Alessandro Grilli studied at the Scuola Normale Superiore (PhD in Classical tradition) and at Pisa University, where he now teaches Comparative literature, Hermeneutics and rhetoric, and Comparative History of Classical Literatures. He has written extensively about ancient drama and the tradition of classical literatures. His research interests range from literary theory to applied rhetoric to gender studies. He has published monographs and papers about ancient and modern authors (from Aristophanes to Proust, from Catullus to Walter Siti), about argumentation theory (with Carmen Dell’Aversano) and about queer film.

His most recent publications include the monograph Storie di Venere e Adone. Bellezza, genere, desiderio (Milano-Udine: Mimesis, 2012) and the articles ‘Strategie e poetica della regressione in Beetlejuice di Tim Burton’ (Contemporanea 11, 2013, pp. 147-165); Fascination, lecture, désir: Combray et les stratégies esthétiques de À la recherche du temps perdu (Francofonia 64.1, 2013, pp. 109-125).

Dorks, Losers, Eccentrics in Literature and Beyond

ICI Project 2016-17

In a queer perspective, normalcy, like any component of identity, can be considered not as an essence but as a social practice which is achieved through the iteration of a number of more or less successful performances. The research project starts from a critical overview of marginality (both social and cognitive) to outline a performative theory of normalcy and of its normative thrust as conceptualized in a number of literary representations.Because normalcy is essentialized and never questioned, it can only be researched by way of difference, using transgressions of normative standards as a starting point. Such transgressions have long been a staple of literary representation. A comparison of everyday social exchanges with their literary stylizations and demystifications allows for a focus on some aspects that are not immediately obvious: the foundational role of the phatic dimension of social contact; the selective co-optation of reference groups; the strategies through which salience, in its various manifestations, is neutralized.

The methodological framework of cultural and queer theory will integrate an approach that does not appear in the canon of queer studies but still is deeply relevant to its mission. In his Lectures (published posthumously in 1992), Harvey Sacks offers the outlines of a new theory of how social categories work (Membership Categorization Analysis), and affirms that qualities of social subjects (such as ordinariness) should be thought of as nothing but systematically repeated actions (‘doing being ordinary’). The relevance of these statements to queer theory’s interest in deconstructing identities by breaking them down into performances is evident, and so is the usefulness of Sacks’s methods of analysis to a queer critique.