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Powers of PossibilityExperimental American Writing since the 1960s$
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Alex Houen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199609291

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609291.001.0001

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Novel Biopolitics

Novel Biopolitics

(p.145) 4 Novel Biopolitics
Powers of Possibility

Kathy Acker

Michel Foucault

Oxford University Press

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

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