"Qu’est-ce que c’est?': Affect, Subjectivity, and Neoliberalism in Talking Heads and John Ashbery."

John "Jack" William Chelgren. "Qu’est-ce que c’est?': Affect, Subjectivity, and Neoliberalism in Talking Heads and John Ashbery.". Honors Thesis, University of Washington. 2015.

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The 1970s were a distinctive period in US culture and national identity, a precursor to ascendence of neoliberalism in the 1980s when social, political, and ideological crisis touched all aspects of society. In this climate of conflict and upheaval, a number of prominent writers of poetry and popular music produced works that rejected traditional modes of expression for more impersonal, ambiguous representations of selfhood and feeling. My research examines the relationship between affect and subjectivity in two prominent works of US lyric writing in the late 1970s, John Ashbery's book Houseboat Days and Talking Heads's album Talking Heads: 77. Drawing on theoretical work by Sara Ahmed, Brian Massumi, Lauren Berlant, and Sianne Ngai, I demonstrate how the feelings depicted in these works reveal the narrators' subjectivities as socially constructed, and in so doing challenge modes of selfhood privileged and normalized by neoliberal, late capitalist ideology.

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Completed/published
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