So, I submitted my thesis proposal this morning.
In a word – ugh!
I had to choose whether or not I wanted to rework all my old terrible stuff that no one wants to publish into a portfolio or if I wanted to embark on a new adventure and create a thesis. Obviously, I like to take the hardest route to a place, so I chose the thesis option. To me, it’s the easier, softer way because the other way is littered with black and white examples of my inadequacies – so why not just create some new ones!!
I wanted to share some of my freewriting because, well it’s funny, and I won’t ever be likely to use any of it in an academic paper. Also, I can’t be the only one who produces this kind of fingers across the keyboard mental absurdity!
So the gist of the paper is female literary autonomy, and the terrible forced title is Feminine Literary Autonomy and the Magic of Mythmaking from the Breton lais to Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber – yes, I know you have to stop to water your mouth in the middle of that – it’s wretched. You ain’t seen nothing yet!! What follows is how my dark and terrible mind begins the process of academic exploration.
Once upon a time there was a little girl. A little girl who saw herself as made of sugar and spice and everything nice; a little girl who saw herself as capable of commanding an empire, giving birth to a god, speaking the name of God out loud, and writing her own history. She has never seen herself as temptress, seductress, succubus, or she-devil because those words all connote sexuality, and “civilization” likes to keep sexuality away from little girls for as long as it can. What she learns instead of sexuality is suffering. She learns that love is long-suffering; that her Christian God suffers the innocent and unaware to come unto Him. Suffering marks her passage from childhood to womanhood. Whether it is inculcated through cultural, political, psychological, economic, or religious means, a girl learns to suffer admirably, to perform her suffering as publicly as possible. These indoctrinating forces – cultural, political, psychological, economic and religious – can be called the feminine ideological apparatus of Western civilization.
Feminists theorists have taken every opportunity to approach this apparatus from all sides, scientifically and linguistically and theoretically. At turns, feminists have attacked, belittled, undermined, and reworked the patriarchal impulses that have powered the apparatus, but for the most part their greatest success has been in adding more entanglements to the apparatus. They have created more ways for a little girl to become trapped in that apparatus. Like mad spiders, women perpetually weave and unweave their stories.
Lillith, Eve, the Whore of Babylon, and the Virgin Mary walk into a bar. Equal in representation and strength, the women worked out who would best reflect the female of their species. It was decided they all would, and that every daughter after them should construct herself in the image of one or the other of them. One of them asked, I forget which one, where the rest of the ladies were. One of them answered, I forget which one, that all the rest of the ladies were just like the four of them, so they could speak for everyone. They were very democratic. But this is a man’s dream, a man’s joke, a man’s narrative of womanhood. What is the female narrative of womanhood? Mrs. Dalloway, Jane Eyre, Katherine Hernshaw, and Edna Pontellier walked into bar. The bar was located near Middlemarch. None of them can get over how wildly popular they are. Mrs. Dalloway kept daydreaming while Jane and Katherine were feeling faint, and Edna couldn’t seem to hold her water. Is this the extent of our literary heritage? Just angels and monsters and absent-minded, yet provocatively deep-thinking, dames? Somewhere in the back corner of that bar is a nameless woman holding a placard that says she does not need feminism because she is not a victim.
Yep. And then there’s my favorite, the hungry dog lurking in the background….
What is literary autonomy? Gilbert and Gubar expend a good deal of effort explaining that “the female artist” is engaged in the “the essential process of self-definition” and that this process “is complicated by all the those patriarchal definitions that intervene between herself and herself” (813). When an author writes, whether male or female, there are not only the stories and characters running amok through his or her head that require satiety, but also salivating editors, publishers, critics, and audiences waiting to be fed. They all smell the fires cooking while they eagerly anticipate, shackled in their bibs, their prepared meal. Is there such a thing as literary autonomy in that light? There is also the author’s own ego, lurking around the outside edge of the table like a hungry dog, waiting to be fed the scraps left over by the editors, publishers, critics, and audiences.
So if you’re on the same journey as me, this is the view from my vantage point. It’s a whole lot of fun though!!