Alex Brostoff

Bodies of Theory: Auto-Relational Writing Across the Americas

My dissertation investigates subversive literary reactions to two disciplinary developments: the rise of high theory and the institutionalization of programs in the study of gender and race in the Americas. On their margins, I claim, queer forms of writing begin to emerge in the 1980s. Rather than parody how philosophy falters beyond the ivory tower (as the theory novel has), I show how this corpus redresses theory’s elision of an embodied subject, melding theory with life writing to critique the structural conditions under which knowledge is produced. My study, which combines intellectual history with close readings of Argentine, Brazilian, and American texts, compares the sites of schooling and broader social movements from which this corpus emerges and upon which it acts. From Third World Feminism’s “theory in the flesh” to Brazilian outlaw poetry’s “body in heteronyms” to Euro-American crossings of “autotheory,” I maintain that these marginal writing cultures react against their schooling by forging culturally and historically-specific modes of fleshing out an “I” that is always already relational. At the crux of my study are the relational effects of theory on self-figuration and the ways in which embodied subjects contest what constitutes theory today.