J. Ryan Marks
During my CHI fellowship, I will be at work on my dissertation project, "Drop the Subject: Ranting and Inappopriation in Contemporary American Literature." Cast as uncompromising, negative, monologic, selfish, and alienating, what’s conventionally dismissed as ranting is a form of incivility that, as a result of the limits to how aggrieved are subjects recognized, has been undertheorized. “Drop the Subject” contends that a critical engagement with rants is useful for contemporary American literary criticism exactly because it forces a re-evaluation of what occurs within the broad bandwidth of writing dismissed as expression in the discussion of identity politics. This project coordinates major flashpoints of social transgression in literature and identity politics, from the Free Speech Movement’s attempts in the late 1960s to garner support for civil rights causes on campus through tactical use of obscenity to recent controversies in poetry that reveal how identity politics in the academy is currently critically siloed, discouraging cross-pollination and engagement. A literary study of fiction and nonfiction employing the tactics of ranting pushes the acknowledged influence of political radicalism on style into writing online, where trolling and baiting tactics pull recognizable debates out of their institutionally sanctioned contexts.