Judy Grahn's Violent, Feminist Camp
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- The Body and the Book, 2008, First, pp. 319 - 330
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It is often said that feminists, especially radical lesbian feminists, are not funny. Conservatives have levelled lack of humour at feminists as a political weapon, as a sort of baseline attack: the claims of feminists, they have argued, are a bit of a joke, whereas they themselves are not funny. With Judy Grahn, we see this weapon being wielded figuratively in retaliation: not only is her work funny, it is violently funny and both funny and violent. In my reading of two of her poems, 'The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke' and 'I have come to claim', I argue that Grahn's humour plays on elements of camp and violence as a site of political subversion. At the time of writing both poems, during the 1960s, Grahn was very concerned with working-class, feminist, lesbian politics. These concerns arise thematically in her work of the 1960s, where she deals with sexual violence, homosexuality, racism and class politics. My focus here is not so much on thematics but on the aesthetics of Grahn's poetry. How do camp humour and violent imagery articulate her concerns?
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