The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 2

The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 2

The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 2

The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 2

Synopsis

This Encyclopedia is an indispensible reference guide to twentieth-century fiction in the English-language. With nearly 500 contributors and over 1 million words, it is the most comprehensive and authoritative reference guide to twentieth-century fiction in the English language.
  • Contains over 500 entries of 1000-3000 words written in lucid, jargon-free prose, by an international cast of leading scholars
  • Arranged in 3 volumes covering British and Irish Fiction, American Fiction, and World Fiction, with each volume edited by a leading scholar in the field
  • Entries cover major writers (such as Saul Bellow, Raymond Chandler, John Steinbeck, Virginia Woolf, A.S Byatt, Samual Beckett, D.H. Lawrence, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, Nadine Gordimer, Alice Munro, Chinua Achebe, J.M. Coetzee, and Ngūgī Wa Thiong'o) and their key works
  • Covers the genres and sub-genres of fiction in English across the twentieth century (including crime fiction, sci fi, chick lit, the noir novel, and the avante garde novel) as well as the major movements, debates, and rubrics within the field (censorship, globalization, modernist fiction, fiction and the film industry, and the fiction of migration, Diaspora, and exile)

Excerpt

Acker, Kathy

DOUG RICE

Labeled postmodern, plagiarized, literary terrorism, Kathy Acker’s writing disturbs commonly held assumptions about literary aesthetics and political power. Her writing is diseased – a foreign narrative body that undermines institutional structures for reading. More than posing metafictional conundrums, Acker’s writing explores the politics of women’s bodies and desires as they have been situated inside the patriarchal gaze of late market capital. More importantly, Acker’s rewriting of literary history provides daughters with treasure maps for escaping the stranglehold of language designed to domesticate young girls.

Kathy Acker was born Karen Alexander in 1944 (some sources suggest 1948) in New York City and died in Tijuana, Mexico in 1997. Her father abandoned her mother before Acker was born. Her mother committed suicide when Acker was 30, and these two abandonments figure heavily in her work. At 18, Acker ran away from home and lived on the streets, working in the sex industry as a stripper and a voiceover in pornographic films. She studied at Brandeis University before moving on to the University of California, San Diego, where she received her BA, and she taught literature and writing at numerous universities.

Acker wrote novels, plays, opera librettos, essays, a screenplay, and poetry, and also collaborated with a pair of rock bands. Acker’s writing has many influences, some of which include the

Black Mountain poets, the Beats, punk rock, and French theorists, and is fueled by a subversive desire to deconstruct childhood myths designed by patriarchy.

Her writing confounds genre expectations, inhabiting those liminal spaces of becoming that transform sentences into lines of flight and writing against stable notions of meaning and identity. Her work blurs and blends various genres, from autobiography to science fiction, pornography, and children’s stories. By using plagiarism and cut-up techniques, Acker experiments with syntax and identities in ways that disturb notions of ownership.

Her career began by peddling stories on the streets of New York. She copied stories in order to expose the ways that language worked on her body, a theme common to all her writing. Kathy Goes to Haiti (1988), a twisted Nancy Drew porn novel, is representative of this critique; as is Hello, I’m Erica Jong (1982), where Acker parodies “acceptable” bourgeois notions of sexuality as imagined by the bestselling “feminist” author.

In Stein-like fashion, the style of Acker’s books performs their content. Fragmentation and alienation are embodied in broken sentences, syntaxes fail to clarify intention, and mutilated body parts clutter sentences in fractured nonsense. The subject of her sentences, her I/eye, and her protagonists are fluid, changing sex and desire to experience the wor(l)d in an other way. Her subjects often become objects, and her narrative eye observes her narrating I. In rewriting Greaf Expectations (1983) and Don Quixote (1986), Acker’s I

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