For as long as the concept of utopia has existed, it has been a site of contradiction: both a good place and a non-place, a call to action and an escapist fantasy, the promise of liberation and the threat of totalitarianism. Within the history of socialism, the utopian concern with gender and sexuality is typically construed as a premature phase surpassed by the science of Marxism. This talk draws out the utopian currents that persisted alongside scientific socialism, arguing that utopianism has provided the means for thinking queerness and revolution together since the nineteenth century. Building on the renewed interest in utopia in dystopian times within critical theory and queer studies, the talk highlights the work of the German Marxist theorist and author, Lu Märten (1879-1970). Märten’s revolutionary utopian concepts of “classless” aesthetic forms, “social motherliness,” and androgyny fell between the cracks of the workers’ and women’s movements of her time. Today, they contribute to a queer Marxist archive and illustrate the theoretical and literary possibilities of reimagining gender and sexuality within a revolutionary framework.
Mari Jarris is a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Department of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch. They received their dual Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and in German Literature from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Their book manuscript, Utopia & Revolution: Socialism’s Queer Pasts and Futures traces queer utopianism within international socialist movements from the 1860s to the present. They have taught nineteenth through twenty-first century German-language literature, feminist and queer theory, and psychoanalysis at the Middlebury German School, Humboldt-Universität, Princeton University and South Woods State Prison in New Jersey. Their work has appeared in English, German, and Russian and has been supported by research grants from the German Fulbright Commission, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Coalition of Women in German, and American Councils Fellowships in Russia.