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Kathy AckerWriting the Impossible$
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Georgina Colby

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780748683505

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748683505.001.0001

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Ekphrasis, Abstraction, and Myth: ‘From Psyche’s Journal’, Eurydice in the Underworld, ‘Requiem’

Ekphrasis, Abstraction, and Myth: ‘From Psyche’s Journal’, Eurydice in the Underworld, ‘Requiem’

(p.215) Chapter 6 Ekphrasis, Abstraction, and Myth: ‘From Psyche’s Journal’, Eurydice in the Underworld, ‘Requiem’
Kathy Acker

Georgina Colby

Edinburgh University Press

The final chapter of the study examines Acker’s practices of ekphrasis and reappropriation of mythology in her final works. Chapter six offers a close reading of ‘From Psyche’s Journal’, Acker’s creative critical piece on Cathy de Monchaux’s sculptural work, examining the ekphrastic impulse of the work. Ekphrasis is read as enabling Acker to access the materiality of sculpture in her writing. Acker’s writing practices are placed within the context of postwar abstract sculpture by women, with a particular focus on Eva Hesse’s idea of absurdity that ‘is not a “thing” but, “the sensation of the thing.”’ Acker’s ekphrastic practice is brought into dialogue with her practice of the reappropriation of mythology, and the conceptual practice that is termed here ‘literary calisthenics’, which arises from her experiments with language and bodybuilding. Acker’s two later texts, Eurydice in the Underworld (1997) and Electra (1997) are addressed in light of Elaine Scarry’s work on the difficulty of expressing physical pain. Acker’s experiments that move towards a non-verbal language against ordinary language, and the silent languages of the body, facilitate the voicing of pain, and in particular the relation between physical pain and imagining.

Keywords:   ekphrasis, abstract art, Cathy de Monchaux, sculpture, bodybuilding, literary calisthenics, pain, impossibility, myth

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