Christian Sean Petro January 2009
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Arts.
Department of English
Copyright by Christian Sean Petro 2009
Abstract Introduction 1 Pussy, What’s in a Name? The Power of Language in the Construction of Gender Art and the Political The Weaponization of Language Pirating Power and Authority Navigating Reality and Hyperreality Character Identity Defining the “I” Saying What You Mean 2 In the Name of the Father. Lionizing the Role of the Divine Father/Phallus How Sexuality Transpired into Knowledge How Knowledge became Power 3 Do You Mind If I Call You Dick? Controlling Sexuality in Constructing Gender Slavery and Virginity iii
6 8 14 16 21 28 33 36
41 45 46
Purity through Blood: Christ and Abortions Penis Envy and the Electra Complex: Castrated Power or Illusion The “Dark Continent” of Women’s Sexuality “The Vagina of Hegemony” 4 The Enemy of My Enemy…Is My Enemy? Rejecting a “Guilty by Association” Label of Feminism What Kind of Feminist are You? Pornography and Power Rejecting the Phallus Conclusion. Works Cited
57 63 68 72
77 78 80 83 86 89
Abstract In an attempt to ascertain identity Acker rejects the Phallocentric traditions of Western Culture having assigned Acker an identity of weakness based on biological and physical attributes; hence, a psychological slavery, reinforced by physical slavery, hard-boiled by sexual slavery. Given the indissolubleness of art and the political Acker uses their bond to rebuff traditions via sexuality and language although these methods are used by phallocieties to enforce female subjugation. This is why Acker plagiarizes classic boy adventures in order to corrupt the canon, including the bible, of the phallocentric culture so as to decenter the real through the imaginary. This decentering is why we discover the radical shifts in; character stability; timelines; plot structure; and the fluidity of "I" as the narrator leading to gender confusion and sexual binaries within the novels. Since sexuality is used to control women Acker takes back its control so it can no longer be weaponized against women to enslave them physically or as a means to define gender roles socially. Restricted in reality by these phallocentric traditions, Acker creates a hyper-reality free of their control where language is the real power, not the penis, giving her the ability to escape the control of men through her novels which is part fiction part autobiographical. The upshot of Acker's phallocentric rejection is an association with feminism, however just because both desire an end to phallic dominion does not mean they are the same. Feminists want to restructure the hierarchy which is merely another form of gender/identity slavery while Acker wants to destroy the hierarchy altogether. v
“We don't have a clue what it is to be male or female, or if there are intermediate genders. Male and female might be fields which overlap into androgyny or different kinds of sexual desires. But because we live in a Western,
patriarchal world, we have very little chance of exploring these gender possibilities.” —Kathy Acker. INTRODUCTION
Jewish, punk, postpunk, woman, lesbian, writer, poet, sadist, teacher, plagiarist, masochist, novelist, single, postmodern, daughter, married, middle-class, playwright, performance artist, ex-wife (twice over), post-post, college graduate, bi-sexual, stripper, etc… These are all descriptors of Kathy Acker and while some stand as incontrovertible markers from the instance of her birth, others still may have come into existence at extraordinarily precise moments or only at...