From Norman Mailer to Matthew Barney. The post human myth of Gary Gilmore

  • Francesca Agamennoni Università degli Studi dell'Aquila
Keywords: Norman Mailer, Matthew Barney, Cremaster Cycle, The Executioner's Song, Gary Gilmore


Gary Gilmore, a murderer who was condamned to death in the USA in 1976, gained international notoriety thanks to his decision to accept and encourage his death sentence, refusing every kind of juridical appeal, surprisingly turning his own execution into a public and intentional suicide. For its power to make American institutions wonder about ethical and political problems, like the legitimacy of death penalty or the relationship between individual freedom and public law, this case inspired in 1979 The Executioner's Song, a non-fiction novel by Norman Mailer. about twenty years later Gilmore became a character of The Cremaster Cycle, one of the most important works by the american video-artist Matthew Barney, who based the plot of his Cremaster 2 (the second episode of this five-movie saga) on Mailer's novel.

The comparison between Cremaster 2 and its literary model will provide an example of the transformation of a story between different artistic languages, but also between different historical and cultural backgrounds: in the post human era the story of Gary Gilmore has lost most of its political and ethical meanings becoming a symbol of the struggle between human willingness and biological destiny.


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Author Biography

Francesca Agamennoni, Università degli Studi dell'Aquila

Ph.D. Student in Generi Letterari. Dipartimento di Culture Comparate, Università dell'Aquila.


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How to Cite
Agamennoni, F. (2012). From Norman Mailer to Matthew Barney. The post human myth of Gary Gilmore. Between, 2(4).