Subjectivities and counterpublics in 20th-century Christian leftist texts

Robert LeBlanc, University of Rhode Island


Subjectivities and Counterpublics in 20th-Century Christian Leftist Texts responds to the following question: How have recent film and literary voices of the Christian left addressed counterpublics suited to their emergent and pressing needs? In exploring answers to this question, the project considers the role of radical artistic expressions in addressing a politically motivated public sphere. The three core chapters provide close readings of literary texts and films from the second half of the 20th Century that seek to tie themselves to markers of Christian tradition while still operating in a radicalizing way on reading and viewing audiences. In these three core chapters, the dissertation engages the methodologies of cultural studies in investigating the ways that texts and films operate on publics. This project also makes frequent reference to recent ethical theory, especially the late work of Michel Foucault. The conclusion chapter applies Foucauldian ethics to a consideration of the ethical roles played by these Christian leftist singularities in counterpublic spheres. ^ The findings of this project indicate a shift in Christian lefts away from foundationalist traditions usually associated with Christian identity, and toward a nonidentitarian set of ethical imperatives. These ethical imperatives, which resist dominant discourses of the institutions of state power, are associated with these texts and films through the meaning effects that proliferate in their spheres of influence and publication. The fraught processes of self-fashioning whereby these texts and films are seen to practice a form of radical advocacy are observed at sites of effaced public presence and instances of metatextual straining beyond the unstable spaces of page and screen. Christian leftist subjectivities are seen to condition their appearances in public with regard to political pressures and radical aesthetics. ^ A chapter on poetry associated with Christian lefts surveys the work of Thomas Merton, Denise Levertov, and Daniel Berrigan. Later chapters on Christian leftist presences in narrative and documentary film survey the work of Martin Scorsese and recent documentaries on Christian leftist "outsider artists" Jandek, Henry Darger, and Daniel Johnston. This project considers the extent to which radical self-fashioning can maintain an affirmative relation to Christian practice. ^

Subject Area

Religion, Philosophy of|Literature, American|Political Science, General|Cinema

Recommended Citation

Robert LeBlanc, "Subjectivities and counterpublics in 20th-century Christian leftist texts" (2010). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3415498.