“a dungeon every night and every day”

The Zany Neoliberal Subject, Alcohol, and Poetic Agency in Catriona Wright’s Table Manners


  • Carl Watts Huazhong University of Science and Technology


This article locates Catriona Wright’s Table Manners (2017) within a framework of cultural criticism that describes the neoliberal dissolution of boundaries between work and leisure time as well as Sianne Ngai’s conception of the zany subject. It locates in this reality the rituals of consumption that furnish Wright’s subject matter, finding that her depiction of alcohol consumption, specifically, at once sustains participation in this economy and denies her poetic subjects agency. Suggesting that Wright departs from common depictions of alcohol consumption in Canadian poetry, the paper argues that Table Manners registers a dynamic of neoliberal containment in its engagement with food culture as well as with a repetitious, consciously traditionalist poetics that forecloses any possibility of fulfillment in the development of one’s poetic craft. At the same times, its registering of neoliberalism at its most jarring, using its very curatorial tools, indicates a possibility of poetic agency.

Author Biography

Carl Watts, Huazhong University of Science and Technology

Carl Watts holds a PhD from the Department of English Language and Literature at Queen's University