Against Form: Figural Excess and the Negative Democratic Impulse in American Literature
Abstract: Against Form addresses the necessity of form as well as form's inevitable exclusions and violence. Moving between art and politics, Against Form shows how both literature and democracy depend on acts of representation through which various "parts" are organized to appear as a whole, whether a political community or a narrative structure. Yet the figures—bodies, tropes—on which representa... read moretion depends are more dynamic than any configuration deems possible, for any represented form necessarily fixes and regulates their movements in a particular way. "Figurality" names the excess and lack that haunt every act of representation, and by following figural excess, I foreground the democratic potential of literature's egalitarian aesthetics, through which voices, bodies, or scenes excluded from official representation are able to appear in a way that disturbs the order of things. Of course, exclusions and instabilities manifest in any political or aesthetic system of representation—even those aiming for equality. In politics as in art, you always leave something (or someone) out, and you always say more than you intend. Both politics and art can therefore stage a misunderstanding or disagreement between two parts: the part that counts and the part that does not. The texts in Against Form always force a confrontation—and a misunderstanding—between incommensurable regimes. Drawing on the work of Jacques Rancière and Jacques Lacan, I show how the democratic operation in politics and art disturbs the fantasy of a seamless totality.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2018.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisor: Lee Edelman.
Committee: Lisa Lowe, Priscilla Wald, and Nathan Woolf.
Keywords: American literature, and Literature.read less