Tactical Readings: Feminist Postmodernism in the Novels of Kathy Acker and Angela Carter

Tactical Readings: Feminist Postmodernism in the Novels of Kathy Acker and Angela Carter

Tactical Readings: Feminist Postmodernism in the Novels of Kathy Acker and Angela Carter

Tactical Readings: Feminist Postmodernism in the Novels of Kathy Acker and Angela Carter

Synopsis

"This book argues for putting practices of reading at the center of a revitalized concept of post-modernism. Proposing that reading existing texts and recombining available images are the paradigmatic activities of contemporary cultural and political life, it analyzes the work of feminist novelists Kathy Acker and Angela Carter. Both writers' novels borrow heavily from other authors, and in doing so they offer strategies for a politically committed rereading of literary history and its interaction with the popular imagination. This study situates Carter's works from the 1970s and Acker's from the 1980s in relation to the political, economic, and cultural discourses commonly circulating during their day. In Carter's case, the immediate context is the recession-aggravated crisis of the British welfare state and of postimperial national identity; and in Acker's, the swallowing-up of oppositional identities and rhetoric by American capitalism during the heyday of "revolutionary" neoconservatism. Such a historicized approach allows a sense of how small-scale, context-specific tactics of reinterpretation and re-use of language - of the sort theorized by Michel de Certeau - survive and indeed thrive within what has often previously been viewed as the politically indifferent sphere of postmodern culture." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This study concerns the potential of feminist politics in the work of postmodernist women writers. More broadly, it addresses ongoing attempts in the past several decades to theorize what political and social role literature might play in the rapidly changing, capitalistsecular societies of the wealthier portion of the world. My intention, in part, is to revisit debates over the value of postmodernism as a cultural and political phenomenon, debates that—like so many previous discussions in cultural theory—have been conducted with very little reference to the work of women. I find this omission significant not because of the slight to women writers and other artists (although I would be pleased if refining the conceptual framework “feminist postmodernism” made more accessible a body of fascinating work), but because it misses the especially rich opportunity offered by this work for theorizing the political implications of various rhetorical and interpretive strategies. The question of how aesthetic texts act politically on their readers forms the core of the postmodernism debates, as it did of arguments for and against modernism.

I also want to shift the terms of that question, however, by looking centrally at how readers act (politically) on texts. I am particularly interested in postmodernist feminist writing because it foregrounds this issue. Its rereadings of existing imagery suggest the varied uses to which specific groups of readers can put literature in the early twenty-first century; such writing presumes that literature still performs crucial “cultural work,” in Jane Tompkins's sense of “articulating and proposing solutions for the problems that shape a particular historical moment.” The central thesis of my project derives from the explicitly political work of artists such as Kathy Acker (1947–97) and Angela Carter (1940–92), whose novels are the primary object of my study. I argue that analyzing these texts as a form . . .

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