University of Sussex
Joyce, Laura Ellen.pdf (40.75 MB)

Luminol theory and the excavation of narrative & The dead girl scrolls: unearthed apocalyptic fictions

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posted on 2023-06-08, 23:34 authored by Laura Ellen Joyce
This thesis is concerned with developing a new approach to reading and thinking about culture (especially US culture), which I am proposing to call Luminol Theory. Luminol Theory is a textual reading strategy that draws on both psychoanalysis and depth reading. It reveals what has been occulted and it illuminates the contemporary United States as a crime scene. I argue for the singular importance of Luminol Theory as it provides a dystopian account of contemporary culture in the US. A culture that is haunted, that is characterised by injustice and brutality, and that reads bodies as disposable. I introduce luminol as an agent of forensic enquiry that excavates and illuminates narratives, particularly crime narratives, which have been erased. This interdisciplinary intersection of theory, forensic science, and literary criticism offers a specific, contemporary textual reading strategy. I situate Luminol Theory within its origins in feminism (with particular reference to Tiqqun’s theory of the ‘Young-Girl’), psychoanalysis (with particular reference to Kristevan abject-analysis, queer theory, and the field of death studies), and depth reading strategies (working through Paul Ricoeur’s ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ and Michel Foucault’s ‘genealogy’ and ‘archaeology’). Though it draws on each of these fields, Luminol Theory is a new contribution to contemporary literary criticism. The three critical chapters investigate the contemporary Unites States as a crime scene, moving through the exploratory steps that a forensic investigation might take. The first chapter opens with a reading of the crime scene itself by embedding Colorado crime fictions within the violent history of the state. The second chapter discovers artefacts at the scene, reading textual objects for hidden meanings and reading contemporary experimental fiction from the United States as apocalyptic material, through the lens of the Book of Revelation. Just as Revelation literally reveals the cultural anxieties of first millennium Christians and their fears of impending apocalypse so too Skin Horse by Olivia Cronk and Entrance to a Pageant where we all begin to Intricate by Johannes Göransson are apocalyptic texts for the third millennium. The final critical chapter approaches the body of the dead girl at the heart of the crime scene in order to discover the aesthetic coherence between death and femininity and the violence wrought interchangeably by sexual violence and capital. The fourth section of the thesis demonstrates Luminol Theory in practice. This collection of short fictions The Dead Girl Scrolls: Unearthed Apocalyptic Fictions is modelled on the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found serendipitously by shepherds in 1946 in the Qumran caves, West Bank. These scrolls contain a key to ancient languages, cultures, and narratives that were previously hidden. Later forensic analysis of the papyrus scrolls involved using UV light, a blue chemical glow that excavated layers of hidden narrative. By offering a secular version of these sacred texts, The Dead Girl Scrolls operates within a forensic imaginary; that is, it performs an empathetic and creative response to the secular aporia. It does this through offering dead women a central position that refuses to reify, objectify, or fetishise them or their bodies.


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University of Sussex

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