Tuesday, 14 March 2000

From "The Laughter of Narcissism: Loving Hot White Andy and the Troubling Chain of Equivalence"

By Jennifer Cooke.

[...] that fight, which does, I believe, critique how an environment of substitutability and exchange may infect our thinking of the personal, also has a corollary effect, which is to reify the individual. In this case, it is the individuality of the poet’s voice, which has proved itself more than capable of subsuming and ventriloquising the voices of others, of dominating the scene and of taking up and taking over many of the character positions in the poem. This would appear to be narcissism, and not just the performance of it, but it is a narcissism paradoxically constitutive for the critique it informs. Knowing the other, for Narcissus, is knowing the self; similarly, the other(s) of “Hot White Andy” all lead inexorably back to the earnest and very male voice which finally declares itself “a real man / accumulating men, desire and intensity until I die.” [...] Sincere declaration or parody or both? The impossibility of deciding leaves the reader confronted with the power of the individual poetic voice. The individual self, however important a category for the poet who wishes to know himself, as in Wordsworth’s project, is a construct and one that has been extremely convenient to the dissemination of capitalist thinking and the behavioural inculcation that accompanies it.

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