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Acker, Kathy

expectations language

(US, 1947–97)

A native New Yorker, Acker was initially seen as part of the punk movement; she came to prominence as a serious writer while living in London, and later moved to San Francisco. Her writing reflects an extreme response both to literary tradition and to the expectations of readers, often incorporating classic male texts, with graphic sexual language, and disrupting usual notions of authorship. This is brilliantly done in Great Expectations (1982), which takes off from Dickens's novel into far bleaker female autobiography, describing anguished personal relations; the narrative is constantly interrupted by other kinds of text. Similarly radical effects are at work in Don Quixote (1986), a nightmare journey through language and history to Nixon's America, and Empire of the Senseless (1988). A good way into Acker's difficult but fascinating work would be a collection of shorter pieces, Eurydice in the Underworld (1997).

William Burroughs, Jean Genet  JS

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