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Yes, Virginia, There IS an Outside of the Margins: Paperless and Genderless, I Write Myself

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Chapter One:



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Chapter Two:
“Right. So—”
I want to bite the skin on the insides of my cheeks. Emma Bianci’s watching, though.
“—So then—then I could start out by talking about the pharmakon and how it sort of undermines the male discourse, which is the dominant discourse, because it is both a cure and poison at the same time because it is dangerous excess and leads us astray from the originary truth and disrupts the dominant male construct from within—“
I find I am confused by what I’m saying. However, Emma Bianci continues to beam at me from underneath her deplorable choice of hair-color and, at the very least, feigns understanding. This encourages me.
“—and the multiplicity and paradoxical identity of the pharmakon, or the lack of identity, is just like what Irigaray talks about with éc—with feminine writing and so feminine writing within the construct of the masculine language and writing is—does the same thing as writing as the pharmakon does in the dominant masculine construct—”
I am gesturing wildly and liberally with my hands in what I hope is a graceful and artsy manner. I’m excited but I want to appear inspired and articulate instead. Much more sophisticated.
“—So then the only thing is, how do I go from…”
My hands are in the formation of very loose claws, palms facing each other. It looks like I’m holding an invisible dictionary. Or forming an energy ball in anticipation of my enemies. Or that the air in this particular spot just to the left and in front of my chest is now the consistency of taffy and my fingers are stuck, all helpless and literarily sophisticated.
“…how the pharmakon disrupts the dominant masculine construct to how feminine writing relates to it in the first place…”
“Ok, right, right, but it doesn’t all have to be a neat…”
Emma Bianci makes as if she’s holding a tiny stone between tips of all of her five fingers and forms a tulip with her right hand. I couldn’t even try to emulate that.
“…packaged and structured paper. You can let your writing wander even as you are explaining it.”
“Right, right.” I nod vigorously. Right, right.
Right? I…I can? But how will it make sense? How will everything link together and progress together, no, no, no, there’s a sequence and it fits together and it’s a linear sequence and it follows the form that language is meant to follow, the English language that is. this is not the language of the body this is not irigaray’s domain this is a paper as plato envisioned it, not the sounds and visions and tastes and sensations turning in upon themselves. my mind always circular, always without and about itself, always opening up like a breathing lily, reading lily, singing lily, humming lily, rose. those things belong to a quiet liquid space, and space belongs to them, they are endless, and inseparable from one another and flow freely, and flow back and forth, calm, calm, soothing. there there is no one no many no none only is is, mirroring itself onto itself, selves kissing and parting, touching and separating, speaking so.
              lovingly playing with
the language made human
woman made
        in a timeless void
              bursting full of light
                            all energy under the sun
                                          under the lemon groves
                                          roots crawling deep into the new and early earth
                                                                      unsoiled by any mention of
The Paramount Significance of the Conceptual Notion of Reiterated Redundancy
in the Structural Formation of the English Cannon
              The Haverford College Department of English has, after much debate and deliberation, come to the decision that in order to provide its students with a truly comprehensive understanding of the canonical works it will be necessary to make a significant change to the 2009-2010 ENG299A reading list and syllabus. In addition to the works of William Shakespeare, John Donne, William Wordsworth, Derek Walcott, William Butler Yeats, John Keats, Wallace Stevens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Samuel Coleridge, Percy B. Shelley, and Walt Whitman, the students will now also be required to read the selected works of Emily Dickenson as a part of the first half of the core course, the completion of which is required for those intending to major. This decision was a product of the most recent intra-department meeting, the purpose of which is to assess the organizational and constituent aspects of the curriculum on a biannual basis. A simple majority vote among the members of the faculty showed a strong sentiment in favor of expanding the current list of authors whose contributions were critical to the body of Anglophone literature to include a woman.
The decision was a difficult one due to the magnitude of choices available in the realm of distinguished woman writers; other candidates considered by the Department were Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Bishop. Ultimately, the choice of Emily Dickenson was justified not only by the volume of work she has produced, but also, more importantly, the way in which her work functioned as both an integral part of as well as a kind of alternative to the celebrated tradition poets out of which she emerged. The fact that her style is not only comparable to other masters of her time, but also at times surpasses it in unique and unpredictable ways identifies her work as nothing short of remarkable and, without a doubt, worthy of being granted entrance into the celebrated English  



Chapter Three:
In order to answer the question of why and for what purpose gender boundaries and distinctions exist, we have to try to identify how and why we are able to conceptualize them in the first place. The most basic point of entry, from my perspective, is language. Language (all fancy literary theory aside, now) significantly shapes the way we think – or, to be more precise, the way we ourselves and the culture in which we live permit us to think. The processes of perception and conception which by and large determine our relationship to the world all depend on the sort of language we’ve been given. If we are able to perceive and conceive gender – either as a category in itself or, more simply, a divide (difference) between subjects (and objects) – then investigating the gendering of spoken and written language is key to understanding the (presumably) gendered reality in which we live.
The only authentic way in which this can be accomplished within the framework of this Gender and Sexuality Studies class is by both recognizing its most obvious limitation – the complete absence of men – and seeking beyond conventional academic resources in order to address the problem and create a solution. While I am not trying to assert that because the all of members of the class are women only the feminine or female-gendered speech and writing are present, I do strongly contend that the presence of men in the class would add a crucial dimension to the representation of gender as well as ways in which it is comprehended, internalized, and enacted in our culture.
The first step is to venture outside the classroom and engage in direct spoken dialogue with men; in order to observe and analyze the gendering of spoken language it is not enough to read about theory; it must be put into practice. Studying a subject of the humanities through the lens of social science would fit well with the philosophy of interdisciplinary approach around which the course has been structured so far. Each member of the glass would have a certain length of time during which she would record (preferably with an actual recorder) direct spoken exchange between men and women, men and men, women and women (she herself can and should be part of any number of these dialogues). The compiled data would be analyzed for any presence of the feminine and/or the masculine in spoken language, whether on the level of individually generated speech or through the development of certain chemistry in a conversational exchange, as well as its stability or instability with regard to any number of factors considered significant. It would then be incorporated into a larger research project, grounded by a body of information decided upon by individual interest and drawn from any number of fields, be it social psychology, anthropology, behavioral neuroscience, philosophy, etc.
Every member of the class would also attempt to isolate the effects of her own role in this project both as a gatherer of data and its interpreter.
            The second part of this project would consist of exploring the gendering of written language by deliberate attempts to write what each individual student would consider to be masculine writing and feminine writing. In other words, each member of the class would be free to come up with some sort of a definition for what she believes masculine and feminine writing to be; she could choose to look at writing samples of peers and strangers or famous writers (dead or alive), or, for that matter take the opposite approach and try to work from immediate, unmeditated free association. As each one of us is in the process of these writing exercises, we would also be trying to decipher exactly the criteria (if there is one) being utilized identify the femininity or masculinity in types of writing. The next step would then be trying to push beyond that limiting binary and attempt to create pieces of writing that incorporate both genders, and, subsequently, writing that they come to define as having no gender at all. Everyone would then compare and analyze her own “doubly-gendered” and the genderless writing pieces as well as those created by other members of the class and draw out conclusions as well as further queries. The end goal of these endeavors, I think, would be to try to delve into the realm of spoken and written language and first try to locate the symptoms, and potentially even the origins, of gendering and then proceed to look for a way to work through them, to move beyond them and try to imagine what a language that lies outside of the binary would look and feel and sound like.

Images of cannon and (original) male/female body found at: and