Michael O’Rourke

(Independent Colleges Dublin)



This paper asks what cuteness has to do with futurity, survival, the à venir. Lee Edelman’s polemical No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive associates the future with the “fascist face” of the child which suggests that a rejection of futurity (as it is embodied in the figure of the child) is at least partially about a refusal or recusal of cuteness. But might we be able to think futurity in ways which allow for cuteness, whether that cuteness is registered in the face of the child or in the face of other “objects”, human and non-human, animate and inanimate (or even the world itself)? In his reading of Aranye Fradenburg’s work on the future of the humanities as a discipline Michael D. Snediker points to this very idea of cuteness or adorability as signifiers which would be examples of “living on”. So if for Edelman, cuteness is so bound up with the saccharine that it ought to be resisted, then for Fradenburg and Snediker it is cuteness (and our “flair” for cultivating it) which “sustain[s] our implication in academic systems”. Snediker asks how thinking about and with cuteness might even “save the humanities”. I want to push that argument even further by suggesting that, for Derrida, arrivance (and survivance and revenance) is another word for retro-cuteness or what I want to call cuturity (which would always already be a retrocuturity, an anachronicity). But after Derrida might we think of that which comes not just in terms of monstrous arrivance but also as a kind of cuteness in and of that which arrives. Furthermore, if for Derrida, there is a certain right to philosophy, to the humanities, then, I want to argue that there is a certain aspirating right to cuteness-as-futurity that it is our duty to foster, bear and invest in.

Curated materials:

Aranye Fradenburg, Staying Alive: A Survival Manual for the Liberal Arts

Michael D. Snediker “Fuzzy Logic”

Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive

Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, Sex, or the Unbearable

Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments

Jean-Luc Nancy, Adoration: The Deconstruction of Christianity II

Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting

Jacques Derrida, “Living On: Borderlines”, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the

Human Sciences” and “The Animal that Therefore I Am (More to Follow)”