Humanities 370 students this summer dissected historical narratives to explore intersections of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. Utilizing scholars such as Deborah Root (Cannibal Culture), Linda Williams (“Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess”), Edward Said (Orientalism), Karin L. Stanford (“Keepin’ It Real in Hip Hop Politics: A Political Perspective of Tupac Shakur”), and Gwendolyn Pough (“Seeds and Legacies: Tapping the Potential in Hip Hop”), students created deformance critiques containing images, music, and analysis.
HACKS are digital learning activities that I developed in 2014 for History 110 students at San Diego State University as a Teaching Associate. The HACKS have been archived and are linked to upper division Humanities classes and are integrated into Layered Student Research. New HACKS from American Culture this summer are also part of the archive, making them accessible for new examinations this fall in Humanities 409.
I am totally thrilled that the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association is hosting its convention right here in San Diego! On Thursday, I will present my current work on Kurt Cobain, which is rooted in previous research conducted in my M.A. thesis, and encompasses new examinations of masculinity and queered performance as expressions of radical feminism.
Title: Kurt Cobain: Inverting American Masculinity in Grunge Kurt Cobain is notably grunge’s most famous figurehead to both rock fans and consumers of mainstream media outlets. His name alone invokes a tempest of tragic memories, iconic performances, as well as visceral criticism and conspiracy associated with Courtney Love. Twenty-five years after Nirvana released their now multi-platinum album Nevermind, Cobain still graces covers of magazines, is heard on the airwaves, and remains the subject of popular inquiry. Unfortunately, the continued quest to sustain the masculine ephemerality of the rock icon by commercial conglomerates imprisons Cobain’s true identity as a radical feminist. Scholarship and rock journalism have done little to change the established masculinist narrative of Cobain and grunge which further entombs his feminist legacy. This multi-modal presentation strives to exhume Cobain’s identity as a radical feminist who performed powerful critiques of late 20th-century masculinity structures in the United States through grunge. Cobain’s creative use of circus culture, Camp, and gender subversion were violent and poignant expressions of radical feminism intended to devalue American masculinity. This project cross-examines the commercial masculinist memory associated with Cobain and grunge by analyzing primary source interviews of those closest to Cobain and critiquing mediated and live performances. Through the deployment of Speech-Act Theory, Feminist Musicology, and Queer Theory this project highlights the successful inversion tactics of Kurt Cobain to distort constructions of American masculinity and heterosexuality.
Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl
Sharing a statement from the Department of Women’s Studies at SDSU on November 15, 2016.
We are the Department of Women’s Studies at San Diego State University, and in light of the unprecedented presidential campaign and election, we want to reaffirm unambiguously who we are and what we believe in. We cannot and will not endorse a leader whose campaign was built on hate and abuse. We will continue to point out and challenge the many ways that sexism undermines the accomplishments of women and silences their voices, and we will never stop fighting for all women to be able to control their own bodies. We reject any attempt to normalize sexual assault, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia, as well as the vilification of immigrants and the disabled. We believe that affordable college education is a powerful vehicle for fighting widespread ignorance and hatred, and we remain committed to teaching for social justice and critical consciousness. We are in solidarity with all communities who have been marginalized, ostracized, and made more vulnerable by this election. Our feelings and our fears are valid. We are heartsick, we are appalled, and we are resolute. We are feminists of all genders, sexualities, races and faiths, and we will continue to fight.
A big thank you to the English Graduate Student Association at California State University Long Beach for inviting me to speak at their Alterna[rra]tives Conference last week. What a great group of young and innovative scholars!
They were kind enough to create a little Mp4 of my intro-thought I would share.
If you’d like to read my abstract on grunge feminism click here.
I came to San Diego State three years ago determined to creatively engage with primary sources and theory through the digital. I set out to research a medium, IN its medium, and then create a platform where the musical artifacts were left intact; accessible and not interpreted for the reader. I wanted the reader to experience, what I experienced. After a couple of existential crises surrounding “feminism” and a lengthy administrative battle to create a digital piece of scholarship for my degree, my thesis is ready in its 1.0 phase.
If you choose to click on the link below, you’ll find an interactive PDF specifically created in a non-linear format. That means that there is no “one way” to read this. There is no beginning, there is no end. It’s written in a way that you can access anything from anywhere. There are hyperlinks in the document (little purple boxes). Click on one of those and POOF! you’re Alice falling down a rabbit hole and you’ll end up in another section (which will make sense when you get there…or not.) Click on one of the listed images or songs from the introduction and you’ll be brought right there and be able to listen, view, or read a quote. Go in, fall back out, follow a trail, or read one whole section. It’s meant to be experienced…in any kind of state. Come on in, the grunge is grunge.
Linnea Zeiner M.A. History, San Diego State University, 2015
The history of grunge and the meaning of its musical expression has suffered as a result of its early categorization as a hyper-masculinized and hetero-sexualized rock genre. This unfortunate classification at the hands of rock journalism and music media outlets misinterpreted the artists’ cultural criticisms as simply anti-authority and generation X angst, when in fact, many artists posed serious challenges to late 20th century conventions of gender, sexuality, and feminism. These male and female artists,rebelled against binary gender conventions by performing queered and camped identities, that were commercially misinterpreted, packaged as “grunge”, and sold to the masses. Consequently, in spite of commercial praise and success for their music, the many gender provocateurs in grunge have been widely overlooked by scholarship and activism. The female grunge artists have had it the worst; lacking the recognition as both gender-fucking performers and as serious contributors to a unique music movement that saw more female-led bands with mainstream airplay, high album sales, and more concert tickets sold, than ever before in rock history. This thesis, in order to exhume the untold history of grunge, discards the old categories and cultural trappings created for the genre and instead explores the performative value of its abstractions, contradictions, and abjections as feministic expressions. To begin to disinter the marginalized female grunge artists, it is necessary to begin with unequivocally, the most marginalized and chastised female of all, Courtney Love. Love’s legacy has been so distorted that her counter-culture feministic expressions have been subsumed. This thesis aims to illuminate the physical and lyrical hypertext deployed by Love to create her personal evolution of her punk feminism, grunge, into a new queered feministic expression examined through her albums Pretty on the Inside (1991) and Live Through This (1994).
L7 has announced plans to reunite for its first live performances in nearly 15 years. The Los Angeles band led by Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner, whose ferocious brand of grunge and punk was championed heavily by Nirvana, have confirmed gigs at Spain’s Azkena Rock Festival and France’s Hell Fest, with the promise that “more dates will be added, so don’t freak out!”
Additionally, the band has thrown its support behind a new documentary. A Kickstarter page for L7: Pretend We’re Dead, directed by Sarah Prince, went live Tuesday and has already raised $6,300 as of publication. An accompanying description says the film is “culled from over 100 hours of vintage home movies taken by the band, never-before-seen performance footage, and candid interviews.”