I wanted to take a few minutes as we lay Xmas Carol to bed to think about some of the ideas that circulated. Digest them a bit. Ah, more figurative food language with Dickens.
First, I came to Xmas Carol with a reading offered up by Lee Edelman in No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. It’s a text I encountered in grad school and serves as a stark, dark lens that mediates my vision of the text. Edelman’s No Future wants to make the argument that queer people too easily submit to assimilationist elements of heteronormative culture. And, that reproductive futurism (our investment in kids and the future) police queer people and discipline society in direct and indirect ways. The title No Future takes on several meanings – (1) that we should reject the social lessons that are directed toward us that suggest we should shirk the present by chasing the future, (2) the teleology of the future discredits queers as anti-productive social members, and (3) along similar lines, reproductive futurism “imbues straight sex with its meaning as the agent of historical continuity” (“Ever After” 470). Crucial to this thinking is Edelman’s notion that children are easy symbolic political tools and there are many larger narratives at work in American culture that support the notion of parents yielding their time and identity to their children. But what Edelman argues is that in a culture that attaches supreme value to the symbolic child, the biologically non-reproductive queer will also occupy the shadow space.
Edelman uses Xmas Carol as an application to some of his ideas. The setting, Christmas, provides the ultimate backdrop, being that it is the birth of the embodiment of the sacred, symbolic child. This frames our worship of family, children, and the social engine. Edelman even tugs at the solid footing that has propped up Tiny Tim, suggesting his sympathies set up the destructive alterity of Mr. Scrooge. Edelman laments the turn the novel takes – that Mr. Scrooge must give up his hard-earned money, anti-communitarian angst, and homosexual relations in order to be absorbed into the happy heteronormative ending. Edelman marks Scrooge as a queer figure with references to screwing, looks at Scrooge’s close relations with Marley and concludes by reading the ending in which Scrooge had "no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards" (Dickens 134), suggesting that Scrooge's decision here is "accepting this peter-less principle," – that Scrooge must lose his queerness in order to be socially accepted in the end of the novel. We might call his writing analysis; we might call it adaptation; we might call it nonsense or a bad, forced argument. I’m not sure. But it’s interesting.
I’d be interested to hear some thoughts on this reading. My take is that the evidence isn’t strong enough to claim him queer in terms of sexuality, but queer readers have often needed to forge imaginary spaces in text that afford no queer characterization. So, that’s tricky and I’m more in the camp of reader-response than fidelity. But I think it does help us think about an anti-communitarian and normative ethic and the binaries that exist – we must either be singular and sad or happily swimming in sugarplums with family and community. That the text folds on this theme makes it a durable tension and ultimately queries the very easy divide that this is making.