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The Digital Transition of Queer Zines


Joe Rupprecht '18
Joe Rupprecht '18

During his sophomore spring, Joe Rupprecht ’18 read Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker in the class Experimental Women Writers, taught by Associate Professor of Literature and Creative Writing Tina Hall. Acker, an American feminist writer, belonged to the late 1970s New Narrative movement in experimental writing. The New Narrative movement strove to promote authenticity in writing by moving away from a language poetry dominated by straight white men. It embraces non-conformity by representing a mélange of different identities, specifically ones affiliated with the gay and feminist movements.

“New Narrative is, by nature, experimental. The fact that the writing is so rough around the edges is what I love about it. But it also means that the work is unlikely to be covered in-depth in a classroom setting,” said Rupprecht. From this desire to expand his knowledge on the work of Acker and other New Narrative writers, Rupprecht crafted his 2017 Emerson Grant proposal, “Art as Resistance: New Narrative Writers and Queer Zine Culture of the 1980s.”

“The cut-and-paste structure of Blood and Guts in High School is anything but linear. By jumping between narrators and modes of narration frequently, the novel is divorced from a specific narrative authority. The author can finally be anyone,” said Rupprecht. This challenging text is constructed using the technique of collage, with letters, poems, dream visions and drawings interspersed throughout prose.

 Though the main focus of the New Narrative movement was based in writing texts on radical politics, queerness and feminism, the genre also encompassed a variety of other hybrid media. Independent magazines, known as “zines,” were another popular form of queer-feminist media where many New Narrative writers were published. Many of these low-brow zines were roughly copy-and-pasted together then Xeroxed, creating a distinct look which would come to define trash aesthetics.                                             

Joe Rupprecht ’18

Concentration: creative writing

Hometown: Syracuse, NY

High School: Christian Brothers Academy

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It is from these zines that Rupprecht is gathering bits and piece of text and imagery to input into a twitterbot. Then the twitterbot, using the bank of imputed words, will scramble the text and tweet messages. This modern reinterpretation of zine culture brings printed media into the digital world, while still maintaining the non-linear essence of New Narrative.

In addition to text, Rupprecht is also exploring the work of other queer artists working around this time period, including photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, musician Paty Smith and others.

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