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About the talk
In 1858, prior to formal emancipation in US, gospel composer, attorney, and inventor Charles Crozat Converse coined the gender neutral pronoun, “thon”—a contraction of “that one.” However, thon had prior meanings, having been used to describe time (then) and distance (yonder or there). Thon is one of over 100 gender neutral pronouns offered in the 19th and 20th centuries—proffered, in most instances, as a response to a grammatical question: how does one refer to people irrespective of gender without defaulting to a masculine pronoun? The vast majority of these pronouns are not in use, perhaps residing in an unwanted archive on nonbinary experience. In this talk, Snorton mines the gap between institutional grammars and the language of experience in relation to a nonbinary archive of English-language gender neutral pronouns. Charting a political course inspired by thon’s etymology, this talk considers the implications of nonbinary as a when in addition to being a what.
About the speaker
C. Riley Snorton is Professor of English Language and Literature and Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Chicago. Snorton is the author of Nobody Is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) and Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity (University of Minnesota Press, 2017).
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