'Rat Phones, Alligators, Lemon Pepper Wet: The New Absurd in Atlanta'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In his review of the television series Atlanta (dir. Hiro Murai 2016, 2018), Jesse David Fox comments on the series’ closeness to the Theatre of the Absurd, disputing creator Donald Glover’s statement that Atlanta is ‘Twin Peaks with rappers’ (2016). Fox opines that each episode is an Absurdist play. In this chapter, Jenna Clake argues that Atlanta should be understood in terms of what she has elsewhere termed the new literary aesthetic of the New Absurd (Clake 2018), and is thus at least as much akin to Absurdist poetry as to drama. Clake argues that in an era of political and social turmoil on both sides of the Atlantic – where issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality are irrevocably linked with concerns of how individuals can survive in a capitalist society – a new iteration of the Absurd has emerged.
In this chapter, using examples and theory from Absurd drama, and poems by Rachael Allen, Jennifer L. Knox, and Luke Kennard, Clake compares Atlanta and poems of the New Absurd thematically, rather than in terms of their mediality. She explores the New Absurd and Atlanta’s focus on perpetual disappointment, and explicates their focus on ‘static quests’, the loss of grand narratives, and human fallibility in the face of neoliberalism. She demonstrates how these concerns deliberately foster readers’ and viewers’ investment in conspiracy theories, and thereby establishes that Atlanta treats its viewers as readers of New Absurdist poetry, deliberately undermining the viewers’ critical perceptions and understanding of narrative.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTelevision as Literature: From the Ordinary to the Unthinkable
EditorsReto Winckler, Víctor Huertas-Martín
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9789811547201
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


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