Queer Objects and Intermedial Timepieces: Reading S-Town (2017)
Thursday 10 August, 1pm Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL
This paper takes as its queer object a serialised podcast. With its story about John B. McLemore, a clockmaker from Woodstock, Alabama, S-Town is a blockbuster success from the producers of Serial (2014-2016) and This American Life (1995-present) (the 7-part series was downloaded 16 million times in the first week of its release, with that number now exceeding 40 million). Against both affirmative and negative reception of S-Town—responses that tend to position the podcast either as transcending or as reproducing the idea of a backwards or lagging South—this paper argues that S-Town is an intermedial narrative incorporating various media that themselves comprise competing temporalities. Indexing these alternative temporalities are the intricate designs of clocks and sundials that tell of mythological time and seasonal and diurnal rhythms. There are also tattoos and other inscriptions that mark both bodies and sundials. My argument attends to the animate and inanimate forms narratively contained within the podcast, touching on Rebecca Schneider’s idea of ‘inter(in)animation’ and Elizabeth Freeman’s challenges to ‘chrononormativity’ in the process. From within this intermedial structure, John emerges as an intermediary whose engagement in processes of self-objectification and historical re-enactment complicates a normative timeframe and confounds conventional subject/object relations.
Dr Monique Rooney teaches literature, film and television in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, ANU. Her current research explores the intermediality of the Australian ‘New Wave’ period.