Reading contemporary literature can clarify a difficult and contested—yet important—argument made by Judith Butler and Isabell Lorey in their theorizations of precarity. For Butler and Lorey, precarity is an ambivalent condition: precaritization is a mode of domination, yet it also opens up new opportunities for creating political community. Such an argument runs the risk of seeming to justify or defend neoliberal exploitation. But we show how literary modes of representation work to make precarity’s complex ambivalence—the coexistence of despair and hope, isolation and belonging—visible and legible. To make this argument, we examine two very different examples of contemporary British writing: Chris Dunkley’s play The Precariat (2013), which focuses on inner-city, working-class youth, and Amy Liptrot’s memoir The Outrun (2016), in which an aspiring creative worker begins to feel increasingly attuned to nature during her recovery from addiction. Through close readings of these works, we show how their literary and dramatic strategies enable them to suggest both the difficulty and anxiety, and the possibility and hope, that exist within the experience of precarity. Reading these texts together therefore renders Butler and Lorey’s difficult and controversial argument about the potential of precarity easier to grasp and imagine.
Hogg, Emily J. and Simonsen, Peter
"The Potential of Precarity? Imagining Vulnerable Connection in Chris Dunkley's The Precariat and Amy Liptrot's The Outrun,"
Criticism: Vol. 62:
1, Article 1.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol62/iss1/1