation from opera and its gay male subjects and communities into other throwback or devolutionary species such as Amy Ray’s “southern gar” (a garbling of girl) and the British-Caribbean contrary contralto Joan Armatrading, and interspecies voicing, and to investigate the butch throat as a site for sexual difference and the re- and dis-embodying of butch sexual practices.
            Voice production is an area rich for testing out gender and sexuality rules. Training the voice is ineluctably unnatural and subject to shifting taste and structural regimes. Yet as intense and rare and stringent as proper voice training is, its results are the basis for normalizing the strict gendering of voice categories: an alto is never a tenor, for example, though their note range may overlap; their coloring and pitch and tone may never. The training of gendered voices enhances and naturalizes social gender categories. And yet, that very artificial training would as easily contribute to the dismantling of the gendered voice. It does, in fact, on stage, from falsetto and trouser roles; in history with castratos, modern counter tenors, as well as a host of pop voice categories. Voice, for all its uses as sexuality’s “tell” is potentially anarchic – thus, as with sexuality, the overly-stringent management of voice. Thus, the endless and yet disavowed training of the most malleable sexual organ, the throat.


Taylor Black

Taylor Black is Assistant Professor of English at Duke University.  He has published on twentieth century American literature, popular music, gender and sexuality studies, queer theory, ontology and theories of becoming and, above all, the subject and practices of style in Women’s... Read More →

E Glasberg

E Glasberg writes about US culture in transit and has taught at American University in Beirut, Princeton University, Duke University, and California State University, Los Angeles. Author of Antarctica As Cultural Critique: The Gendered Politics of Scientific Exploration and Climate... Read More →
avatar for Sarah Kessler

Sarah Kessler

Sarah Kessler is a media scholar and television critic. Her book project, Anachronism Effects, focuses on ventriloquism in transatlantic popular culture. Her writing has appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, Camera Obscura, In These Times, Public Books, Triple Canopy, and Women’s Studies... Read More →
avatar for Mairead Sullivan

Mairead Sullivan

Mairead Sullivan is Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Loyola Marymount University. Sullivan has published in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Feminist Formations, Catalyst: Feminism, Theory and Technoscience, The Journal of Lesbian Studies, and The Journal of Homosexuality... Read More →

Friday April 27, 2018 5:45pm - 7:15pm PDT
Sky Church

Attendees (6)