The Rhetoric of Madness in Kathy Acker’s Don Quixote

Claudia Cao


This essay examines the rhetorical experimentation of Don Quixote by Kathy Acker, starting from a theoretical concept central in the author’s thought: her search for a “language of the body”. A brief introduction to Kathy Acker’s plagiaristic poetics frames her narrative strategies between postmodern rewriting and pastiche. It shows the way in which her Don Quixote transposes the representative scheme of the chivalric quest into the contemporary value system with the aim of questioning Cervantes’ text as one of the canonical works of the Western literary tradition. The following section deepens three focal concepts of Acker’s theoretical works – body, madness, and norm – illuminating the connections between her rhetorical experimentation and the works by Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler. Finally, the paper will demonstrate how these concepts in Acker's rewriting of Don Quixote are strictly related to paradox, which she uses in order to actualize a “language of the body”: in the passage from the former novel to the postmodern work, madness has become the device which, from the semantic level to the rhetorical one, expresses Acker’s idea of language of the body, as an alternative and in contrast to the canonical language of the logos. 



Rewriting, Pastiche, Madness, Feminism, Luce Irigaray, Judith Butler

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