David Wojnarowicz Reading Group

Ruth Quer

Join us to discuss the writings of American artist, writer and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992).

We will be focusing on the following six (very short) extracts:

  • The Lonely City pp. 110-117
  • Close to the Knives: ‘In the Shadow of the American Dream’ pp. 61-69, ‘Being Queer in America’ pp. 89-92, ‘Living Close to the Knives’ pp. 108-119
  • The Waterfront Journals: ‘Young Woman in Coffee Shop on the Lower East Side’ pp. 49-50, ‘Boy in YMCA’ pp. 125-6
  • Weight of the Earth: ‘June 1989’


All readings are available in a Google Drive folder here.

Our discussion, led by Laura Henderson-Child (BA English) and John Livesey (BA English), will aim to explore questions such as:

  • In light of the recent re-discovery of his work (2018 saw a retrospective of his work at the Whitney, and much of his writing has recently been reprinted), why Wojnarowicz now?
  • What is Wojnarowicz’s relationship to life-writing? How does he synthesise the self and other?
  • What relationship exists between Wojnarowicz’s visual art and writing? What techniques are manifest in both? Collage? Relief? Appropriation?
  • How do we develop an ethics for the study of Wojnarowicz? Is there value in isolating his writing from his art? His published work from his personal tape journals? What can we learn from his archives?
  • What is Wojnarowicz’s relationship to his historical political moment? What can we read from his relationship to his contemporaries, to the AIDS crisis, to technology, to Reagan’s ‘End of History’?
  • What is Wojnarowicz’s relationship to space and place: both abstract and material? How does he articulate the experience of the city and the country? How does he respond to their historical-political development: gentrification, segregation, occupation?

The event will be followed by a drinks reception.

All are most welcome.

The venue is fully accessible.


If you have any questions, please contact ruth.ramsden-karelse@gmail.com


Image: David Wojnarowicz, Arthur Rimbaud in New York, 1978-79.