Autotheory as Feminist Practice in Art, Writing, and Criticism

Autotheory as Feminist Practice in Art, Writing, and Criticism

By Lauren Fournier

Autotheory—the commingling of theory and philosophy with autobiography—as a mode of critical artistic practice indebted to feminist writing and activism.





Autotheory—the commingling of theory and philosophy with autobiography—as a mode of critical artistic practice indebted to feminist writing and activism.

In the 2010s, the term “autotheory” began to trend in literary spheres, where it was used to describe books in which memoir and autobiography fused with theory and philosophy. In this book, Lauren Fournier extends the meaning of the term, applying it to other disciplines and practices. Fournier provides a long-awaited account of autotheory, situating it as a mode of contemporary, post-1960s artistic practice that is indebted to feminist writing, art, and activism. Investigating a series of works by writers and artists including Chris Kraus and Adrian Piper, she considers the politics, aesthetics, and ethics of autotheory.

Fournier argues that the autotheoretical turn signals the tenuousness of illusory separations between art and life, theory and practice, work and the self—divisions long blurred by feminist artists and scholars. Autotheory challenges dominant approaches to philosophizing and theorizing while enabling new ways for artists and writers to reflect on their lives. She argues that Kraus's 1997 I Love Dick marked the emergence of a newly performative, post-memoir “I”; recasts Piper's 1971 performance work Food for the Spirit as autotheory; considers autotheory as critique; examines practices of citation in autotheoretical work, including Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts; and looks at the aesthetics and ethics of disclosure and exposure, exploring the nuanced feminist politics around autotheoretical practices and such movements as #MeToo. Fournier formulates autotheory as a reflexive movement, connecting thinking, making art, living, and theorizing.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262045568 320 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 48 color illus., 6 b&w illus.


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262544887 320 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 48 color illus., 6 b&w illus.


  • "A comprehensive monograph that poses a real range of considerations for both artistic and literary autotheory scholarship and practice."

    Contemporary Women's Writing

  • "Anyone interested in contemporary feminist art and writing practices would benefit from reading Fournier's book about this exciting new way of infiltrating theory that has hitherto been dominated by a patriarchal, Eurocentric elite."


  • "Rather than being a dense theoretical tome, the text is populated with a number of sensuous, defiant, provocative film stills and photographs of multivalent artworks. Among the most evocative aspects of the text is a general aim at decentring. Fournier gives considerable attention to inverting margins, both structurally and conceptually."

    The Humber Literary Review

  • "Autotheory as Feminist Practice, then, excels as a 'here we are now' grounding; a nervy, contemporary feminist art history syllabus."


  • "A useful intellectual history of the 'autotheoretical impulse.'"

    Art in America

  • "Autotheory as Feminist Practice is a great tool for discussion and exchange, and not simply a guide. It is a wonderfully rich source, and surely an essential contribution not only to those interested in autotheory: Many of the discussions in it are relevant to anyone engaging with wider concerns in contemporary art, writing, and criticism."


  • "This book is captivating—reading it is an experience akin to the first moment venturing into Judith Butler's Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity."

    Woman's Art Journal

  • "A welcome new addition to the efforts at defining this relatively new genre."

    Los Angeles Review of Books

  • “What makes [the book] such an integral and appealing work is Fournier's acknowledgement of her own background... Fournier's honesty is especially striking... [The book] is more than merely an academic text legitimizing practices that have previously been dismissed. Rather, it is a call to foster community building across disciplines and outside of hierarchical systems, a call for accountability and placing care and community before the individual as philosopher."

    Journal of Curatorial Studies


  • "Lauren Fournier's gift in this book is an autotheory that is much more than self-regard. It becomes a whole series of tactics for thinking and feeling together from the margins—of gender, race, ability, and colonialism. This autotheory creates spaces for being together for those excluded from a culture that only tolerates difference as the mirror to the universal bourgeois subject. Fournier traces many lively lines out of feminist writing and art from the late twentieth century from which those of us committed to making this other culture can draw and elaborate. She writes well of many recognizable figures from our other archive and introduces us to new friends we didn't know we had."

    McKenzie Wark

    author of Reverse Cowgirl