Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art (Hardcover)

Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art By Lauren Elkin Cover Image
Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now


"Destined to become a new classic . . . Elkin shatters the truisms that have evolved around feminist thought.” —Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick and After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography

One of Lit Hub's most anticipated books of 2023

What kind of art does a monster make? And what if monster is a verb? Noun or a verb, the idea is a dare: to overwhelm limits, to invent our own definitions of beauty.

In this dazzlingly original reassessment of women’s stories, bodies, and art, Lauren Elkin—the celebrated author of Flâneuse—explores the ways in which feminist artists have taken up the challenge of their work and how they not only react against the patriarchy but redefine their own aesthetic aims. How do we tell the truth about our experiences as bodies? What is the language, what are the materials, that we need to transcribe them? And what are the unique questions facing those engaged with female bodies, queer bodies, sick bodies, racialized bodies?

Encompassing with a rich genealogy of work across the literary and artistic landscape, Elkin makes daring links between disparate points of reference— among them Julia Margaret Cameron’s photography, Kara Walker’s silhouettes, Vanessa Bell’s portraits, Eva Hesse’s rope sculptures, Carolee Schneemann’s body art, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s trilingual masterpiece DICTEE—and steps into the tradition of cultural criticism established by Susan Sontag, Hélène Cixous, and Maggie Nelson.

An erudite, potent examination of beauty and excess, sentiment and touch, the personal and the political, the ambiguous and the opaque, Art Monsters is a radical intervention that forces us to consider how the idea of the art monster might transform the way we imagine—and enact—our lives.

About the Author

Lauren Elkin's essays have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Guardian, Frieze, and The Times Literary Supplement. Her book Flâneuse was named a notable book of 2017 by The New York Times Book Review and was a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. A native New Yorker, she lived in Paris for twenty years and now resides in London.

Praise For…

"Art Monsters joins a larger conversation about monstrousness and art. [. . .] provoking new, deeper questions about how feminism can and must evolve to engage with those who do things differently." The Guardian

"A truly feminist work . . . building a ‘monstrous network’ of artists, while allowing the work to shape itself, veering between beauty and excess, and so to find its own monstrous form." New Statesman

"A lively and vibrant account of feminist art that articulates the everyday experience of having a body . . . [a] superb book’" The Spectator

"Insightful, provocative and at times heartbreaking." Literary Review

"Elkin proves a more informative guide to feminist trends in the visual arts, bringing many an ephemeral happening energetically back to life." Daily Telegraph

“Expertly blending astute critical analysis with intellectual curiosity, Elkin resists easy answers about questions of femininity, physicality, and art, leading the text into rich and unexpected directions. Even those well acquainted with feminist art will be enlightened.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Lauren Elkin’s exhaustive, incisive re-readings of feminist writing and art across several centuries prove that the questions raised in these works are far from resolved. In fact, they're more timely than ever. The book seems destined to become a new classic. Making a passionate case for the monstrosity entailed in all acts of creation, Elkin shatters the truisms that have evolved around feminist thought.” —Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick and After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography

“Lauren Elkin has the nerve to defend the guilty, fight tooth and claw for long abandoned causes while making heroines out of trouble makers. Her book makes you take sides, change sides, change back and sometimes shout out loud with furious indignation, but you won’t find anything like this history, told in this way, anywhere else.” —Lubaina Himid, Turner Prize-winning artist

“Elkin’s authority as a cultural critic springs from her signature style of curious questioning. Rather than imposing her conclusions on the reader, she juxtaposes ideas, images, language, in a vivid collage that invites us to look more deeply. Never linear—because life isn’t—but perpetually moving, in both senses of the word.” Jeanette Winterson, author of Frankissstein

“Soaring and vivid, the experience of reading Art Monsters is like watching a lightning storm at night, each chapter a bolt of light. A remarkable twinning of intellect and brightest scholarship, it left me giddy with possibility.” Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of A Ghost in the Throat

“A fascinating re-visioning and re-imagining of women artists who have used their bodies in all sorts of creative, subversive ways. Lauren Elkin provides fresh insight into more familiar names and works, and brings plenty of less well-known ones to light, taking us through more than a century of women who boldly took on the world.” —Juliet Jacques, author of Trans: a memoir

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374105952
ISBN-10: 0374105952
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: November 14th, 2023
Pages: 368
Language: English