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The Politics and Aesthetics of 1990s Punk Women's Writing: Reading Riot Grrrl after Kathy Acker and against the anti-feminist backlash

Griffiths, G (2020) The Politics and Aesthetics of 1990s Punk Women's Writing: Reading Riot Grrrl after Kathy Acker and against the anti-feminist backlash. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Riot Grrrl, a hardcore feminist punk movement that emerged in the early 1990s in America, is often contemplated through a subcultural studies lens. As a result, its status as a political movement and social phenomenon still overshadows its status as an artistic movement in its scholarship. This thesis applies a literary studies lens to Riot Grrrl, examining specific devices employed in the movement’s literature and tracing these back to an experimental literary avant-garde, to fortify its status as an artistic movement. I argue that Riot Grrrl practitioners appropriate much of their artistic investments from American punk-feminist writer and postmodernist, Kathy Acker, who is frequently cited as a precursor to Riot Grrrl. Building on recent studies that have begun to demystify Acker’s influence as manifest in Riot Grrrl zine writing, I ask: to what ends do Riot Grrrls incorporate devices from Acker’s literary critique of patriarchal culture in the 1980s into their later critique of patriarchal culture in the 1990s? Following the successes of second wave feminism in gaining women’s liberation, their art responds to the media-driven backlash against feminism that emerged in the 1980s, which resulted in the concept of ‘post-feminism’ gaining traction in the 1990s. Two key manifestations of this backlash were the discrediting of working women, as well as attempts to reassert control over female sexuality, which mutated into postfeminist trends in the 1990s that similarly hinged upon the themes of work and sex: ‘New Traditionalism’ and ‘Do-Me’ feminism. I focus on Acker’s 1980s novels that influenced Riot Grrrl writing, such as Great Expectations (1983), Blood and Guts in High School (1978; published in 1984), and Don Quixote, Which Was a Dream (1986), tracing her ideological and aesthetic influence into Grrrl zines sourced from The Riot Grrrl Collection archive at New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections. This analysis reveals how the critical function of avant-garde literary devices, inherited from Acker by Riot Grrrl zinesters, shifts according to gender developments being made in the 1990s that posited a stratification of feminist definitions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Riot Grrrl; Kathy Acker; Punk Feminism; Third Wave Feminism; Punk Zines; Post-feminism; Zines
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NE Print media
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Divisions: Humanities & Social Science
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2020 22:21
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2022 15:09
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00013180
Supervisors: Tolan, F
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13180
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