Johanna Hedva in conversation with Margeaux Feldman
about Hedva’s novel On Hell

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Date: Friday, November 9, 4:30-6pm
Address: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 100, 170 St. George Street, Toronto.

For the keynote of Sick Theories, Margeaux Feldman and Johanna Hedva will be in conversation about Hedva’s new novel On Hell (2018). On Hell rewrites the Icarus myth from a crip perspective, setting it in 21st-century Los Angeles and exploring the insurrectionary capacity of the crip, queer, sick body. Hedva and Feldman will roam topics like crip futurity, the U.S. prison industrial complex, body horror as a generative genre for disability justice, astrology, and the ways in which health circulates as currency. To close, there will be a brief Q&A with the audience. This talk is free and open to the public.

On Hell transcribes a body broken by American empire, that of ex-con Rafael Luis Estrada Requena, hacking itself away from contemporary society. Hedva, author of Sick Woman Theory, takes the ferocious compulsion to escape (from capitalism, from the limits of the body-machine, from Earth), and channels it into an evisceration of oppression and authority. Equal parts tender and brutal, romantic and furious, On Hell is a novel about myths that trick and resist totalitarianism. The book is available through Sator Press.

Content warning: racism, homophobia, transphobia, intergenerational trauma, incarceration, ableism, self-harm.


 Photo by Pamila Payne

Photo by Pamila Payne

Johanna Hedva is a fourth-generation Los Angelena on their mother’s side and, on their father’s side, the grandchild of a woman who escaped from North Korea. Hedva is the author of the novel, On Hell (2018, Sator Press). From 2012 to 2015, their series of queered Ancient Greek plays, The Greek Cycle, was performed in Los Angeles, in venues like a Honda Odyssey being driven down the freeway. Their works of performance, design, and sound have been shown at Machine Project, Human Resources LA, PAM, High Desert Test Sites, the Getty’s 2013 Pacific Standard Time, the LA Architecture and Design Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art on the Moon. Hedva has published books in handmade limited editions, and their fiction, essays, and poems have appeared in Triple CanopyThe White ReviewBlack Warrior ReviewEntropyMask3:AMAsian American Literary ReviewThe Journal PetraDREGINALD, and others. Their ongoing project This Earth, Our Hospital includes the essays Sick Woman TheoryIn Defense of De-persons, and Letter to a Young Doctor

 Photo by Angela Lewis

Photo by Angela Lewis

Margeaux Feldman is a writer, educator, and activist living in Tkaronto. She’s currently finishing up her PhD in English Literature at the University of Toronto, where she’s also a part of the collaborative program with the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. Her dissertation, Hideous Girls, Sick Women, traces the legacy of hysteria into our contemporary moment, looking at different sites where teen girls and young women continue to have their sexuality pathologized. Margeaux also holds a Certificate in Community Engaged Learning from the University of Toronto. Her creative and academic writing have been published in Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, GUTS Magazine, The Vault, Minola Review, The Puritan, FEELS Zine, Hook & Eye, and she has a piece forthcoming in Invisibilities Zine. She’s currently at work on a memoir entitled The Bed of Sickness: Essays on Care, which chronicles the legacy of sickness in her family, including her mother’s death from cancer, her father’s diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and her own diagnoses of complex-PTSD, anxiety and panic disorders, and fibromyalgia.


love for On Hell:

I mean, fuck. How do we get there, this rooted, brutalized, devastating space where we are forced to experience the capability of language to create a world in which all the noise around you is distortion, escape is a splintered hope, and the performance of life is the performance of bloody meat, existence as persistently crossed and breath an interstitial dream of falling. Fuck, I say, as NIN’s “Starfuckers, Inc” is playing in the back of my head and the swells of this world become the swells of my own blood pumping through my yet-to-be-corpse. Brilliant. Fervent. Unafraid and unapologetic. This text will consume you. — Janice Lee, author of The Sky Isn’t Blue

 At some point while reading On Hell, I had the sensation that my heart had pushed through my chest, my brain had pushed through my skull, and my guts had pushed through my abdomen, and that I was, in solidarity with Hedva’s writing, wearing my insides on the outside of my body. Only writing this nakedly vulnerable could be this intensely embodied, and only writing this intensely embodied could be this insurrectionary. — Brandon Shimoda, author of The Desert

On Hell is a story of a 21st-century Icarus-as-hacker, a wild dreamer who builds a set of wings from the internet woods. Hedva writes with fierce clarity on the perimeters of global power and the skyscraper stakes of truth, where “the money is closest to the sun,” and those confined to the prison-yard ground have a bird’s eye view to this endless machine of technology and body mass. This book thrives inside the meat of my terrors and the clouds of my hopes. It’s affirming to read work that recognizes technology as a real-life blood web that has the capacity to both free and enslave the human spirit. — Nikki Wallschlaeger, author of Crawlspace

A hundred white-screen articles might never get in your blood like On Hell. — Overland

It’s fucking brilliant. I’m in love. If there have to be novels, On Hell is what they should do. — Anne Boyer, author of Garments Against Women and A Handbook of Disappointed Fate