Chapter

Novel Biopolitics

Kathy Acker and Michel Foucault

in Powers of Possibility

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199609291
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731723 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609291.003.0005
Novel Biopolitics

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This chapter considers how Acker's novels engage with post‐structuralist theories of power and possibility—particularly those of Foucault—to turn fictional life‐writing into a form of potentialism. The opening discussion relates Acker's ideas about plagiarism and autobiography to Foucault's notions of ‘self‐writing’ and ‘biopolitics’. After discussing how her 1970s novels lay the foundations for her potentialist approach, the chapter examines Acker's pessimistic period in which she is more intent on depicting how individuals’ capacities are socially regulated. That pessimism is specifically related to US policies on abortion and HIV/AIDS that she addresses. Subsequent to her novel Don Quixote (1986), Acker has a positive change of heart and dedicates herself to mixing fictive worlds of possibility with affective ‘languages of the body’. The chapter details how that mixture becomes a novel form of potentialism in Empire of the Senseless (1988) and Pussy, King of the Pirates (1996), in which Acker also draws on a ‘language of abjection’ inspired by Julia Kristeva's Powers of Horror (1982).

Keywords: biopolitics; power; plagiarism; performativity; affects; sexuality; piracy; abjection; 1970s; 1980s

Chapter.  21287 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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