The Rhetoric of the Manifesto Open Access

Sinkey, Anne (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8c97kq58m?locale=en
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Abstract

From as early as Marx's "Brumaire," the historical experience of failed revolutions was reflected in political rhetoric that lamented the broken promises of liberal ideals; the tension between maintaining hope for such ideals to be fulfilled, on the one hand, and skepticism that such ideals are unattainable, on the other, came to constitute the manifesto genre in the avant-garde of the early 20th century. This dissertation provides readings of manifestoes from Marx, the avant-garde (Futurism and Dada), Valerie Solanas, feminism, gay liberation, and Queer Nation as exemplary of a tradition of dissent that exposes tensions within liberal politics. Specific rhetorical strategies enacted in the genre expose ways in which the liberal subject was always already performative, always already constituted as a citizen through political language, and always already part of a process that was failed and/or incomplete.

I recontextualize the history of feminist and queer criticism as belonging to the manifesto tradition to show that feminist political theory, indeed, political theory in general, cannot move "past" the problems of liberalism until these problems are historicized, and until the assertion of liberal vocabularies and dissent against their limits are seen as two components of a single gesture. This failure to recognize historical influence is built into the rhetorical strategies of the genre via strategic deployment of notions of history and the future. Such strategies, adopted by feminist and queer theory, risk the unwitting perpetuation of the dream of a unified, complete liberal subject, a risk that is taken through the denial of the inherited strategies of the manifesto. By re-reading the significance of gender and sexuality into the history of the manifesto, I argue that queer and feminist political theory has the opportunity to reclaim a hidden tradition of criticism and dissent within the historical trajectory of liberal politics.

Table of Contents

Introduction The Manifesto and Contemporary Theory Chapter One "Men and Women Are Created Equal": Declarations, Parodic Counter-Declarations, and the Category of the Citizen Chapter Two "Leap Here! Dance Here!": Immanent Critique and Linguistic Action in Marx Chapter Three "The very first dawn": Legitimization Anxiety, Gender, and Experimentation in Avant-Garde Manifestoes Chapter Four "SCUM," History, and the Strategy of the "Post": Valerie Solanas and SCUM Manifesto Chapter Five Reading the "Post" into the Second Wave: Lesbian Feminism and the Manifesto Genre Chapter Six From "Refugee Camp" to Queer Nation: The Manifesto and Historical Forgetting Conclusion Towards a Post-Revolutionary, Post- Nostalgic Manifesto Genre Bibliography

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