Whose Body is it Anyway? : Eating the Autotheoretical
"The body never lies."
This group is fleshyfurrowed and bumpy like 3D topographical maps. We want to lose weight, but our motto is aim low, which does not refer to a lower number on the scale, but to low expectations so as not to tip the scale. Were called the eating concerns group. Much safer. This puts the focus on trying to understand why we do what we do, which is killing ourselves with food. We talk about why our self-images are so screwed up, and were learning how to like ourselves, our bodies. This can be difficult to put into practice.
I hate the way I look. Im shocked when I look in the mirror; my reflection manages to exceed even my poor self-image. My doctor originally put me on anti-depressants several years ago because I was crazy about my weight. Up five pounds and I was fat and it was all over and I might as well just give it up. He said, You can go to years of therapy or try these pills and see if they work. I opted for both. The pills shaved the bristles off my obsession. I gained weight. Im unhappy about the extra pounds, but, with the pills, not unhappy enough to shed them. The pills put a little halo on things. Im still going to therapy.
What are the effects of reading through the body? For the reader, the possibility of immediate and intimate connection. For the writer, the possibility of writing the truth. Susan Suleiman argues in Risking Who One Is, since all writing is done by some-body for some-body, it is not merely permitted, but downright valuable, to remember who you are as you write (2). Ive spent the last six years learning how to write creatively through the body. Ive got a Post-it note attached to my computer with a reminder of my goals: See, Hear, Touch, Taste, Smell.
I entered the MFA program at the University of Washington as a fiction writer. When I graduated, in June 2002, my genre of choice was creative nonfiction. The more I learned about writing and reading through the body, the more I wanted to be able to write through my body. The turning point from fiction to nonfiction was the month I spent in Rome in 2001 on a creative writing summer seminar. 100 degrees in the shade. My sweating body. My smelly body. Coming from covered-up Seattle, I was more body conscious then ever before in my life. I wallowed in an overload of art and Italians and the realization that I simply needed to write it all down rather than make it up. I found my writing voice amongst pizza, gelato, ruins, and an aura of sensuality.
During the last year of my MFA, I wrote only creative nonfiction and I started to attend an eating concerns group on campus. Writing through the body, working on the body.
Remember, this is not a weight loss group.
Pam, our therapist and group leader, says this because were all obsessive-compulsive perfectionists and an overt focus on weight loss will send us into orbit: anorexics refusing to eat, bulimics reverting to furtive retching, bingers stopping by the store on the way home to stock up on carbohydrates, eating the tops off of maple bars at red lights, discovering sticky spots when we grab the steering wheel the next morning.
Now, just over a year later, Im on the third chapter of a personal memoir about the eating concerns group. My writing digs deeper than Ive ever dared to go. My writing is personal, its about my body, and it scares me. But I also love it. To find your voice, to write about what matters to you, to have readers connect. This feels good. Its the level of good stuff you think only happens to others.
Then I signed up for my first class in critical theory because I wanted to investigate the possibility of getting a PhD. As happy as I was with my creative writing, I felt like I wasnt done yetlike when you pull a cake out of the oven and put a toothpick in the middle to see if its cooked all the way throughmy toothpick wasnt clean. I discussed my plans with the graduate studies adviser.
So you saw the light and youre coming over to our side, huh?
I got this uh-oh feeling. I didnt know there were sides, or that I had been on the dark side. Would she next pull out a form in which Id need to denounce creative writing?
Lets have a look at your transcripts. She swiveled to look at her computer screen. Nope, none of your MFA credits will count; youll need to start from scratch.
I blurted, I got my BA in English, thinking this would indicate I could speak their language.
Doesnt matter. The graduate level courses are different.
Really bad uh-oh.
Id already had to struggle out of the fiction jail to find my way to creative non-fiction. Now what was I getting into?
II. Culture Shock
"The distance is nothing; its only
the first step that is difficult."
The eating concerns group had been meeting throughout fall quarter before I joined them in winter. Its a delicate act of projecting the appropriate behaviors when you join a group of people who have already bonded. You want to prove you are just like themwhether you are or arent is not important, its their acceptance you wantwhile simultaneously differentiating yourself, establishing your uniqueness. A balanced mix of I know just what you mean and body languagearms crossed unobtrusively over chestthat says I know Im on probation here. You dont want to buddy up too much the first meeting because they need you to respect their togetherness. You are the visiting cousin who needs to prove herself before shes accepted as one of the family. So no matter how much you want to chime in on each new subject, no matter how uncharacteristic for you to keep your mouth shut, you do just that. Acceptable behaviors as a new group member include facial expressions of empathy, heartfelt sighs, controlled laughter, well-timed smiles, and the occasional head inclination to signal agreement.
On the first day of English 506, Critical Conversations in Literary Studies, we received the following assignment: Read Dianne Chisholms essay Obscene Modernism: Eros Noir and the Profane Illumination of Djuna Barnes and Walter Benjamins Surrealism. Typed paper due in class on Wednesday that outlines the arguments of the essay and details the critical moves the author performs as she makes her arguments.
Id never heard of these people. I had less than forty-eight hours to write a paper.
Reading the critical essays felt like being sent to my room to be punished. I reacted like I always have when Im forced to do something that makes me crazy: I ate my way through.
If I were sneaking food that required more than a few chews, Id transport it up to my bedroom and shut the door. Then Id sit on the floor in front of the heater vent to stay nice and warm, and Id eat it slowly. Later I would ferry the wrappers back to the kitchen garbage under the sink and bury them under coffee grounds.
The best stuff to sneak was in the big chest freezer in the garage. Mom shopped at the Hostess bakery outlet, and on Tuesdays the bakery snacks were twenty for a dollar. We always had frozen cupcakes, Twinkies, and Snoballsthey were supposed to be for our lunches. If Mom was in the sewing room and I could hear the thrum of the machine, I would sneak through the kitchen and out to the garage and slip a frozen Scooter Pie down the front of my pants. Freezer burn. Id tried this with Twinkies before, but they were too obvious unless I was wearing a big sweatshirt. So I mostly went for the flatter items, like fruit pies and Scooter pies, in case I ran into Mom. Most of the stuff wasnt as good frozen, especially the fruit pies, which seemed to change chemical properties, but it did make it easier to eat all the way around the filling on the occasional Twinkie and save the sticky core for last.
On that first night reading Chisholms article, I got up for a cup of tea, then sugar free gum (I ate the entire PlenTPak), then I found a sucker (works like a pacifier), and when I got to the Benjamin article, I brought an entire box of cookies up to my office. I could not connect with this writing. And as I finished each page and wondered what Id just read, I started to think I should drop the class. This was obviously not for me. I felt warm and nauseous from cookies and dread. But oddly exhilarated toothe exhilaration of being around words, books, and other writers kept me going. That, and the realization if going for a PhD didnt work out, Id have to get a job. I had to ask myself, though, just how much I wanted to suffer for the ten percent of exhilaration. In class, Carolyn asked for volunteers to write Chisholms main argument on the board. I had no idea; too many new terms, names, and concepts fought for recognition in my brain. When two other classmates nailed Chisholms argument, I felt like an outsider. Maybe MFAs didnt belong here. Maybe I was too old. Worst of all, my pants felt tight.
Why? responded my writing mentors when I told them I was investigating a PhD, their interrogative accompanied by the type of facial expression one uses to indicate a foul smell. I had avoided talking to these naysayers of critical writing for a while, preferring to form my own opinion. But now I did check inperhaps because I wanted to be talked out of a PhD. They tried:
Youre just procrastinating on your novel.
Be careful or youll find yourself using all those big words that end with -ality that us regular folk dont understand.
Those who can write, do. Those who cant, critique.
A woman wrote a critical article about one of my books of poetry and it was published in one of those PMLA type things. I didnt have any idea what she was talking about. She should try writing a poem first and then she can have an opinion about what I do.
I lingered in limbo between creative writing and literary studies. The land of Either/Or.
The initial reaction I got from the lit side hadnt been much better. When I confessed I was a creative writer, they cut a wide swath around me. Next I called myself a writer taking classes towards a PhD. This gave them pause, and they made eye contact after that, but not much else. They still considered me an alien life form in a pre-doc shell. I didnt blame them.
Then, subtle changes.
So, youre taking a class, huh? At the copy machine, a lit professor made a cautious inquiry. Word got around.
I was reading my course packet at my desk (I work part time in the English department), and a lecturer wanted to know what the reading was for the day. We commiserated about Walter Benjamins inaccessible writing style.
And just when I was wondering what the deal was with French men, philosophy, and if it was something in the wine, another lecturer asked me, What class are you taking? I confessed to be struggling with Foucault.
Really? I got my PhD in literary theory.
We talked about carceral societies and internalized surveillance, and I began to make connections between my body and this theory, between eating and PhD-ing.
I ensure a seat to myself on the bus by huddling against the window, putting my backpack and extra bag on the seat next to me, and refusing to make eye contact with oncoming passengers. You arent supposed to eat on the bus, so I wait hungrily until were on the freeway where its noisy and everyone is zoning before I slip my hands inside my pack and open the wrapperslippery plastic wrappers are much easier to sneak than the old crinkly paper ones. I adopt a nonchalant Im not doing anything facial expression and synchronize bites of peanut butter cup with the bus drivers attention on the traffic. I nervously imagine the driver discovering my transgression and leaning over to reprimand me through his microphone: Would the woman in the second seat please stop eating the Reeses peanut butter cup? If he catches me, it will take more than three peanut butter cups to recover from my embarrassment. So I surreptitiously feed my treat into my mouth little by little, letting each bite dissolve, waiting until Ive exited the bus to chew the last bits of chocolate off the tangy paper.
Even as I connected with bits and pieces of theory, the inaccessible writing still had me eating too much, inspecting fingernails and toes, twirling hair, rocking back and forth robotically like Rain Man. I stared blankly at the floor of my home office, littered with critical reading detritus: nail clippings, gum wrappers, split ends, dead skin, and used paper plates.
I spoke about my frustration in class and found some of my fellow grad students in agreement with me. One woman reported she had gone to the head of graduate studies to voice her concern.
He told me to think of it this way: other disciplines, for example the natural sciences, have a specialized language that is inaccessible to an outsider. So were sort of keeping up with the Joneses by having a specialized language for English graduate study. She paused. That made some sense to me.
This explanation didnt make me feel any better. It felt like males pissing on trees. It felt like building the World Trade Center memorial so its higher than the original. Phallic competition. At least I wasnt the only one standing at the base of this theory, aching neck craned upwards towards the sky.
III. The Journal Project
"It is what you read when you dont
have to that determines what you will be when you cant
One of our class projects was to read the last eight issues of a critical journal in our area of study and make a presentation to the class. I wasnt exactly sure what area of study meant, nor how to narrow down my interests; Id only read literary magazines. My professor suggested a/b: Auto/Biography. Jackpot.
The first essay I read in a/b was Autobiography as a War Machine (or, Wild Titties I Have Known), by Annette L. Murrell. On the bus home, I was skimming the table of contents and the Wild Titties reference grabbed me. I started reading. Murrells essay combines creative nonfiction with literary theory, using her large breasts (44DD) as a frame. She starts with a memory of watching a National Geographic film about Africa in grade school and recalls that her fellow classmates laughed at the bare, sagging breasts of the women. Her intuition told her that to laugh then would be to laugh at herself in the future (141).
The essay segues into a meditation of how wewith an emphasis on womencome to construct our identity; in particular, the way in which our own autobiographical narrative can shape the sense of who we are. Murrell is in her school office where shes trying to explain her developing theory of autobiography as a war machine (from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari) to a student from her composition class. Murrell defines war machines as agents of desire and resistance, agents that seek to define themselves against the parameters the State authorizes. Murrell applies the concept of war machine to art, particularly to autobiographies of marginalized people whom the State defines as inadequate, or other. Their autobiographies function as a means of creating an identity that allows them to inscribe themselves in a positive and empowering way on the larger social text (146-47). The student in Murrells office exemplifies the war machine theory and the link to womens body identity through entries she has made in her class journal where she attempts to define herself and her fight against bulimia. Murrell defines her own various identities and her link to the war machine when she says, Look, Im African-American, a woman, Im fat, a single mother, a teacher, a singer, a writer, a member of the middle class (144).
Murrell is in her house in the rest of the piece, writing and thinking about her body identity and self-hatred. Then she transforms the women in the original National Geographic piece into Black Amazons and imagines herself as part of the tribea bit of positive war machine revision (150). She manages to bring her mother, grandmother, and son into the essayall around the breast theme, and breasts abound in this pieceand ends by connecting back to the Black Amazons/National Geographic. At the end of the essay, we see Murrells pride in her identity through this positive Black Amazon narrative. Just as she predicted earlier in the essay, her autobiography allows her to inscribe [her]self in a positive and empowering way on the larger social text.
I was thrilled. Ecstatic. The bus got to the Park and Ride before I finished the article, so I sat in my car in the parking lot and kept reading to the end, my mind spinning with possibility. Could I write this way and have it count as criticism? Murrells piece brought up all sorts of possibilities for my writing. War Machine. Big breasts (40 DD, thank you very much). Fat. A compelling political reason to write my eating concerns novel. An amazing technique for writing about theory. And yet it seemed so simple, so obvious: write a critical essay on autobiography using the autobiographical form. Form follows function. As I continued to explore the journal, I realized Murrells essay was not typical of the essays in a/b. In fact, Rebecca Hogan, one of the editors of a/b, calls it one of our most sensational pieces in all senses of the word. But it was there. It had been through a peer review, and it was published.
I looked at another journal, Biographybased at the University of Hawai'ithat also publishes critical articles on issues of life writing. Their web page advertised an e-mail discussion list for anyone interested in the discipline. The middle of winter in Seattle is gray, drizzly, and I thought it would be nice to have emails from a sunshine state. So I signed up. The very next day, when I opened my inbox, I found a call for papers from Women Writers: An E-Zine. The subject line was Autobiographical Lit Crit. Catchy. The special issue will be devoted to experimental work in the autotheoretical realm, a hybrid genre that mixes autobiography with rigorous critical analysis of literary and cultural texts. Could it get any better? Yes. The call for submissions specifically asked: What is the effect of reading through the body? When I visited the Women Writers website, I found a selected bibliography of autobiographical literary and cultural studies. I love these women.
Our term paper for English 506 needed to be a response to a call for papers. The Women Writers CFP seemed perfect, but I worried an autotheoretical paper would give the impression of trying to get away with something. As much as I wanted to argue for autotheoretical writing, I feared it wasnt the real thingmaybe I wouldnt be suffering enough. After all, even Jane Tompkins in her essay Me and My Shadow, in which she cant face up to the task of writing yet another critical article without including personal connections, says at the end, This one time Ive taken off the straitjacket and it feels so good (40). If Tompkins, who feels so strongly about embracing the personal, feels its only legitimate one time, then I figured I was doomed. Tompkins seemed to say it was only okay to play with the autotheoretical genre. Since Id already chosen to analyze an article on Kathie Lee Gifford for class this quarter, I feared Id used up my play time. I hesitantly confessed my interest to my professor, ready to jump ship and make fun of it at any second if she appeared to think it less than worthy.
That sounds fine.
IV. Let the Games Begin
"See me, feel me, touch me, heal me."
I found all the books on the Women Writers bibliography at our library and shuttled them home three at a time on the bus. The first time I made the connection that inaccessible essays are a patriarchal form of writing was in Stacey Youngs Changing the Wor(l)d: Discourse, Politics, and the Feminist Movement. I thought, Wow, a new and political reason to dislike inaccessible writing. Cool. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who got her MA in English in 1990, and she said shed always found Derrida oppressive.
I discovered that autotheoretical feminist texts illuminate diverse voices in the womens movement and spotlight differences in womens identities and subjectivities based on race, sexuality, class, ethnicity, religion, etc. These texts argue there isnt one feminist identityall voices must be heard. It seemed to me the same could be said for autotheoretical literary criticism: the accessible writing opens up criticism to diverse voices, both writers and readers.
Youngs book also introduced me to the key concept in womens theory: the personal as political. As I read, I expected to run into more theory, words Id need to look up in the dictionary, references to the scholarly work of French men. It never happened. While I respected the feminist approach of declining to seek the support of a higher authority, I wanted a balance of the personal and literary theory. I kept reading.
Nicole Griffith defines herself as both a literary/modern studies scholar and a mother. In Mother Writes: My Scholar, My Self, Griffith shares that when she writes an academic paper she will usually block out the mother part of her personality because she thinks her scholarly efforts will improve. This time, however, she incorporated the mother self into her academic paper to examine what that might mean. Griffith calls for scholarly women writers to think through the body (quoting Adrienne Rich), and to join the personal and concrete to the public and abstract. For me, however, the essay took a disappointing turn when Griffith worried how incorporating emotion would affect her scholarly writing. She quoted her instructor, Jane Gallop, and Gallops theory about including the personal in critical writing: the personal can only be supplemental to theory, and should only be employed if it renders the theory more clearly. The hairs on the back of my neck came to attention, like my dog defending her territory. First, its that word onlyused twice and in such a disciplinary mannerit feels like Gallop is saying, well only let you play if you do it our way. Then theres the idea of the personal being supplemental. My question: What is the problem with prioritizing the personal in order to make theory accessible to a wider audience? Is there a fear that theory might attract people like me? Annette Murrells essay in a/b prioritized the personal, and her breasts provided me with a breakthrough into the world of theory.
Although I found reason to argue with these essays, I identified with the authors excitement over finding and using their voices. Their embrace of autotheoretical writing paralleled my epiphany over creative nonfiction. When they confess relief at finding and using their personal voices, I know just what they mean. For example, in Jane Tompkins Me and My Shadow (the essay that ends with Tompkins telling us shes going to write this way just this once) she writes:
To write in such a way that you communicate intimately with your reader, to have your reader say, Thats exactly how I feel, to shine a new light on an old subject so that your reader never looks at it the same way again. I thought those were the goals of all good writing. I kept reading.
The first thing I did after picking up Diane Freedmans An Alchemy of Genres: Cross-Genre Writing by American Feminist Poet-Critics was look up alchemy in the dictionary: Any seemingly magical power or process of transmuting: that alchemy by which women can concoct a subtle poison from ordinary trifles (Hawthorne) (American Heritage Dictionary). Ooh, I liked it, I really liked it. If you think of poison as a good thing, which I am (think Weed n Feed), then the Hawthorne quotation connects directly to what Freedman writes in chapter one: feminist critics reliance on narrative, testimony, anecdote, poetryon a self-conscious mixture or patchwork of genresis one powerful way of re-vising the conventional academic modes they would criticize (15). Right on. But would Freedman turn against the autotheoretical as so many others had? No. In fact, she writes that she was drawn to this mode of writing because she wanted more than the power given to people who dont make waves. She wanted more than what Elizabeth Janeway labels the power of the weak (11). She wanted more than the power accorded to those who kiss ass and perpetuate oppression. Now were starting to sound like autobiography as war machine.
I had a really bad incident this week, said Andie. She tucked her hands under her thighs as she spoke, tilting herself to one side and the other to accomplish the maneuver, then she glanced nervously at the ceiling. It was Saturday morning and I knew I wanted some sugar. I thought about exactly what I wanted and decided on a Reeses peanut butter cup. I told my girlfriend I was going across the street to the convenience store.
Andies shirt strains its buttons and I see shes wearing a white bra this week. I think about what it would feel like to poke my index finger in the roll of fat that starts under her bra and goes to the waistband of her skirt. Smushy.
Another tenant on our floor got on the elevator with me, she continued. We dont talk much but he seems nice enough. Hes got a different girl with him every time I see him. She giggled.
Her hands are now repeatedly tucking strands of hair behind her ear while she talks. She alternates between this and playing with the silver hoops that occupy her right lobe. I got the peanut butter cup, King size, since there were two of us. When I came back across the street, the other tenant was getting on his motorcycle and putting on his helmet. He saw the Reeses in my handgod, how could he not? She shook her head and momentarily searched the ceiling for answers again. Then she giggled. Its so big and bright orange; did you know that orange is the easiest color for the eye to see? And its got that yellow diagonal banner like some sort of Miss America thing except it screams King Size (here Andies giggle picks up pace and we start to laugh too, but then she switches tone), and the guy shook his head at me as if to say no, you shouldnt be eating that and he wagged a finger at me like Tsk, tsk.
A groan of understanding makes the circle of the group like the wave at a sports event, followed by an oh, no from therapist Pam. Im shaking my head as if to say, What a pity. We all know exactly what Andie is talking about.
But I didnt defend myself. Even worse, I hung my head when I walked past him. God, I hate that I did that! His reaction, and mine, brought back all the restrictive feelings about eating that led to my anorexia in the first place.
I went up to my apartment and I wanted to hide, continued Andie. I was crying and I needed a place to be alone, but she started to giggle, then laugh, longer this time, and we all picked up on it. We didnt know what we were laughing about, but we couldnt help it. When Andie laughs, you have to follow suit. She continued: I have a studio apartment and there wasnt any place to get away. She thought that was hilarious. And thats one of the reasons I like Andie: no matter how bad it gets, she can still laugh. Say youre running jingle bells through a coin sorter on high speed. Thats the sound of Andies laugh.
Anyway, I ended up on the floor in the corner of the kitchen, and I cried for an hour. I sat there clutching that orange wrapper, feeling the candy getting softer, and I was afraid I wouldnt be able to eat it, or anything else, again. Why did I let this guy get to me? She tucked her hands under her thighs again and looked directly at us.
IV. Her Story
"The world is round and the place which may
seem like the end may also be the beginning."
Im forty-seven years old. At age forty I had been playing the corporate game for eighteen years without a college degree. I served menI was an executive assistantbut I spoke up enough to convince myself I wasnt a victim. I dont think I minded perpetuating oppressive policies as long as they benefited me. Im not sure if I thought I was happy. Then I lost my job and wrote my first story. I went back to school. I see things differently now.
Freedmans Alchemy of Genres brings up the possibility that women may learn more through personal narrativestheir own and othersthan through an argumentative discourse based on generalities and abstractions alone (7). While this theory gets into the sticky territory of essentialism, and in another setting I might argue against such a generalization, right now its helpful. The theory would explain why I have such a hard time following the critical essays that dont give real world examples, why I skim through the theory and look for the concrete. When I think of autotheoretical writing this waythat its a structure more naturally accessible to women, that it could be how the female brain worksit has a calming effect on me. I reason that just as women arent less than men, autotheoretical writing isnt less than theoretical writing. Different but equal approaches. It feels like I dont have to fight so hard for the personal. It feels like I found my home. (Yes, yes, I know anything thought of as other is seen as less than in this culture, and, yes, I know Im not going to convince traditional theorists with this argument, but it goes a long way in satisfying my anxiety. )
Susan Suleiman, in Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature, calls her essays mediated autobiography because her autobiography is mediated through writing about other artists. In my masters essay for the MFA, I wrote about this same concept, expanding on Philip Lopates idea that a requirement of the personal essay is the need to go beyond the selfs quandaries, through research or contextualization, to bring back news of the larger world (44). I argued that the intensity of the self-revelatory I is most effective when its balanced by actual and virtual white space: breathing room for both the writer and the reader away from the I. My term white space could be interchanged with Suleimans mediated autobiography or Lopates news of the larger world. In the introduction to my paper, I wrote: The departure from the I usually comes in the form of weaving other outward-focused narratives along with the I-centered narrative, but I discovered it can also be achieved through the use of actual white space, or virtual white space in the form of non-linear time, diary format, and the inclusion of various genres in one work. Its the mixture, the balance, the right poison thats the goal. Autotheoretical writing works because it contains the right ingredients: you take the personal and mix in critical theory and contextualization to bring back news of the larger world. Theory needs autobiography; autobiography needs theory. Like peanut butter and chocolate, they can exist independently, but they explode when they are combined.
My research on autotheoretical writing brought me back to my own intuitive preferences. But the difference is now Im going forward with a deeper sense of connection and purpose. Im going forward with more history. Her story. My story. I think of what Annette Murrell said about her autobiography allowing her to inscribe [her]self in a positive and empowering way on the larger social text. I think of courage vs. the power of the weak. I think of how I might just want to get that PhD. I draw a line under the five senses on the Post-it note on my computer and add a sixth sense: War machine. Sixth senses are intuitive and extrasensory. Id like to nurture that ability.
Andie brought us back to the peanut butter cup incident. I still feel the fact that I didnt say anything gave him the power.
Were silent as we digest this statement, as we think of how weve felt in the past.
Pam asks, Does anyone have a suggestion for this type of situation?
And then we really do try to come up with ideas that we can all use in the future. Like asking the guy to repeat himself. Putting him on the spot. Except he didnt say anything, says Judy. So the suggestion comes up to make him speak: confess you dont understand what hes getting at with his pantomime; could he put it into words? Or, no, better yet, ask him to go through the motions again; youd like to see it one more time so you could try to figure it out. Andie giggles. Or blow it off, a non-reaction. Then Judy says, I know, next time you see him with the girl-of-the-day, you can do what he did: wag your finger and say tsk, tsk. Now were all laughing. And its times like this I think I belong in this group of smart, funny women.
Epilogue: Spring Quarter 2003
I have a confession. After I finished this paper winter quarter and spent spring break depressed and exhausted, I wasnt sure that a PhD would be good for my body. Although I was excited about autotheoretical writing, my future as a grad student depended on the amount of traditional theory I would be required to read and the amount of stuffing myself Id have to do as compensationboth were body hating gestures that fed off of one another.
I signed up for my second literature course spring quarter with the intent of dropping it during the first two weeks if things looked bad (i. e. , if I began to stop at the donut shop both mornings and afternoons). Lucky for me, American Auto/Biography is offered this quarter. I love it. Now instead of not being able to put down the cookies, I cant put down the books were readingeven the theory, all of which falls on the autotheoretical side. Now I can do my reading on the recliner or the couch or even in bed, instead of the less comfortable office chair, because I dont have to worry about falling asleep. Now my dogs curl up with me on the couch and dont bother me because Im not eating as I read. What a difference it makes when your reading and writing feeds you.
About the Author
Marcia Woodard received her MFA in fiction in 2002 and is in the pre-pre-doctoral phase of her graduate career at the University of Washington with a total of 15 literature credits accumulated towards a PhD. At this pace she expects to be wheeled from the PhD ceremony to the rest home. Marcia does not normally write in a hammock in the rain, but she wanted to portray how she had imagined the writing life. Besides, the hammock turns out to be a slimming photographic device.
Alchemy. Def. 2. The American Heritage Dictionary. 4th ed. 2000.
Biography. 9 Feb. 2003 <http:www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/journals/bio/index.html>.
Freedman, Diane. An Alchemy of Genres: Cross-Genre Writing by American Feminist Poet-Critics. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1992.
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Lopate, Phillip. Writing Personal Essays: On the Necessity of Turning Oneself Into a Character. Writing Creative Nonfiction: Instruction and Insights from the Teachers of the Associated Writing Programs. Eds. Carolyn Forché and Philip Gerard. Cincinnati: Story P, 2001. 38-44.
Murrell, Annette L. Autobiography as War Machine (or, Wild Titties I Have Known). a/b: Auto/Biography 16. 1 (2001): 141-155.
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Women Writers: An E-Zine. 3 Feb. 2003 <http://www.womenwriters.net>
Young, Stacey. Changing the Wor(l)d: Discourse, Politics, and the Feminist Movement. London: Routledge, 1997.