MONICA HUERTA

writer • professor

BIO   BOOKS   ESSAYS   COURSES   EVENTS   CV




Essays




Realism’s Reputation, Financialized Whiteness

American Literature, forthcoming Vol. 96, No. 3 (September 2024)




On Rearrangement: “You Belong Here: People, Place, and Purpose in Latinx Photography”

ArtForum, November 2023

THE WORDS CAST arms open and outstretched, signaling recognition and an offer that does not presume the addressee is a hugger: You belong here. Heard in a slightly different register, it’s an insistence in addition to an affirmation, as though someone else has said otherwise—a someone the words don’t need to mention, a someone the speaker and “you” together do not allow to set the terms. Or, there might not be a reason to say the words except in the way an ocean greets sand, one beloved to another beloved living in its meaning. In any case, and though received differently depending on where and how you stand in the world, in the gallery we’re overhearing a conversation whose coordinates might be in the middle of being rearranged.

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Image: Gabriela Ruiz and Bibs Moreno, Untitled, 2017, ink-jet print, 30 × 20"



Co-editor || Feel Your Fantasy: The Drag Race Cluster

Contemporaries: a post45 digital space, co-edited by Monica Huerta and Tyler Allen Tennant, December 2022

|| Reading Challenges: Introduction - Tyler Allen Tennant || Can I Get an Amen? or Citation and the Speech of Fantasy - John Lurz || Bijuriya Chamke! Curating My Drag Sound - Gabriel Dharmoo || Drag Queens in Stars and Stripes - Talib Jabbar || Queer Childhoods and Drag Race - Mary Zaborskis || “I Love You Dearly, Bitch” - Jewel Pereya || Drag Queens Everywhere - Sophie Chamas || Piñata Drag: Crystal Methyd and the Pleasures of Quirky Latinx Aesthetics - Marcos Gonsalez ||
|| Drag is the Medium [Outro] - Monica Huerta and Brittany Lynn (Ian Morrison)

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Review of Jennifer De Leon’s White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing (2021)

American Literary History, Vol. 36, No. 1 (2024)

I put the sentences here, sometimes, to be free from carrying them with me. This is when writing becomes an archive. I let the sentences happen to me, sometimes, because what I need is for direction to reveal itself. This is when writing is activating thinking. I carve sentences into buildings, into cities, to hold a world that would not have existed without them. This is how writing creates, and maybe pushes back against, a world of gentrifying buildings, unlivable cities, and sinking shorelines. I also keep some sentences, afraid more won’t arrive. Writing isn’t always safe, even if we cultivate a habit from its secure fictions.

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Drag is the Medium [Outro]

Feel Your Fantasy: The Drag Race cluster of Contemporaries: a post45 digital space, co-edited by Monica Huerta and Tyler Tennant, December 2022

In this lightly edited interview, Ian Morrison — who performs as Brittany Lynn, and is the Don of Philly's Drag Mafia — says his priority is for folks at his shows to have a good time. His steady, open demeanor (and glowing skin! tell me your secrets!) makes his unmistakably South Philly cadence that much more charming. He describes Brittany as "a mom from South Philly," peppering performances and social media posts with "Hey, hun," and our conversation with "do you know what I mean(s)?" that sound a little more like "jknowwhaddImean?"

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An Essay Written in Sand

ArtForum, December 2021

When I started seeing people who weren’t my cat this past spring and taking short and medium trips, my body didn’t know how to tell a story about the many months that had passed. I could account for specific happenings: I worked so much and then more; I took naps in the middle of the day because Zoom hurt; I played virtual trivia with friends strewn across the country and watched many seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. What I didn’t know was how to feel in touch with the year-plus between us, in the fleshy, nervy, felt ways of forty years of habit. Those habits are where materiality and immateriality, narrative, history, psychology, and physiology have usually danced a tango. Even if some years it’s been a tango on sand, it’s choreography my consciousness and sensorium together have known and kept for me. Your choreography might be another dance altogether....

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Image:  Grids of hay stabilize against desertification, Minqin, China. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Shutterstock


Hold Still: Coming Undone Reading Print Culture Like a Work of Art

New Directions in Print Culture Studies: Archives, Materiality, and Modern American Culture, eds. Jesse Schwartz and Daniel Worden, Bloomsbury (2022)

My reason for trying to “think like a work of art,” is to find still another way of relating to historical and aesthetic worlds that are ultimately irretrievable. Like [Stephen] Best, I am not trying to recover them in order to suture the genocidal politics of the nineteenth century with some oppositional politics of the twenty-first. But I do mean to salvage the meanings we can find and forge in these archival bits of print culture we have decided must matter to us somehow. These same bits may not matter in another moment, but still and yet, the children in these images – not children anymore, only tones in shapes on cardboard cards – continue to mean now. What I try to reencounter in these images are the linked and unstable channels of geography and time.

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Find Something New to Love (as long as it’s not Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza)

Los Angeles Review of Books, December 2020

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza was never much to look at, and so you really have to give it to Taco Bell for attempting any promotional photo shoots at all. While no one except the lactose-intolerant would suggest melted cheese wasn’t delicious, I have to imagine part of why we have so many action shots of melted cheese ripping apart in Taco Bell commercials, print, and digital media alike is because stagnant melted cheese is a hop, step, and tiny leap from greasy goop, its texture hovering between luxurious (though processed) fat and liquid, the way the nacho cheese product served in movie theatres (remember movie theatres!!) best exemplifies it. Cheese is the penultimate layer of the Mexican Pizza, before the black olive slices, diced tomatoes, and sliced green onion, but after enchilada sauce, all of which is layered on top of two fried tortillas (née tostadas) that hug close to either seasoned ground beef and refried pinto beans or just the beans. Like some of the most comforting things, it’s really a very simple idea.

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Anti-Racism and the Problem of the Soul

Los Angeles Review of Books, June 2020

So very many of the performances of “reckoning” or “recognizing” happening in private and public manage to feel hollow even when urgently expressed.

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Expanding the Sayable: Listening, Teaching

#TeachingC19, eds. Sari Edelstein, Don James McLaughlin, and Kelly Ross (2019)

I’ll be honest: the conversation with my class about classroom culture did not begin comfortably. (How many potentially fruitful questions lay in the chasm of those first, craggy moments of silence, after they’ve been asked, when we rush to fill the silence, to cover over the disquiet—theirs and our own?) I introduced the idea, the idea that is not my idea, explaining that I wanted us to think about what helps us best engage in conversations in a seminar – and, necessarily, what kinds of behaviors, assumptions get in the way. There was no immediate, grand epiphany, and the group did not instantly dive in or feel inspired to take a risk. It was, instead, a little awkward.

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Geometry & Mechanism: Material Metaphors and the Force of Uncertainty of Legal Thought

New Literary Analysis of Law Special Issue of Critical Analysis of Law (2018)

This essay takes up the metaphors through which realists and Critical Legal Studies scholars created an idea of legal formalism. These insistently material metaphors emphasized that the errors of so-called formalist jurisprudence arose from two things: first, the material location of law; and second, the purpose of law in relation to the material world. The essay shows how metaphor in particular was rhetorically suited to this kind of dual work. The material metaphors helped to mark and differentiate realists’ intellectual interventions. These metaphors were also part of the aim to reorient law toward the material world by resignifying its materiality. Last, this essay shows that this reorientation toward the material was forged through making material forces precisely out of the immaterial of contingency and uncertainty.

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The Queer Digital Touch of Racial Sight

Queer Circuits in Archival Time Special Issue of Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, Vol. 24, no. 2 (2018)

Michael Jason Enriquez digitally altered celebrity headshots to make the celebrites look like they are wearing chola make-up. The “cholafied” headshot circultated on a Tumblr account, which at its most popular, in 2012 and 2013, spread to over 160 countried and had half a million page views, over 20,000 Tumblr followers, 90,000 reblogs, and at least 60,000 shares on Facebook. Attending to the sensory, affective, and historical rituals hidden in the haptic register of this quotidian digital archive...insinuates and approximates one aspect of what racial seeing feels like in our contemporary moment.

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What’s Mine: Involuntary Expressions, Modern Personality, and the Right to Privacy

J19: The Journal for Nineteenth Century Americanists, Vol. 4 No. 2 (2016)

READ HERE


Review of Matthew Fox Amato’s Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics

The New England Quarterly, Vol. 93, No. 2 (2020)

READ HERE