Monograph Project

The Post-Medium Era of American Class Performativity

My current research and monograph project, The Post-Medium Era of American Class Performativity, examines the representation of class and its performative iterations in pop cultural narratives and visual art. Inspired by Michael Denning’s study of the ghetto pastoral and working-class ventriloquism in American literature and culture, I aim to characterize and problematize the cultural circulations of social and economic class in America from the mid-19th century to the contemporary period, identifying narrative pressures on contemporary class rhetoric as it moves between mediums and modulates visibility.

This work theorizes how under-class and working-class representations are separated from material pressures in order to imbue American cultural narratives with individualistic and entrepreneurial potential. I argue that the triangulation of cultural capital, social class and economic status construct forceful ideologies that reify hegemonic subject-positions in the 20 & 21st centuries. These subject-positions often frame class stratification as an expression of gender, race and/or sexuality, and use creative capacity to render social issues like poverty a valuable, cultural entity.

A tentative chapter outline is as follows:

Introduction: Positioning Class Performativity

  • Examines James Agee & Walker Evans’ journalistic approach to class (re)presentation to provide an entry point to the mixed-media mobility of American class performativity.

Part 1: Performativity On the Road

  • ’A Jack-of-All-Trades’: Jack Kerouac’s Fashionable Practice of Working-Class Drag
  • Queer Class Aesthetics: The Graphic Visualization of Camp in Erika Lopez’s Flaming Iguanas
  • The Cross-Country/Cross-Class Drives of Don Draper/Dick Whitman: Examining Mad Men’s Hobo Narrative

Part 2: The Industry of Art: Position and Performance

  • The Capital Investments of American Identity in Rebecca Harding Davis’ Iron Mills
  • The Phallic Trappings of ‘The Eisenhower Penis Tour’ in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  • Poverty and the Popular: Charles Bukowski, the Patron Saint of Skid Row

Part 3: Media (Re)presentations and Performativity

  • Circulating Solidarity and Denim in Media Representations of Civil Rights Demonstrations
  • ‘Closet Capitalists at Heart’: Queer-Class Economy in the Work of John Waters.
  • Marketing Millennial Women: Embodied Class Performativity on American Television

Conclusion: Post-medium Performativity in the Factory

  • Draws on the post-medium master Andy Warhol as a way to envision the importance of performativity within previous sections. Calls for the importance of interdisciplinary and cross-medium study.