Developing a Poetics of Flippancy to Document Fourth Wave Feminism

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This practice-based PhD uses a combination of critical and creative work to develop a poetics of flippancy in relation to feminism. Drawing on concepts of the ‘contemporary’ and the ‘constellation’, I theorise a model of poetic and political engagement, which is synthesized through a body of poetry.

The critical work discusses current feminist activism in relation to public feeling, addressing the surges of activity and solidarity that are created through affective ties. Affect is central to this discussion, particularly in my reconceptualization of the feminist wave narrative. Looking to contemporary feminist activism, particularly technological development and recent mainstream publications, I make the case for the wave narrative as an ‘affective temporality.’ Furthermore, I contend that this current fourth-wave affectivity has been catalyzed and shaped by new technologies and activist methodologies coming to the fore.

Having addressed temporality in relation to activism, situating my practice alongside current forms of feminism, I then draw specifically on Mina Loy, Frank O’Hara and Eileen Myles. In doing so, I consider tensions between the political and poetic in their respective socio-historical contexts and bodies of writing, with an eye to developing a flippant poetics relevant to my own. This allows for an investigation of the place that a flippant lyric ‘I’ can occupy within the current moment of feminist activism, making a case for subjective unseriousness as a form of political engagement. Loy’s ‘Feminist Manifesto’ entails a consideration of her specific locatedness, addressing the ways in which fluctuations between Futurism and feminism create a problematic political engagement that appears both fickle and contradictory. In O’Hara’s ‘Personism: A Manifesto’ I employ the constellation as a method of reading the poet’s work, raising questions of the co-existence of the amicable and intimate, with the historical and public. How does Personism, despite its ostensible glibness, offer a form of political and poetic engagement relevant to contemporary feminism? Finally, Myles allows me to address embodied performance, in which the poet continuously places herself at the centre of creative work, complicating the distinctions between Myles as constructed figure and Myles as woman. Combined, these three areas of analysis create a space in which conflicted and changeable, community-orientated, and seemingly embodied experiences of a wider public, can constitute a ‘flippant poetics’ that is politically engaged.

The poetry documents contemporary feminist activism, mobilizing my critical exploration through a body of creative work. Rather than commenting upon my academic writing on wave narratives, the contemporary and the constellation, the creative work is mimetic of current activism itself. This way of writing addresses my central critical concepts, but ensures that the poetry is tethered to the real occurrences of feminism both on and off-line. Each poem has a title and date to indicate the incident, event, march or campaign to which it relates. In doing so, the poems draw on the poetics I have developed in the critical writing; specifically, the locatedness of Loy’s work, the community emphasis of O’Hara’s and the embodied poetics suggested by Myles. The poetic document as a whole gives a reader insight into the development of fourth wave feminism.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Kreider, Kristen, Supervisor
  • Olsen, Redell, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

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