Cecily (Yujiao) Chen

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20192020 Forum on Kinship

Cecily (Yujiao) Chen

English & History of Art

CAS, 2020

Cecily is a senior pursuing a double major in English (with a concentration in Literary Theory and Cultural Studies) and History of Art. She is currently working on her honors thesis in English on the works of Kathy Acker, and their discussions of sex, intimacy, vulnerability, and desire. Her primary academic interests are the intersection between writing and visual arts, affect theory, identity politics, the body, and the representation of feminine desire in art. You can usually find her in an art museum, at a concert, or playing with the cat at the Last Word Bookshop. Her academic writings have been published in the Kunstkammer: Princeton University Undergraduate Journal of Art and Columbia Journal of Art History. She has previously worked at the San Francisco-based independent punk rock zine RE/Search Publications, as well as the Philadelphia-based literary journal bedfellows, which publishes contemporary poetry about desire and intimacy.

Feeling Good about Feeling Bad: Sex, Pain, and Vulnerability in Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School

In Blood and Guts in High School, Kathy Acker depicts female sexual promiscuity without reducing it to erotic fantasy or elevating it to moral imperative, thus creating an interesting rupture within current feminist and sexuality discourse: How does one think about sex without framing it as inherently politically militant? Borrowing from recent scholarship in porn studies and affect theory, I will primarily examine the affective potential of Acker’s sexually explicit writing and illustration. Unfolding the sexual realities and promiscuous impulses of women—often neglected in mainstream feminist discourse—Acker invites her readers to “feel good about feeling bad,” to not feel alone in their sexual or existential anxieties, and to join her in creating a reciprocity of kinship and empathy between reader and text.