Luminous presence

Derek Jarman's life-writing

By Alexandra Parsons

Luminous presence


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4475-1
  • Pages: 280
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: October 2021
  • BIC Category: Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literature & literary studies / Literary theory, Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, PERFORMING ARTS / Individual Director, LITERARY CRITICISM / Semiotics & Theory, LITERARY CRITICISM / General, The arts / Individual film directors, film-makers, Literature


Luminous presence: Derek Jarman's life-writing is the first book to analyse the prolific writing of queer icon Derek Jarman. 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 Jarman's 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. This book fully explores, for the first time, the remarkable range and depth of Jarman's writing. Spanning his career, Alexandra Parsons argues 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. Luminous presence is of great interest to students, scholars and readers of queer histories in literature, art and film.


1 'The porter into forgotten landscapes': A finger in the fishes mouth
2 Dancing Ledge: 'An autobiography at forty'
3 Derek Jarman's Caravaggio: 'Reading between the lines of history'
4 Becoming Pasolini: Derek Jarman in Ostia
5 Kicking the Pricks: 'Forward into an uncertain future...'
6 Self-Projection in film: The Last of England and The Garden
7 Modern Nature: Haunting, flowers and personal mythologies
8 Queer Edward II: 'Are you a closet bigot?'
9 At Your Own Risk: A Saint's Testament
10 Smiling in Slow Motion: Testimony and elegy
11 'A kind of bliss': Blue and Chroma
12 Derek Jarman's Garden: A therapy and a pharmacopoeia
Conclusion: 'The past is the mirror'



Alexandra Parsons is a Paul Mellon Centre fellow and teaches contemporary literature and culture at University College London

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