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A Final Paper, or, A Generic Experiment: Epilogue, or ...

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Epilogue, or, whatever you call it when a smart mentally-ill student who has issues with authority and with deadlines, and who is fed up with dragging zhirself along like this, totally cops out and doesn’t put nearly as much work into zhir final paper as everyone else in the class, because zhe’s pretty sure zhe can get away with it with this professor (just don’t tell zhir dean), but wants to justify zhir brattiness somehow (and how distracting were those third-gender pronouns I made up for myself?).


Anything can be intellectualized. I mean, my interest in Gender and Sexuality Studies is partly the queer’s fascination with zir own oddity and partly the queer’s desire to understand – the better to dismantle – the architecture which shoves zir into such a cramped overheated attic room and partly the queer’s need to speak and be heard by all the people who maintain the architecture as it is because it suits them well enough. But partly it’s a way to think about sex while avoiding certain realities. Because the emotional investment of loving is such a tremendous emotional risk, and sometimes calling up a close friend is more of an emotional risk than I can bear. And because the experience of love is emotionally intense, and with me it involves a risk of pathological emotional intensity, and I have had enough of that, I have been swimming in pathologically intense emotions for so long and I’ve barely kept my nose above water at times. And because: sex and shame and expectations. Thrills and fears and shocks. Knowledge and experience. It is no coincidence at all that the end of my first, incredibly unsuccessful relationship coincided with the germination of my interest in Gender and Sexuality Studies. And because I can’t turn my brain off anyway – thinking and writing started out as a way of treading water.


At the epilogue of his book Theorizing Myth, Bruce Lincoln relates how a student at one of the lectures which led up to that book asked what the difference is between mythology and scholarship; he answers, in his epilogue, that the difference is footnotes. Scholarship is one way of ordering the universe. My question is: do we admit to that in public? Do we admit the fears and desires that drive our personal ordering?


Judith Butler is tough going, and for one of my other final papers I ended up wading hip-deep through a linguistic and psychoanalytic morass called Antigone’s Claim. There were a few rocky outcrops, too abrupt to really let me get my footing, during which Butler emerged from wrestling with Hegel and Lacan, and talked about same-sex marriage. It was abrupt. It was confusing. It seemed like she had changed the subject. Are we talking about the theoretical basis of psychoanalysis, and the symbolic, and the word of the Father, and all that? Or are we talking, Judith, about how being a lesbian mother in society as it is makes you feel? Those rocks were the only remnants of her rage that could be detected in the swamp of that book, cooled and broken – but I’m sure that the rage smolders away far below the surface. Would it help, if it were clearly visible, a carefully cut edifice instead of something on the ground to trip over? Would it help anyone at all?


I had been saying for months that I didn’t think of myself as a woman. I hadn’t pursued that line of thinking any further. Susan Stryker showed up – readings in two of my classes, and she herself there as well. Suddenly, there was a mirror, and I raised my eyes to it, and that’s how I came out.


What is the impact of making it personal? Skillfully deployed personal narrative can make a reader pay attention, and be there. Instead of sitting safe in a middle row in a dim lecture hall with the speaker at the podium doing what ze’s supposed to do, the speaker is dancing or screaming or singing or taking zir clothes off or spilling zir guts all over the stage. And suddenly there’s a mirror next to you – take a look, go on, take a good hard look at what you look like naked. Take up the knife and smell your own intestines.


But does it make us better scholars? Does it make for better scholarship? What is the yardstick?


I haven’t got a clue what impact this will have on others. This fills me with terror, because I know how few comments I can expect to get; I cannot expect to have a good sense of how others take this writing. I am only writing this because of the assignment – what I do not put into it in time and research, I will put into it with fear and bravado and ballsiness and intense self-consciousness. I will only post this (ohdeargod) online for the same reason.


This was supposed to be about genre, wasn’t it? Well, fuck it, I’m done.


This requires more thought. Possibly this even requires teamwork.


(this is an experiment)