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The Punk, the Rebel, and the Cowboy: Queering Masculine Spaces in Patti Smith's memoirs

McCarthy, Amy ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2183-3816 (2023) The Punk, the Rebel, and the Cowboy: Queering Masculine Spaces in Patti Smith's memoirs. In: Garrigós, Cristina and Ahonen, Marika, (eds.) Women in Rock Memoirs. Oxford University Press

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In Patti Smith’s memoirs, the figure of the cowboy first appears in Just Kids (2010). Robert Mapplethorpe and Smith both refer to cowboys in their works and apply the familiar outlaw tropes to themselves as artists. In M Train (2015), the cowboy manifests as a recurring character. He is no longer merely conceptual and is a more fully developed element of Smith’s imagination as she incorporates dreams with reality. In this article I will argue that Smith takes a conservative, masculine figure and usurps his mythical identity. The cowboy acts as a vessel for Smith to transcend consciouses.

Just like the cowboy, Smith is striving towards a new frontier – firstly in her music as a pioneering woman in punk and secondly in her reshaping of the music memoir genre. The music memoir genre is a male-dominated arena, similar to the music industry it represents. Since 2010, Smith has innovated the genre and marked the start in the rise of women’s rock memoirs.

Patti Smith crosses conscious and unconscious realms to merge her creative life with mundane reality. Dancing through literature, dreams, and personal milestones in her writing, Smith presents the layers of consciousness that create a person and place. Mixing fiction and reality in her memoirs mirrors the bricolage aesthetic of punk. In each memoir, Smith brings these elements together to curate a version of herself to present to her reader.

Smith takes fragments of the cowboy identity and creates her own version who subverts patriarchal heteronormativity. Smith claims authority in male-dominated spaces, both in her art and who she classifies as her role models, therefore queers a masculine space. By using the existing masculine culture surrounding the cowboy, she tears it up and reattaches it to create a portal to her psyche.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/8674

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