Carl Watts is from Hamilton, Ontario, and holds a PhD in English from Queen’s University. He has taught literature at Queen’s, Royal Military College, and Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in mainland China. Aside from articles, book reviews, and poems, he has published two poetry chapbooks, Reissue (Frog Hollow, 2016) and Originals(Anstruther, 2020), as well as a short monograph, Oblique Identity: Form and Whiteness in Recent Canadian Poetry(Frog Hollow, 2019). His debut full-length collection of critical essays, I Just Wrote This Five Minutes Ago, was just published by Gordon Hill Press.
“a dungeon every night and every day”: The Zany Neo-liberal Subject, Alcohol, and Poetic Agency in Catriona Wright’s Table Manners
This article locates Catriona Wright’s Table Manners (2017) within a framework of cultural criticism that describes the neoliberal dissolution of boundaries between work and leisure time as well as Sianne Ngai’s conception of the zany subject. It locates in this reality the rituals of consumption that furnish Wright’s subject matter, finding that her depiction of alcohol consumption, specifically, at once sustains participation in this economy and denies her poetic subjects agency. Suggesting that Wright departs from common depictions of alcohol consumption in Canadian poetry, the paper argues that Table Manners registers a dynamic of neoliberal containment in its engagement with food culture as well as with a repetitious, consciously traditionalist poetics that forecloses any possibility of fulfillment in the development of one’s poetic craft. At the same times, its registering of neoliberalism at its most jarring, using its very curatorial tools, indicates a possibility of poetic agency.
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