Friday, March 10, 2006

Where Oh Where Did My Spring Break Go?

An Update on my Doings, As Well As a Muddy Theoretical Meditation

Need I mention that there has been no break? I mean, there has been some procrastination, but that takes a lot of energy. There has been writing. There has been grading (though only 1/3 of the grading that I need to do). There has been dealing with suitors, though there has been a slight slow-down on that end. I'm currently in active talks with only two - The Chemical Engineer and The Marketing Guy. I'm intrigued by the Chemical Engineer. We shall see. Re: the Computer Guy... I never heard from him again. Which I thought was kind of weird, since I emailed him a thank you after the date. I'd think I'd at least warrant a you're welcome. At any rate, I sent him a follow-up email today, as he hasn't closed off communication with me, and it occurred to me that there may be some sort of miscommunication that's happened. Yes, I may have made a fool of myself, but the glorious thing about the internet dating is that one isn't making a fool of oneself in front of anybody one cares about. Why not be a fool? It's not going to make things worse, no? And I really don't want him to think that I'm the asshole here. Why that matters, I'm not entirely sure, but it does.

At any rate, enough of all of that nonsense. What I really want to write about is what I've been writing. I'm not going to talk about it in an entirely concrete way here, but I can give the theoretical gist, and I can talk a bit about why I want to write about it on the blog.

What I'm working on in this article is a Foundational Feminist Novel by Author X and I'm exploring the notion that it is engaging the theoretical argument about women's writing that is put forward a generation before in a Foundational Feminist Polemic by Author Y. This is a somewhat controversial claim to make, as 1) Author X often disputes being connected with her immediate literary precursors, 2) Author X has resisted the tendency to categorize the novel on which I'm working as a "feminist" novel, and 3) the wacky theory of Author Y at first seems not to make any sense with Author X's novel. That said, the work that I'm doing is really interesting, I think, and as I was trying to iron out the theory behind what I'm arguing yesterday, I realized that there is a really strong connection between what I'm thinking about with Author X and what I think about in terms of my own blog-writing.

At the heart of what I'm trying to do in this article of mine - and I suppose in all of my work on Author X - is to find a way to theorize the idea that one can be a "woman writer" without necessarily expressing some "truth" of female identity, even as one attempts to articulate experiences of female bodies and of female emotions. How can the woman writer find the authority that she needs to acquire in order to write while at the same time being coded in society as subordinate on the basis of sex/gender? If authority is connected with the name-of-the-author, what connection does the "real woman" have to that name, or is that name just another way of limiting the writer, and thus foreclosing attempts at the writerly?

I know that what I'm writing here is abstract and probably doesn't make any sense, but I feel a deep connection between these theoretical concerns with the literature that I'm examining and the theoretical concerns of this blogging persona that I've created. How does one write as a woman (which I do think is an important project), write the personal (which I also think is valuable), while also trying to write in ways that break the boundaries of the identity-category "woman" (or academic, or mother, or single-girl, or whatever)? How can one be personal and impersonal (universal?) at the same time? How does one negotiate the demands of writing as a woman and the desire to be authorized in a more general way as just "writer"?

I realize that this is an unsatisfactory end to this post, but in writing it I've realized that I'm an idiot who cannot stop herself from procrastinating. I really have to put this energy into the article and not into talking in an abstract way about it in order to legitimize my blogging procrastination :)


Cats & Dogma said...

I'm working on some of these issues in my chapters on women's/feminist autobiographical performance. On the one hand, there seems to be this drive to break the very boundaries of the category "woman" by playing in this sort of radical performativity. On the other (and some times the other hand of the same performer) a need to rely on a discreet notion of identity (I am who I say I am and this is my body) to acheive certain kinds of rhetorical goals.

It's a lot to tease out, indeed. And to avoid taking up any more of the comments, I'll just email you . . .

Derrick said...

Can anyone be "just writer" without a gender voice? I am not sure "just writer" is someone I have read.

My hope has been that the identity category "woman" would move from being confining to being defining.

I don't pretend to know the universe in which you work. As an outsider from another vocation, though, those comments caught my attention.

And thanks for the window into your work.

Jill said...

I started to write a post on my blog about this but chickened out - mostly because I can't really SAY it exactly or explain it properly but I know exaclty what you mean.

I hated trying to write as I thought my literature professors wanted me to write, the way all the (mostly male) theorists I read wrote. I always felt that I was struggling to master a language that wasn't my own.

The main thing blogging has given me is a writing voice that I'm comfortable with, a personal voice where I don't write about what I actually do in my private life but where I do write very subjectively: with the whole of me, as it were.

I wonder though whether this is a process men go through to, and how much it's about gender and how much it's just about settlign in to yourself?

Then again - I gave a thank you speech the other night at a dinner where almost all the participants were men, and I got a dozen comments afterwards on how "refreshing" and "charming" my speech had been. I worried then that maybe I've simply fallen into another trap: sure, I haven't copied "the master's voice" but maybe I'm just playing on charm and you know, what will I do when my hair goes grey and I'm all shrivelled up and can't be the charming young woman who easily and merrily charms all the old professors?

And I suspect worrying about that's another trap.

And I sort of don't want that worry posted on my own blog, which will quite likely be read by the old professors who - ah, that's it - I worry they'll think I'm just charming and have no substance.

Sigh. Which is sort of exactly what I'm trying to protest.

I would absolutely love to read your paper when it's done. I know it'd blow your cover, though. Maybe you have suggestions to other papers I could read though? I suppose I could probably even find some for myself...

Jill said...

What a messy comment. Read it as this: I get what you're saying, it fascinates me, I think it's important and I don't know how to talk about it.

Dr. Crazy said...

Can anyone be "just writer" without gender? Well, see, this is the thing. I think my answer to that is "no, but." Yes, men, too, write as gendered subjects, but throughout the history of Western culture that gendered-masculine voice has been what we think of as a universal voice. Thus, if I write as a man, I have a certain kind of authority that I do not have if I write as a woman. I'm not saying that there aren't limitations on the male-writing-voice, too. There are. The thing is, though, that I think that these issues are more vexed for women writers, even now... or maybe not more vexed but I think that a lot is at stake for women in how they define themselves through their writing. If I define myself as a "woman writer" that indicates a certain political position, and if I define myself as "writer" then that indicates another political position. How many male writers do you know consider whether to call themselves "man writers"? I mean, can "man" even be an adjective? Finally, I think I'd say that the category of woman has ALWAYS been defining - and those definitions are confining. I don't know how to separate the two. If I am defined by the fact that I am a woman, that puts a limit on the other things that I can be. I know that many feminists would disagree with me on this, but for me the idea that as a woman I must necessarily celebrate being a woman and define myself through that and express myself as that at all times feels very limiting to me. This may make me a bad feminist, but that's my personal take. I should say, though, that I don't entirely disagree with your comment, Derrick. I guess it's just that I feel like it perhaps is too simple a response - "we're all gendered as writers" seems like a way of closing off discussion to me.

Jill - thanks for commenting and don't worry about it being muddy - my post was muddy in I think the same ways. It's kind of hard to talk about this stuff, I think. As I've mentioned elsewhere, feel free to email me if you'd like to know more of what I'm working on. I'd be happy to talk about it - I just don't want to blast what I'm working on all over the blog. :)

Derrick said...

Yes, my comment was simplistic. I knew it would be but couldn't figure out how to ask it.

I am glad I did, though, because I can now see what "just writer" means in your work. That was the part I couldn't situate in my mind because I didn't know enough about the project.

Studying theology in the 90s my profs talked about 1st gen and 2nd gen feminism. The "celebrate" motif reminds me of the latter. Are you working out a 3rd generation?

No need to try and respond to that in depth. Perhaps just send me a reading

Thanks for the reply!

Derrick said...

Actually, I found a reading list.