“Public Toilets and Gay Turtles: Notes on Sexual Cosmology”
Put yourself, imaginatively speaking, in a public toilet somewhere in, let’s say, Penge. Classy. Recoil at its musty odours, squint in its not-so alluring light. This, improbably, is where Chris Meredith’s session on gender, spatiality and sexuality begins. It ends equally improbably with us staring down at the cosmic turtle (which long ago people imagined to fly through space with a flat Earth on its back). Between these two spaces, one everyday, one fantastic, Chris wants to make you think about how our ideologies of gender and sexuality are tied to our ideologies of space, tied, that is, to the way we organise and perceive of the world around us. In the process we’ll think about how mythological thinking persists behind modern language, how shagging continues to be (religiously?) ‘cosmologized’ in everyday thought, and why the daft notion that same-sex marriage might ‘destroy the fabric of society’ persists in contemporary religious discourse. The answer, if you want a spoiler, is that it’s still Turtles all the way down. But to understand the question you’ll have to start in the loo with the rest of us. Shhh. No talking. Or eye contact.
Chris’s research is interested in matchmaking biblical texts with a variety of (sometimes unexpected) intellectual and cultural bedfellows and then reading in peculiar directions. What connections, rifts, or shocks do interdisciplinary readings of biblical texts produce? What orthodoxies—ancient and modern, intellectual and popular—might such readings disrupt? And in what ways might these strange literary relationships inform our approaches to contemporary social and discursive spaces? Chris’s first book, Journeys in the Songscape, deals with the way in which heterosexual poetics work (and unravel) in the biblical Song of Songs. Chris is currently researching a new book on Sodom and Gomorrah, which explores how the Bible’s mythic spaces have been complicit in circumscribing modern understandings of sexuality and gender. Chris is also interested in the Bible-as-Excrement in popular culture, and in the cultural history of masturbation and the biblical Onan. Chris is also the incoming book review editor of the interdisciplinary journal The Bible and Critical Theory.