Repost: My doctoral research in plain English

For many reasons, usually I try to separate the stuff that goes up on this blog from the work I undertake as part of my doctoral research. However, I recently contributed to the University of Sussex Research Hive‘s “Research in plain English” initiative, where I wrote a brief blog post about my PhD thesis, and thought I might repost it here. Sorry to disappoint those who came here looking for stuff on The Big Lebowski, Claire Danes’ cry face or tattoo ideas (and you are legion!)…

Passionate destruction, passionate creation: art and anarchy in the work of Dennis Cooper

[“The passion for destruction is a creative passion too.” Mikhail Bakunin, On Anarchism]

What is anarchist art? Can an artwork express the convictions of an anarchist artist? Is there a literary form which might be most appropriate to an anarchist writer’s experience of contemporary American society? My PhD thesis tries to answer these questions by considering the role of anarchism in the work of experimental American author Dennis Cooper, locating the evolution of his artistic sensibility within the context of American literary history and anarchist politics in the US.

Cooper is a brilliant and controversial poet, playwright, novelist and blogger whose work is most often associated with 90s “Queercore,” a current of transgressive literature which sought to interrogate conventional taxonomies of sexual identity (gay and straight). Critical assessments of his work, therefore, have largely attempted to determine the primarily sexual politics of his work, e.g. how his writing challenges us to think differently about the way sexual identity is constructed and urges us to consider the implicit connections between sexuality and power. My research builds upon these studies by demonstrating that Cooper’s iconoclastic encounter with the subject of sex is symptomatic of his ongoing adherence to an anarchist critique of contemporary society. His novels, poetry and collaborative theatre, I contend, offer various artistic responses to the multifarious forms of control and domination (sexual, political, technological…) which characterise life in the modern world.

The ideas and arguments my doctoral research engages with are particularly timely, given the recent resurgence of interest in anarchist ideas in the United States, the emergence of quasi-anarchist collectives like “Occupy” across American towns and cities in 2011, and widespread disillusionment with an American political establishment which failed to protect its citizens from the sub-prime mortgage and credit crisis.


~ by schoolboyerrors on June 19, 2012.

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