Autotheory. Writing from Fragments as Queer_Feminist Practice
School of Art
This dissertation engages an interdisciplinary question situated between literary studies, social theory, and philosophical aesthetics. Autotheory. Writing from Fragments as Queer_Feminist Practice, explores the following three approaches to the form: first, Testo Junkie by Paul B. Preciado (2008/2013), second, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (2015), and third, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa. Having recently emerged as a subgenre of autofiction with which is shares the distinct quality of involving an amalgamation of personal introspection, body documentation and practices, autotheory sets itself apart through the persistence of theoretical reflection. The strong resonance of recent autotheoretical literature indicates two things: first, that the desire for new modes of writing through the expanded concept of text aims to connect research with art; while second, the manner in which the form relays the political dimensions of social subjectivation–by doing this from a directly impacted personal perspective–they address, and as well critique politicized debates around identity.
These examined autotheoretical works not only illustrate how far the authors are willing to go to forge a new form of autobiographical narration in the exploration of the self and its experiential worlds, but they also ultimately tap into the milieu of sociological study. The authors' attempts to short-circuit the unhoused, fragmentary nature of their work along with the indeterminacy proposed by the authors’ own unlimited identities, their literary-selves, suggest that "writing from fragments," as this project attempts to assert, is a unifying tool for engagement. All three authors employ the autotheoretical form of representation and writing out of ruptures in such a way that the access to a subjective experience or (gender) identity is not simply given, but appears fragmentary, unstable or ambivalent. The indeterminate signatures that appear in this way foreground diverse possibilities of perspectivization and thus open up the potential deconstruction of identity formation. In this work self-references in the form of diary-like fragments enter into explicit exchange with social theoretical discourses, made legible as world-references: relating to capitalist means of production, the heteronormative matrix and corresponding economies of desire, as well as chrononormativity. This inquiry aims to answer the following questions: One, how does an autotheoretical writing process deploy the particular experience of the writer as an object of theoretical interrogation within the constructs of social structures? And two, with what modulations do autotheories reveal their constructive process by incorporating the backgrounds and conditions of their specific knowledge production? The aim of this dissertation project is to clarify how literary language can be used as a critical resource with regard to all processes of identification - with the pleasure of its own transgression (Roland Barthes).
Based on the assumption that autotheories produce a different form of narration, ergo a different manner of reading by writing from fragments, the practical component of this work will measure related reception-aesthetic dimensions through the material-aesthetic properties of book bodies. For this iteration of the autotheoretical procedure, I’ll approach the book layout through different modes of montage (the arrangement of quotations, comments in marginal columns, white spaces revealed through text paragraphs), highlights caesuras that decisively demarcate fractures from self-experience or theory, will be used to define a visual indication of the same. While breaks become apparent in the specific reading or viewing habit inherent to autotheoretical narratives, a direct reflection to the active execution of writing makes possible additional tools for its reception; especially where the linear and indirect arrangements of narrative draws tension to the text field on the immediate graphic book page or surface. Utilizing the temporality of narrative and the spatial domaine of its visual representation, the following questions will be explored: How does the materiality of the page relate to the materiality of the book body? In what way can the threedimensionality of the book body produce reception-aesthetic effects? What would a (book) body be that did not organize its form through firmly assigned structures, but one, that allowed everyone to que(e)r through it in different ways?
Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch
Prof. Dr. Heinz Drügh
Prof. Heiner Blum
Nina Wood is a PhD student at the Offenbach University of Applied Sciences. She completed a bachelor's degree in Integrated Design at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen and a diploma at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach.
In her artistic work, she explores and develops book bodies that do not organize their form through firmly assigned structures, but allow everyone to que(e)r through them in different ways.
To open these spaces of possibility, she combines typography, poetic contexts of voices, images, and narratives tied to experience with book-shaped tactility.
Her work has been on view in exhibitions including
"als wäre ich du" (2023) at basis Projektraum Frankfurt, "Aus heutiger Sicht. Discourses on the Future" (2021) at the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt, "From Our Advertising" (2019) at the HfG Kunsthalle Offenbach. For the Poetry Lectures at Goethe University Frankfurt, she currently curates the exhibition "Reality Checkpoint. Clemens J. Setz gelesen" (2023) in the Schopenhauer Studio of the Central Library.
Nina Wood is engaged in making the boundaries between theory and (artistic) practice more permeable and is freelancing in aesthetic education on queer* genders and sexualities as well as precarity and transience.
Her dissertation project is funded by the Evangelisches Studienwerk e.V.