Posthumous Queer Articulations and Rhetorical Agency: The Case of David Wojnarowicz

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/299115
Title:
Posthumous Queer Articulations and Rhetorical Agency: The Case of David Wojnarowicz
Author:
Shumake, Jessica L.
Issue Date:
2013
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
This project is an archival case study of the multimedia artist and writer David Wojnarowicz. I discuss Wojnarowicz's legacy as a queer activist and public intellectual to explore the potential of his posthumous rhetorical agency. I define "posthumous rhetorical agency" as a process enacted by the living to facilitate the participation of the deceased in public life. I emphasize that developing a theory of posthumous rhetorical agency can fuel the "momentum of the archival turn" while also deepening a "commitment to the queer turn" in rhetorical studies (Morris and Rawson; Crichton). I establish that Wojnarowicz's archive possesses the ability to reach into the future with remarkable velocity to contribute to his posthumous agency because he drew on extant queer kinship networks and engaged multiple mediums as a visual artist, writer, musician, performance artist, and filmmaker. I extend Avery Gordon's position that haunting differs from trauma because haunting produces a "something-to-be-done" quality, which leads to an engagement with the present and a desire "to reveal and learn from subjugated knowledge." I argue that Wojnarowicz's legacy has a "something-to-be-done" quality about it. His legacy stands as an indictment of a nation lulled into apathetic indifference and cowed into fear of social difference: at a national level when the AIDS epidemic began, politicians and corporations were inexcusably slow to respond because the disease was assumed to infect only gay men and other "high risk" populations. Thus, in understanding Wojnarowicz's suffering - as an individual and, to take this line of argument further, as part of a collective of people with AIDS who died due to the US government's neglect of a public health crisis from which the "general public" was assumed to be safe - one can conceive of his posthumous legacy as a positive and needful presence that calls attention to the value of integrating a partially erased or forgotten history more fully into the nation's history. I conclude that a viable theory of posthumous rhetorical agency must attend to issues of how to responsibly and justly represent the work of those who have been systematically excluded, censored, or erased from the historical record.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
AIDS activism; LGBTQ sexuality and aesthetics; Queer archives; Rhetorical agency; David Wojnarowicz; Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English; Activist rhetorics
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Graduate College; Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
McAllister, Kenneth S.

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoenen_US
dc.titlePosthumous Queer Articulations and Rhetorical Agency: The Case of David Wojnarowiczen_US
dc.creatorShumake, Jessica L.en_US
dc.contributor.authorShumake, Jessica L.en_US
dc.date.issued2013-
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractThis project is an archival case study of the multimedia artist and writer David Wojnarowicz. I discuss Wojnarowicz's legacy as a queer activist and public intellectual to explore the potential of his posthumous rhetorical agency. I define "posthumous rhetorical agency" as a process enacted by the living to facilitate the participation of the deceased in public life. I emphasize that developing a theory of posthumous rhetorical agency can fuel the "momentum of the archival turn" while also deepening a "commitment to the queer turn" in rhetorical studies (Morris and Rawson; Crichton). I establish that Wojnarowicz's archive possesses the ability to reach into the future with remarkable velocity to contribute to his posthumous agency because he drew on extant queer kinship networks and engaged multiple mediums as a visual artist, writer, musician, performance artist, and filmmaker. I extend Avery Gordon's position that haunting differs from trauma because haunting produces a "something-to-be-done" quality, which leads to an engagement with the present and a desire "to reveal and learn from subjugated knowledge." I argue that Wojnarowicz's legacy has a "something-to-be-done" quality about it. His legacy stands as an indictment of a nation lulled into apathetic indifference and cowed into fear of social difference: at a national level when the AIDS epidemic began, politicians and corporations were inexcusably slow to respond because the disease was assumed to infect only gay men and other "high risk" populations. Thus, in understanding Wojnarowicz's suffering - as an individual and, to take this line of argument further, as part of a collective of people with AIDS who died due to the US government's neglect of a public health crisis from which the "general public" was assumed to be safe - one can conceive of his posthumous legacy as a positive and needful presence that calls attention to the value of integrating a partially erased or forgotten history more fully into the nation's history. I conclude that a viable theory of posthumous rhetorical agency must attend to issues of how to responsibly and justly represent the work of those who have been systematically excluded, censored, or erased from the historical record.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen_US
dc.subjectAIDS activismen_US
dc.subjectLGBTQ sexuality and aestheticsen_US
dc.subjectQueer archivesen_US
dc.subjectRhetorical agencyen_US
dc.subjectDavid Wojnarowiczen_US
dc.subjectRhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of Englishen_US
dc.subjectActivist rhetoricsen_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineRhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of Englishen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorMcAllister, Kenneth S.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberLicona, Adela C.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberFlinn, Carylen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberBarnard, Ianen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberMcAllister, Kenneth S.en_US
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