Biopoetics of Control and Resistance in William Burroughs’ The "Nova" Trilogy

    Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


    William Burroughs’ oft-quoted idea that language is a virus is often reflected in the many different versions of the posthuman found today. While this idea of language as virus has been behind many information theoretical readings of Burroughs’ works, it is clear that Burroughs’ poetics is as much a poetics of embodiment, or what I will call a biopoetics.
    In order to develop this notion of biopoetics, I will draw both on Eugene Thacker's argument about biomedia as the conflation of information and body (Thacker 2004), or what we can call bioinformatics. However, this leaves unanswered the question of bioenergetics, or the question of the felt intensities of Burroughs' writing. To develop this affective dimension of biopoetics, I draw on Tony Sampson's concept of virality (2012), the way energetics and not only information is shared and transferred between bodies by way of media.
    By focusing on biopoetics, we can see how written language emerges as a nonhuman force of control in Burroughs' work; his emphasis on language as alien and nonhuman reveals how the human being emerges as a process of biopoetics. Burroughs’ central insight is that the entanglement of word and body not only is what Sampson calls affective contagion, although certainly Burroughs emphasizes the negative affects as part of this bodily control. Burroughs underlines that this affective contagion is also one of affective control; the word spreads through affective contagion and exerts control in this manner. Control and affect are inextricably linked for Burroughs and linked precisely through biopoetics, language being primary in this case.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProspero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere
    Place of PublicationTrieste
    Publication date2014
    ISBN (Print)1123-2684
    ISBN (Electronic)2283-6438
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Biopoetics
    • William S. Burroughs
    • Posthumanism
    • Societies of control
    • control societies


    Dive into the research topics of 'Biopoetics of Control and Resistance in William Burroughs’ The "Nova" Trilogy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this