In a single sentence [my book critic] reimposed the very dichotomies I had constructed the book in order to call into question, putting electrified fences around the categories “academy,” “criticism,” and “writing” to keep the various critters from intermingling, maybe interbreeding to create some nameless monster very like the one I aspire to be.
Thanks to Kristen, Suzanne, and Theophrastus for joining in conversation yesterday around three posts here, each related to Shawna R. B. Atteberry's helpful and hopeful new book, What You Didn't Learn in Sunday School, Women Who Didn't Sit Down and Shut Up.
Suzanne says, most recently: "Okay. I have to admit that this conversation has me completely baffled." Kristen writes again, "Switching gears here to talk more about the actual blog post." Theophrastus, still in high gear, signs off as "Emmanuel Goldstein" after confessing first, "I haven't read Shawna's book (and I'm not likely to ...), and then further complaining, "I think that weak arguments benefit the oppressor....But most of all, I think her 'Godde' and 'Christa' are gimmicky and reminiscent of Newspeak."
I myself am feeling again what Tonya and Daniel have kindly acknowledged: "Conversations in person are rarely this stressful." And now I'm afraid that this weekend I'm not going to have much time to add anything, hoping that the conversation, nonetheless, will continue on without me as it is important, to me, and to the conversants here so far. I know it's important to Shawna and the readers of her book. Please feel free to join in, as you would. If things get (more) heated and out of hand, then please do watch your own boundaries of protection for yourself. (Remain anonymous or pseudonymous even, as you wish.) The space of a blog can be hurtful. The personal is, nevertheless, important. So is, I think, your voice. Please don't sit down or shut up; this is Shawna's point.
I'm going to use my remaining few minutes on the blog today to quote one of my favorite writers from one of my favorite books of hers. She does expose the sorts of judgmentalism that would seek not to listen but to silence others. This writer expresses resistance to binary thinking of the sort that would force a neologism, such as Godde, into a pure and one-gendered category (i.e., as if it must always and only be the exact opposite of the "divine masculine," somehow obviously just "feminine," and clearly, theologically heretical). I'm hoping the writer I'm quoting below here will encourage us to keep talking and to consider more what Shawna is saying, what women of the Bible are saying. Here's the quotation; its from pages 3 and 4 of the book Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, by Nancy Mairs:
An anonymous reader of an early version of this book, about whom I only know that “she” is “an academic,” concluded: “It is obvious from her criticism that she wasn't meant to be an academic, from her encounter with French feminist theory, that she wasn't cut out for a career as a critic. What is obvious is that she is a real writer.” I could have wept, if frustration any longer had the power to elicit the tears reserved now for anguish unspeakably deeper. In a single sentence she reimposed the very dichotomies I had constructed the book in order to call into question, putting electrified fences around the categories “academy,” “criticism,” and “writing” to keep the various critters from intermingling, maybe interbreeding to create some nameless monster very like the one I aspire to be.
And what queer syntax. “Meant” by whom? “Cut out” by whom? Is there a God in the Academy creating academics in His own image and dispensing careers according to some holy plan? If I'm the product of intention, I'd like to know who intended me. And how is a “real” writer distinguished from other sorts (what sorts?) of writers? These are not idle questions. And they do not have merely private significance. The capacity -- the drive -- to segregate and hierarchize intellectual pursuits, to speak of them in the passive voice as though they were ordained by some anonymous agency, and to envision “real”as a discrete state distinguishable (by the rigorous critical mind) from some other way of being infects otherwise fluid and flexible intelligences with a kind of cerebral tetanus that inhibits jouissance before the first lovely ripple of pleasure has fairly begun.
I am a not a “real writer.” I am a writer. Without modification.