Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Brian Glavey


Cringe, the negative reflexive reaction we experience when we witness something embarrassing or awkward, has a bad reputation in the queer community. In online and physical queer spaces, there is a pervading belief that “cringe culture” must be antithetical to queerness, that no queer community could possibly achieve liberation until it has eradicated the threat of cringe. This thesis revises that cringe vs. queer positioning by reimagining cringe as its own rhythm of queerness and examining the productive aspects of cringe through engagement with thinkers like Karen Barad and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. The thesis, formatted as a response to a recent forum on rhetorical new materialism, is primarily driven by an examination of Jonathan Flatley’s Like Andy Warhol. In it, Flatley presents Warhol as a sort of bastion of anti-cringe culture queerness. Warhol would often claim to “like everything and everyone,” a mindset which, in the true spirit of liberation, welcomes and approves of all that is habitually cringed at by heteronormative society. This thesis explores the idea that such all-inclusive liking functions not simply as a rejection of or defense against cringe, as Flatley outlines, but also as an example of how the embodiment of cringe can function with its own productive rhythm, acting as both an affirmative and destructive force in uniquely queer ways.


© 2023, Katherine Anne Schell