Saturday, March 26, 2011

I think I've found my calling

Every day is Women's Day. Or at least it ought to be 

Okay, that whole calling thing is a bit of an exaggeration, especially b/c you most likely need to have a lot more energy than I do to respond to a calling, but I do think I've found something (finally!) that I like re: literary/critical theory. 

It should surprise, well, no one that what I'm talking about is feminist theory. It doesn't surprise me, as I always figured if something was going to interest me in terms of theory, it would be feminist, but even so, it's a pleasant revelation b/c I've definitely got no love for deconstruction and the rest of post-structuralism nor for reader response theory. 

And, as it turns out, this year in my papers I've actually been using some of these fem. theory concepts (and even some of the theorists) without knowing it. And, just as interestingly, the little that I've read so far is ridiculously applicable to my own fiction. It's making me think about my own work and its preoccupations in a whole new light. 

Talking about the prevalence of illness in women's fiction/poetry, for instance, Susan M. Gilbert and Sandra Gubar (whose Madwoman in the Attic I read part of - and loved - last semester, having no idea it was feminist theory) explain, "the woman writer feels herself to be literally or figuratively crippled by the debilitating alternatives her culture offers her, and the crippling effects of her conditioning sometimes seem to 'breed' like sentences of death in the blood shoes she inherited from her literary foremothers." Um, yeah - like, this kind of stuff is all over my work. Who knew I was writing in some kind of tradition (albeit - and I have to say this - one hindered by the patriarchy)? I kind of feel empowered. (Brad is now officially wary of my taking feminist theory this coming fall - and to think, not two days he was encouraging it.) 

Just the other day, one of my classmates asked me if all this theory stuff is affecting my creative writing. I responded, "That's such a cute idea - like I have time to write creatively right now." But had I answered her seriously, I would've said, No, I think most of the stuff is either nonsense or it's interesting and has no place in practical discussions of creative work and no place in actually doing that work. Now, I'm not so sure about that. 

As for a theoretical stance apart from my own fiction, this fits me pretty well; it's in line with my interests, my politics, and my concerns (even while Kristeva and surely a host of others seem like idiotic nonsense to me). To end, an oh-so-true thought from Simone de Beauvoir's brilliant The Second Sex

"Thus, as against the dispersed, contingent, and multiple existences of actual women, mythical thought opposes the Eternal Feminine, unique and changeless. If the definition provided for this concept is contradicted by the behavior of flesh-and-blood women, it is the latter who are wrong: we are told not that Feminity is a false entity, but that the women concerned are not feminine."


  1. I wish I could say I loved this fem theory stuff, but the best I can do is to say that some of it I find infuriatingly polemical (to the detriment of logical argument), some of it I find maddeningly unintelligible (to the detriment of my ability to care about what is being said), and some of it I find genuinely fascinating and useful (if only it could all be like those moments!).

  2. I won't argue that some of it might be unintelligible - but not what we've read so far. Beauvoir, Gilbert and Gubar, and Wittig, I think, have been fairly straightforward. Now, I don't agree with all of it (Wittig), but I think of all the things we've read this semester, it's at least in the top 3 for sense-making. Of course, it's fairly obvious by now that I'm biased . . .