"A Society Which Wasn't Just Disgust": Kathy Acker's Poetics of Liberation
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractKathy Acker, author of over 20 novels during her brief life, has been attacked by critics for creating tasteless, misogynist, and plagiarized nonsense that glorifies sexual violence. Indeed her work involves female victimization and gruesome sexual violence, and many of her words are cut and pasted from other books. And yet, it is precisely these negative qualities that Acker emphasizes to critique literary and social norms. Acker’s inhuman characters, who lack not only gender specificity but also personality altogether, remain too amorphous, faceless, and superficial to prompt empathy from the reader. These “anti-characters” do not perform their expected literary or social roles and so tend to disgust and disturb the reader. However, within Acker’s brand of nonsense are occasional moments of poetic beauty and humor that distract briefly from the chaos and violence of her plot action. Despite most critics’ categorization of her work as a failure, a slightly different perspective can find inspiration and liberation in Acker’s novels. Her realization of her dream of becoming a (literary) pirate and her reclamation of her body and therefore her voice through tattooing evoke the possibility of a less oppressive, phallocentric, and capitalist world.
Degree ProgramHonors College