Detailed Table of Contents
If gender is enacted like a script, then Kathy Acker’s oeuvre can be seen as a re-writing of that script. Acker’s texts feed on and rip off other texts with subversive irony, transgressing the sociocultural script of what women and literature ought to be. Coming from an upper-class family, she chose to speak to the working classes. This conscious choice is linked to her disinheritance because of her marriage to a man beneath her status and her subsequent divorce. Significantly, Kathy Alexander appropriated the name Acker from her first husband, while emancipating herself from the institution of marriage. Similarly, her appropriation of texts as a writer indicates her divorce from these texts, a rewriting of the terms she was expected to agree upon, of the script she – as a woman – was expected to follow. This divorce enabled her to see the upper class narratives she had been brought up with in a different light, as she started working in sex shows and as a stripper. It is this intersection of class, sex, and gender, which defines the trajectory of Acker’s writing…
At Nayland’s dinner you explained the dynamics to me: the bottom (you) is given permission by the top (whomever) to be bad. “Run down the street naked.” “Okay.” You can’t be bad on your own because you were raised to behave, to curtsy to your mom’s rich friends. I imagine a tiny homunculus of Kathy rotating on a pedestal as she recites Miss Manners’ rules of etiquette like Bible verses. Here’s a sick story from my childhood: when I was four and a barking dog frightened me, I climbed into my father’s arms and cried, “Daddy why don’t you shoot that son of a bitch!” . . .
Author’s Bio: Dodie Bellamy’s writing focuses on sexuality, politics, and narrative experimentation. She is the 2018-19 subject of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art’s On Our Mind program, a year-long series of public events, commissioned essays, and reading group meetings inspired by an artist’s writing and lifework. In February 2020, Dodie Bellamy’s On Our Mind, a compendium of essays examining her career and writing will be published by Semiotext(e).
Abstract: This article reads Kathy Acker’s 1988 novel Empire of the Senseless in relation to écriture féminine as a specific form of text production. Acker puts French feminist Hélène Cixous’s theory to practice, thus offering a strategy of writing that challenges binarisms and the normative imperatives of a patriarchal order. Writing becomes a productive form of resistance and reinvention, not only on an abstract intertextual meta level, but as a very physical activity: the liberating potential that Cixous and Acker locate in the process of women’s writing is played out in Kathy Acker’s écriture in the motif of tattooing. Writing the body is enacted by writing on the body as a way of negotiating women’s ‘imprisonment’ in a phallocratic culture working to erase its spiritual, corporeal, and political boundaries.
Author’s Bio: Jonas Neldner studies English and German literatures at the University of Cologne and the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, Canada. His research interests include critical posthumanist studies, critical disability studies, feminist studies, film studies, comics, science fiction, weird fiction, literary naturalisms, and subcultures. His essay “I should have let her die”: A Posthuman Future between (Re)-Embodiment and Cyborgian Concepts” has been published in Gender Forum. Special Issue: Early Career Researchers IV, Issue 60 in 2016.
Abstract:This essay analyses the labyrinthine nature of Kathy Acker‘s texts “Seeing Gender” (1995), Blood and Guts in High School (1979, publ. 1984) and Empire of the Senseless (1988). An understanding of Acker’s writing as a re-writing of the concepts of sex and gender will be linked to her negotiation of concepts of corporeality and temporality as forms of entrapment of the self.
Author’s Bio:Daniel Schulz is currently finishing his Master of Arts in History and English Studies at the University of Cologne. In 2017 he undertook the inventory of the Kathy Acker’s personal library located in the English Department of the University of Cologne. He also served as a research assistant for the “Get Rid of Meaning”-Exhibition 2018 and co-organized the Kathy Acker in Seattle Symposium for the Seattle Goethe Institute in 2019.
Abstract: Reading Acker through the lenses of Paul B. Preciado, Linda Williams, Pierre Guyotat and Georgina Colby, Finch proposes to think of Acker’s literary practice as a series of “dildos”: textual prosthetics that perform protocols of textual unmaking. Finch bases her textual reading on Acker’s early typescripts, recently published for the first time, providing an original analysis of these archival materials that works to bridge ‘70s avant-garde literary practices with current queer theories of immersive embodiment.
Author’s Bio: Claire Finch is a writer and researcher based in Paris. Her hybrid practice focuses on queer poetic protocols and their possible links with feminist activism. She works on her PhD research in Gender Studies at the University of Paris 8, her performative readings (festival Extra! Centre Pompidou, Le Magasin CNAC Grenoble, Mimosa House London…), and her literary piracy workshops (Ecole Supérieur d’art et design Valence, Khiasma Lilas, Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts Bordeaux…). Most recently, she wrote the introduction and editorial notes for Kathy Acker 1971-1975 (Editions Ismael, 2019), the first substantial English publication of Kathy Acker’s early typescripts, which she presented at the ICA London. Her French translation, with Sabrina Soyer, of Lisa Robertson’s Debbie: An Epic is forthcoming from Editions Joca Seria. Claire Finch is a touring member of the Paris-based queer, dyke, non-binary and trans author’s collective RERQ.
Abstract: In recent years, the New York novelist, poet and post-punk-icon Kathy Acker and her writings have received increased interest and critical attention resulting in a considerable corpus of texts, informed by postmodern, poststructuralist and feminist discourses. Michael Hardin’s Devouring Institutions: The Life Work of Kathy Acker (2004) and Carla Harryman’s and Avital Ronell’s Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker (2006) have familiarized the reader with the complexity of Acker’s literary production. Polina Mackay’s and Kathryn Nicol’s study Kathy Acker and Transnationalism (2009) has proposed a more political and cross-national approach, while Georgina Colby’s Kathy Acker: Writing the Impossible(2016) has examined Acker’s experimental use of language. Following the latter’s attempt to rethink Acker’s work outside of the territory of postmodern discourse, Emilia Borowska provides an innovative reading of Acker’s novels, which successfully tackles Acker’s radical politics and revolutionary objectives. . . .
Author’s Bio: Danae Hübner is a postgraduate student and tutor in the English Department of the University of Cologne. After studying at the University of Cologne and Complutense University of Madrid, she is currently working on the performative politics and poetics of Kathy Acker’s fiction. Her research interests include postmodern American literature, film studies, psychoanalytic theory, feminist theory, performance studies and poststructuralism.