Attitude Problems: Late Capitalist Desire and the Psychopolitics of Queer American Fiction

Modica, John, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Chakravorty, Mrinalini, English, University of Virginia

This dissertation argues that early twenty-first century queer American fiction gives form to an anti-capitalist aesthetics and politics of desire. The project asks, what can queer fiction tell us about the obstacles facing a radical cultural politics in the contemporary United States? My tentative answer is that a new queer cultural politics is already coming into definition through critical and creative attention to the psychopolitics of desire. Queer experiments with the form and function of fiction at the turn of the millennium take shape around historically-specific ideas about desire. Queer fiction interprets desire as simultaneously determined by our environments and also resistant to social conditioning; as disruptive to our participation in political life, and also the very force that makes politics possible. The dramas of self-constitution, the messy, politically inconvenient desires, and the experiments with aesthetic form that populate twenty-first century queer fiction, I argue, indicate the formation of a new consciousness, from within queer artistic and political circles, attuned to the historical processes of subjection that distinguish late capitalism from earlier periods of global political and economic development. I take up the work of Saidiya Hartman, John Keene, Derek McCormack, Bruce Norris, and Hanya Yanagihara, demonstrating how the political stakes of their aesthetic production revolve around a fascination with desire as an enduring problem for late capitalist politics, art, and theory. Generating an anti-capitalist language of desire takes on great urgency as these writers grapple with the seeming intractability of the political present, the fraught position of minoritarian knowledge production within U.S. empire, and the earth-sundering crises punctuating our descent into an increasingly unlivable world. At the intersection of Marxist, psychoanalytic, and biopolitical theory, the project offers a psychopolitical foundation for a queer cultural politics that can upend our formation as desiring subjects, or late capitalist subjects of desire.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
queer, desire, American literature, fiction, capitalism
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: