Absurdist-Ethics and Radical Agency in AIDS Cinema: Erotic Genealogies, Absurd Laughter, and Grotesque Aesthetics Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Riley, Samantha Michele
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • Absurdist-Ethics and Radical Agency in AIDS Cinema explores a queer theory of ethics based in a grotesque humor aesthetic. Trans-historical and trans-cultural in nature, this project focuses on key examples from cinema, literature, and popular culture, illustrating the ethical paradigm of a postmodern absurdist-ethics. Drawing on theories of the absurd as a form of metaphysical revolt and notions of ethical relativity, the dissertation argues that Absurdist AIDS Cinema imagines a postmodern ethics in which the representation of radical modes of behavior offers, however controversially, not nihilism but affirmation. The cathartic choice to live absurdly is embodied through radical engagements with HIV in filmmakers’ Rosa von Praunheim’s A Virus Knows No Morals (Germany, 1985), Laura Muscardin’s Days (Italy, 2001), and Samy’s Animal (India, 2007). The assessment of AIDS humor, barebacking, and the virus fashioned through an aesthetic akin with grotesque humor, shows that AIDS should not be read simply as a living death sentence void of agency and meaning, but as a reimagining of ethical discourses surrounding quality of life. Vis-à-vis a postmodern climate, this study proposes an absurdist-ethics signaling that humans who embrace the absurd may wield agency and yield harmony and catharsis. In essence, an absurdist-ethics offers readers an interdisciplinary tool through which to discover a positive and invigorating refiguring of aesthetics within a postmodern paradigm.
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  • González Espitia, Juan Carlos
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

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