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A Saint’s Testament
Alexandra Parsons

Chapter 9 looks at how Jarman constructs the text At Your Own Risk in the context of the AIDS epidemic and his own HIV-positive status, using his own history alongside the personal histories of others to mark out a newly visible space in an often homophobic culture. He uses montage aesthetics to create activist work.

in Luminous presence
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Derek Jarman in Ostia
Alexandra Parsons

Chapter 4 attends to Derek Jarman's interest in Pier Paolo Pasolini through his performance as Pasolini in Ostia, a short film directed by Julian Cole about the last evening of the poet-filmmaker’s life, ending with his brutal murder, transferred to a setting of London in the mid-1980s.

in Luminous presence
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‘The past is the mirror’
Alexandra Parsons

The final section of Derek Jarman's Life-Writing concludes that Jarman's self-reflexive response to the HIV/AIDS crisis has been critical in changing the cultural terms of queer representation from the 1980s onwards and reads Jarman's self-representations as a queer utopian project that places emphasis on the process of its production.

in Luminous presence
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‘An autobiography at forty’
Alexandra Parsons

Chapter 2 offers a reading of Derek Jarman's first extended autobiographical text, Dancing Ledge, in which he sought to understand the links between his personal life and his professional world. Chapter 2 explores Dancing Ledge as a fascinating, partial self-portrait composed using the collaborative methods that allowed him to write at a furious pace.

in Luminous presence
‘Reading between the lines of history’
Alexandra Parsons

Chapter 3 offers a reading of Derek Jarman's playful engagement with Caravaggio’s self-portraits in Derek Jarman's Caravaggio. It explores the ways that Jarman revises the autobiographical meanings presented by Caravaggio in order to make the historical figure’s dramatic work speak to issues of queer representation in the early 1980s. In doing so, the project marks a turning point in Jarman's work, where his experimentation with self-representation took on a clear political intent.

in Luminous presence
A therapy and a pharmacopoeia
Alexandra Parsons

Chapter 12 investigates the collaborative project at work in Derek Jarman’s Garden. We think about the garden as a memorial and about Jarman's gardening as a therapeutic practice via Howard Sooley’s photographs of Jarman, images of the Dungeness garden that so many friends had worked on and some of Jarman's last writings.

in Luminous presence
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Alexandra Parsons

The introduction to Derek Jarman's life-writing sets the scene for the first full-length study of Jarman's books. By bringing cultural history into conversation with queer theory through these books, it shows that Jarman's self-reflexive response to the HIV/AIDS crisis has been critical in changing the cultural terms of queer representation from the 1980s onwards. It reads Jarman's self-representations across his literary and visual work as a queer utopian project that places emphasis not on the polish of the finished product, but on the process of its production.

in Luminous presence
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‘Forward into an uncertain future…’
Alexandra Parsons

Chapter 5 investigates Jarman's collaborative writing technique in Kicking the Pricks, which is created using a method similar to that used in Dancing Ledge. It also examines several pivotal moments in Jarman's life as they are relayed in this book: his diagnosis as HIV-positive and the reflective re-evaluation of his relationship with both of his parents, made possible by the death of his father.

in Luminous presence
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Derek Jarman’s life-writing

Luminous presence: Derek Jarman's life-writing is the first book to analyse the prolific writing of queer icon Derek Jarman. He blended visionary queer politics with experimental self-representation and consistently created art with material drawn from his own life, using it as a generative activist force. Although he is well known for his avant-garde filmmaking, his garden and his AIDS activism, he is also the author of over a dozen books, many of which are autobiographical. Much of Jarmanʹs exploration of post-war queer identity and imaginative response to HIV/AIDS can be found in his books, such as the lyrical AIDS diaries Modern Nature and Smiling in Slow Motion, the associative book of colour Chroma, the critique of homophobia At Your Own Risk, and the activist text published alongside the film Edward II. The remarkable range and depth of his writing has yet to be fully explored by critics. Luminous Presence fills this gap. Spanning his career, Alexandra Parsons shows that Jarman’s self-reflexive response to the HIV/AIDS crisis was critical in changing the cultural terms of queer representation from the 1980s onwards. She reads Jarman's self-representations across his literary and visual works as a queer utopian project that places emphasis not on the finished product, but on the process of its production. Luminous Presence examines Jarmanʹs books in broadly chronological order so as to tell the story of his developing experimentation with self-representation. The book is aimed at students, scholars and general readers interested in queer history, literature, art and film.

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Haunting, flowers and personal mythologies
Alexandra Parsons

Chapter 7 explores Jarman’s interiority in Modern Nature, as he uses flowers and plants as symbols that evoke his personal history, as well as a collective history of same-sex desire. It attends to his discussion of the personal impact of HIV/AIDS, his need for individuation, for community and to bear witness.

in Luminous presence