My article, “Shock and Consent in a Feminist Avant-garde: Kathleen Hanna Reads Kathy Acker,” appears in a special issue of Signs devoted to “Pleasure and Danger: Sexual Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-First Century.” You can access it here. I was interviewed about the article on the podcast “The Office Hour.”

Other work in progress focuses on the relationship between affect and aesthetics and how represented violence functions as a nexus of form and feeling. I am also at work on a study of hybrid forms in 21st-century slavery narratives; I will present my research at the Newberry Library in February 2018. Additional research interests include riot grrrl zines, girlhood in 20th-century American culture, American avant-garde formations, and the role of fashion and clothing in contemporary women’s experimental fiction.


Legible Subjects, Senseless Violence

“Senseless violence” can mean almost anything. It is precisely the simultaneous familiarity and ambiguity of the term that makes it useful for understanding fictional depictions of violence. Literary scholars have examined the emotional effects of violence, from Aristotle’s catharsis to avant-garde alienation. More recently, critical theories of race, gender, and sexuality have articulated the ideological effects of fictional violence: depictions of violence on the plantation, or in the bedroom, or in a dark alley may either reinforce or undermine sexist and racist beliefs. For marginalized bodies, according to this line of thought, violence is always interpretable.

My book project, Legible Subjects, Senseless Violence, analyzes depictions of violence in contemporary U.S. fiction and art that evade these critical approaches and refuse to offer an ethical payoff, social critique, or cathartic release. It is especially interested in those works by women and minority writers that speak back to, and question, standard forms of political or ethical interpretation. Representations of what I call senseless violence arise through formal strategies that obscure divisions between victims and perpetrators or erase reliable signs of suffering in characters. These experiments in form emphasize the ability of literary violence to both depict affective exchange between characters and to elicit affective responses in audiences. By disrupting stereotypical attachments between marginalized groups and particular emotions, senseless violence highlights the risk inherent in expecting representations of violence to provoke predictable emotions or do straightforward ideological work.

For a longer description of this project, click here.