Parallel writing project

Back in the summer I started this blog to track my work in English 517, which was a feminist theory course and prep for my honours thesis. That class is technically finished, but my professor was generous enough to continue working with me on some of the topics that came up during the summer semester. We designed a final, year-long project which will be graded and my mark in that class potentially revised. Though, I will admit, I’m doing it more for the experience and the help than the mark.

My on-going project for that class is a parallel writing project, a creative non-fiction/personal essaying response to the process of writing my honours thesis. I have found it difficult to start this project in any kind of concerted, focused fashion. The goal of the project is to engage with the messy personal side of academic writing, to write something that can be whittled down to a publishable essay. Part of the process will involve my professor’s help in getting the essay to the point where I could submit it for publication, and selfishly that is the help that I am most interested in. I want to publish, both academically and creatively, and this is an amazing opportunity to get help with that process.

But my thesis touches on issues that are so important to me. Bodily autonomy, consent, feminism, sex-positive activism. It’s not just an academic writing project that I can observe and comment on, which is why the essay would have any value, but also why it’s hard to engage with. And, messily, writing this honours thesis is intersecting with a bunch of difficult life events. I’m sick. I’m losing someone I love (they move in less than two weeks). I’m struggling right now. It’s hard to write. It’s hard to write anything, let alone write something academic and then write something meaningful about the process of writing that academic thing.

But this blog post is important. It’s been on my to-do list for two months now. This blog post is my commitment to actually do this parallel writing project. I’m not sure what it will look like yet, but I commit to making it happen. You can watch it develop here. And maybe, sometime next year, you can read the finished, polished, published essay in a journal or a magazine somewhere.

Illness and upheaval, sadness and tiredness and writers block… it’s all good material. It’s all part of the process. It’s all worth the time to engage with, to understand, to articulate. So I’m going to do that.

Somehow.

Submit!

I’ve been submitting applications for things.

I sent in an abstract (with a good friend and her PhD supervisor) to the Digital Humanities 2013 conference. This is the short version:

In this paper, we argue that the digital humanities community, which has an ongoing interest in studying the literary dimensions of gender, is at an opportune moment to join the conversation on gender theories from other disciplines. Moreover, we suggest that DH can take a leadership role in moving beyond the assumptions of binary gender, and instead engage with non-binary gender in meaningful and tangible ways through DH teaching and research.

It’s a pretty big deal! For one thing, it’s an international conference and it would result in a publication. For another, the fact that my friend and her supervisor had enough faith in my academic abilities to go out on a limb and invite me to write with them is a huge compliment. And for a third, writing about non-binary gender in a totally new field is ridiculously exciting. AIYEE!!!

I also submitted an application to the SU Undergraduate Research Symposium. This is also a big deal, because I am really excited about my topic and my supervisor said that it is “very good,” which is awesome. (She also said it needed to be tightened up and this is the post-tightening version… though it’s still not as great as I wish it was.) This is my slightly edited application (after the jump, because it’s longer than the short version of our DH 2013 submission – I’ll post the long version of that once we’re approved. Which we obviously will be! I hope. I hope I hope I hope):

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First ten pages (with some commentary)

These are the first ten pages of my honours thesis. They are pretty much useless, and when I met with Professor Sullivan (who has agreed to have her name on the blog, never fear! I won’t put any names in here without explicit consent) she said (and I agreed) that I really need a better theoretical framework to work within. Which is… yeah. Clear from the pages, which will follow this commentary. Basically, I had been picturing a certain type of project (which I talked about in my impassioned introductory speech to my seminar class) but that’s not the project I’m going to be doing. See post before this one for what I’m actually going to be doing.

It will be a hermeneutics of feminist pornography. I’m still wrapping my head around what that means, exactly. It’s still exciting… it’s just different.I’ll tackle the first idea later on in my career, when I’m not dealing with health issues and huge traumatic upheaval in my personal life. BUT! Even though this new project is meant to be ‘easier’ it is also one that I have minimal theoretical grounding for so I have a lot of catch-up to do. Catch-up that I am not very effectively doing. It’s dragging, right now. However, I’ll be up to speed soon, I hope. I’ll post here as I read. Given the lack of posting, you can guess how much reading I’ve been doing. Ha! *headdesk* But, actually, I have been reading quite a lot and having thoughts. I just haven’t got them organized enough to go here.

And now, without further ado, my first (mostly useless) ten pages! After the break, ’cause it’s long.

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Revised Project Proposal

English 504 Revised Project Proposal (Submitted Oct 1 – I’m hella behind on updating this blog.)

Working Title:

Contentious Cartography: Defining and Exploring Feminist Pornography

Problem/Question/Motive Statement:

This project will be both an articulation of a hermeneutics of feminist pornography and a detailed exploration of examples of feminist pornography. What is feminist pornography and how would an explicitly feminist academic approach to the topic look? I will be using two Feminist Porn Award winning films to frame the analysis, and will also be analyzing the Feminist Porn Awards themselves. I will ask the questions: What is feminist porn? And, do Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous and Cabaret Desire (and the Feminist Porn Awards) qualify, given the criteria I will generate?

Capsule Statement:

This project will build on the work of scholars such as Linda Williams and Katrien Jacobs, who study pornography using the same close textual analysis that scholars have applied to other film genres. As Williams notes, “still and moving-image pornographies have become fully recognizable fixtures of popular culture” (1) and deserve to be studied and taught as other ‘fixtures of popular culture’ have been.

The project will include examination of “feminism” in the context of feminist pornography. The label has been claimed for a variety of often-contradictory viewpoints, including sex-positive feminism and anti-porn feminism, which are often at odds. Intersectionality, which seeks to articulate and understand “the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relations and subject formations” (McCall, 1771) is an important consideration in this context. Since one stated goal of the Feminist Porn Awards is to highlight erotica focused on “marginalized people” (Good for Her) an intersectional analysis is relevant. Mainstream porn is frequently accused of normalizing misogynist and non-consensually violent performances of sexuality. This project will examine what it is that feminist porn normalizes, and how porn earns a feminist label and embodies feminist ideals.

Research Methodology and Writing Process:

The research direction taken over the summer will be revised, and my focus will be on articulating a hermeneutics of feminist pornography (understanding what feminist pornography specifically looks like, what filmic elements it incorporates, and how these create a cohesive feminist whole, if they do) rather than focusing on the tension between academic writing and community emergent writing. This shift in focus will require some catch-up, so my research will start with focusing on film theory and film studies, particularly feminist film theory/studies. My writing process[1] involves multiple viewings of each film, asking questions about the films, and then attempting to answer these questions, using existing academic research and community emergent writing to inform my analysis.

Plan of Action and Timeline:

October:

–       Feminist film theory reading

–       Complete synopsis (with questions) of both Cabaret Desire and Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous. Submit to Dr. Sullivan for feedback on my questions.

November:

–       Feminist (and non-feminist academic) pornography theory reading

–       Articulate beginnings of hermeneutics and submit to Dr. Sullivan

December:

–       Continue working on hermeneutics of feminist porn

–       Complete semi-polished draft of hermeneutics and rough-draft of film analysis and submit to Dr. Sullivan

January:

–       Complete semi-polished draft of film analysis and submit to Dr. Sullivan

February, March, April:

–       Revise, revise, revise

Works Cited

Good For Her. “Feminist Porn Awards.” Good for Her.com. Good for Her, n.d. Web. 15 April 2012.

McCall, Leslie. “The Complexity of Intersectionality.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30:3 (2005): 1771-1800. JStor. Web. 15 April 2012.

Williams, Linda. Porn Studies. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004. Print.


[1] This writing process is documented on my blog at sextextsblog.wordpress.com. The reason for publishing my process online is because I am ideologically in favour of making the messiness, personal bias, and false starts of academic writing transparent, and taking apart the assumptions of academic writing as pure or objective.