All Feelings are Queer Feelings: Queer Worlding Through Affect in the Films of Xavier Dolan
The highly stylised melodramas of Québécois filmmaker Xavier Dolan use particular affects to represent queerness and express how normative social conventions impact queer lives. This thesis analyses the functions of shame in I Killed My Mother (2009), rage in Laurence Anyways (2012), disgust in Tom at the Farm (2013), and nostalgia in Mommy (2014) to convey conflicts between queerness and heteronormativity. Formal analysis of Dolan’s films is paired with queer and affect theories to clarify his queer worlding - in other words, the objects and symbols that construct Dolan’s queer cartography. Informed by Jack Halberstam’s theory of queer temporality, this thesis investigates Dolan’s portrait of heterosexual norms’ influence on the affective worlding of queer lives. While the focus is on queer temporalities, scholarship on queer childhood, rurality, and utopia also illuminate Dolan’s singular style. Kathryn Bond Stockton’s work on queer childhood sheds light on the cyclical nature of shame depicted in I Killed My Mother, while Susan Stryker’s account of trans rage demonstrates the function of colour in Laurence Anyways. Furthermore, queer theories of disgust inform Tom at the Farm’s subversion of the rural gay cowboy trope. Finally, concepts of nostalgia validate the sonic doubling of music in Mommy to promote queer utopian values. Ultimately, this analysis of affect, form, and style highlights how Dolan’s cinema spotlights the transformative power of negative affects to displace heteronormativity with queer worldviews.