Action for Art’s Sake: Rethinking Jean Genet’s Political Turn

  • Karl Ågerup
Keywords: aesthetical norms, canon, literariness, political literature, activism


When recapitulating the career of the French writer Jean Genet, critics and biographers have gathered around the idea of a pivotal moment in the 1960s when Genet abandoned literature and turned to political activism. However, Genet continued to write and publish texts, many of which appear to be literary, up to his death in 1986. In this article, Genet’s late works are reviewed and the notion of the turn is questioned. It is argued that the construction of a political turn in Genet’s career unjustifiably reduced the weight of his late works and neglected their pioneering hybridity. Rather than abandoning literature, the late Genet enhanced his aesthetics of subversion by developing a more referential style.


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