The Thrill of Shrill

I didn’t grow up fat.  I was a hefty baby—a 9-pounder, to be precise—and at different points in my childhood, a chubbier, sometimes stockier kid, but never fat, per se, and for the first half of my 20’s, I was 5’3” and 125 lbs, give or take – a frame that we offhandedly consider average in our society, but that is actually well below the average female frame.  And while I’ve heard that it’s fairly “normal” to be a size 16-18, four years after gaining most of my weight, my emergence into a larger body is still a sometimes strange, uncomfortable, jarring experience, and I’ve only recently started to identify as “fat.”  Once I realized that I officially qualified (it’s kind of like realizing you’re an alcoholic, which I discovered so many years ago—suddenly, you just know), I wasn’t too hesitant to call myself what I felt I was, on twitter, and now on my blog.  It can be intimidating to try to appropriate, to try to re-claim a term that’s been used for years to oppress larger women and shame overweight people, but it’s also liberating to say “this is me—not the whole of who I am, but part of how I identify, nevertheless.”

Continue reading “The Thrill of Shrill”
The Thrill of Shrill

Teaching Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: Fate and Free Will, Determinism and Destiny

There are probably a lot of reasons why Wicked was my favorite book to read with my students during my Reading the Monster course.  This assertion may be surprising, on the one hand, because Wicked doesn’t fall under the traditional “horror” umbrella like many other texts on the syllabus.  And, as is obvious from reading this blog, I’m an avid fan and proponent of what might be called, more specifically, “art-horror”—the creation of fictional horrific events, morphed into cinematic and literary experiences.  Conversely, there’s so much imagination, and so much problematization (a la fiction) packed into Wicked, that Gregory Maguire’s book provides plenty of fodder for speculation, discussion, and debate, even as it delights, challenges, and entertains—all on a fairly consistent basis. What’s more—and this may be a far from ancillary point—I taught Wicked after my dreaded comprehensive examination was (more or less) over, so I had more time to put toward lesson planning and making the text particularly engaging to students.  The emerging result, for me, was a stronger interest in a text that I already enjoyed, but that I didn’t fully appreciate until reading a second time.

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Teaching Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: Fate and Free Will, Determinism and Destiny

Navigating Norman: The Serial Killer Monster as Meaning Machine

W. Scott Poole quotes Judith Halberstam, who calls the monster a “meaning machine.”  This observation seems to suggest that the monster is always overdetermined – that the monstrous body in a particular work can mean a variety of things in any given time and place.  Poole agrees with Halberstam when he argues: “The subject of monsters contains too much meaning” and goes on to observe that “the very messiness of the monster makes it a perfect entry into understanding the messiness of American history” (xv).  In Monster Theory, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen lays out the seven theses of the monster, and his first theses is that “the monster body is a cultural body” (4).  Cohen also believes that we can read the monster, but the monster’s meaning always has a basis in the culture that surrounds it.  While Poole asserts that monsters are indisputably real—created by material circumstances and producing material consequences – Calafell, who bases her readings heavily on Poole and Cohen, find the monster a useful metaphor for describing problematic identity relations in the United States; she seems to embrace both a metaphorical reading of the monster and the contention that monsters can be very real, at times.

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Navigating Norman: The Serial Killer Monster as Meaning Machine

Miles to Go Before I Sleep: My Christmas Night Reading List

On Christmas morning my parents and I packed the car and headed to Ohio to visit family.  While many travelers are likely to bring a book with them on such a trip, I tend to be reading many books at once, and I always have trouble discerning what texts future Kalie will be in the mood to peruse, so I brought a bag of books, just to read in my hotel room post-Christmas day festivities.  We got back to the hotel a little before midnight, and while my plan had been to sit down and read, it occurred to me that maybe I’d like to ramble on just a little bit about what I’m reading right now, instead of picking up a book ASAP.  As such, I emptied the contents of my bag of indecision on the spare bed in the hotel room, and I snapped a picture of the books I’m going to discuss.  Since my focal areas are horror, monstrosity, and madness, the books predominantly fall under those subject areas, with considerable variation under that broader umbrella. 

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Miles to Go Before I Sleep: My Christmas Night Reading List

An Insanely Long Series: Reading Psycho Bit by Bit

Anthony Perkins is Norman Bates.  Point blank.  There are no two ways about it.  Except, of course, when he isn’t Norman Bates.  And what an unusual experience it is to envision someone else fulfilling the role, especially since it’s been years since I’ve seen the Gus Van Sant remake.  The beauty of the comprehensive exam is that I can select the books I put on my lists (based on a unifying theme), and I was really excited to add Robert Bloch’s Psycho.  Of course, I’ve seen the original movie many-a times, but I’ve never read the text, and like any horror fan, I was immediately interested in how the novel would compare with the film.  I decided, then, to do what I did with The Shining.  In “Let’s Not Overlook Anything” I blogged about the Shining in small increments and spent a considerable amount of blog space discussing one or two scenes.  I decided I would do the same with the text Psycho – blog a little bit about each section as I read it.  So this is my “insanely long series,” my observations about Bloch’s Psycho.  And my first observation is that Bloch’s Norman Bates is fascinating.

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An Insanely Long Series: Reading Psycho Bit by Bit

“The Lady’s Maid’s Bell”: An Overview

Tonight, I laughed at my imminent comp exam as I nestled in a couch corner and picked up a book of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories. Had I structured my exam differently, it’s quite possible these stories would have made the exam cut, but as it stands they’re only extra, unrelated reading that’s taking away from the time I’ve been devoting reading The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction (which, by the way, is incredibly interesting in and of itself, but a harder piece about which to write a post).  My sister bought me Edith Wharton’s ghost stories last year for Christmas, but it’s taken me an entire year to write about one for my blog. This evening I sat down to a rather chilling tale called The Lady’s Maid’s Bell, and I decided I’d write a bit about it.  According to the text’s introduction, this is Wharton’s most ambiguous ghost story, and after reading it, I think I can surmise why. Since it’s hard to write about a story in much detail without giving away the ending, this analysis will contain spoilers.  If I were a better, or perhaps a more careful writer, I would be able to produce analysis without spoilers.  But as it stands, I think I’ll have to say a fair deal about the story to analyze it.

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“The Lady’s Maid’s Bell”: An Overview

Thoughts on Scribbling from the Apple Loft: Madness and Work in Various Texts

Of Shakespeare’s sister that Virginia Woolf imagines in A Room of One’s Own, Woolf speculates: “Perhaps she scribbled some pages up in an apple loft on the sly but was careful to hide them or set fire to them.”  For some scholars of women’s literature, it’s fairly common to assume that there was a vendetta against the combination of women and work in Anglo-American history, and that stifling the ability to work– often forbidding, particularly, artistic expression – resulted in concomitant madness for oppressed women.  It’s a common trope, although there were some significant historical exceptions to the rule.  I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’ve heard that Jane Austen had to hide her manuscript whenever a guest entered her room.  And one must wonder, as VW did, what happened to the likely expansive throng of brilliant, would-be  productive women who weren’t given a voice prior to, say, the Romantic or Victorian eras – or later.  As an unrelated heads up, there will be spoilers throughout this piece!  

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Thoughts on Scribbling from the Apple Loft: Madness and Work in Various Texts

Objects of Abjection: The Mad Monster in Stephen King’s Misery

Misery book 1I read Stephen King’s Misery earlier this summer for my comprehensive exams.  Then, I let the book rest for a while and didn’t do much with it.  It juxtaposes fascinatingly with the film, which depicts an Annie Wilkes who’s incredibly true to King’s story, courtesy of the monumentally talented Kathy Bates.  And, like the film, it explores concepts like female madness, and madness depicted as monstrosity, but in more depth than the film does.  Wilkes is at least a somewhat complex character who King—and his protagonist, Paul Sheldon—come close to virtually humanizing at times, despite her atrocious actions.  But the fact remains: Annie Wilkes is a madwoman, and she’s depicted as a monstrous madwoman.  I thought I’d use this post to look at more of Annie’s personality, and what the madwoman—and the monster woman—is, if we take Annie as an example of both.  So, let’s do this. Continue reading “Objects of Abjection: The Mad Monster in Stephen King’s Misery”

Objects of Abjection: The Mad Monster in Stephen King’s Misery

Reading About Writing: Stephen King’s “On Writing”

Stephen King 1
A recent picture of Stephen King

I can’t say I read many books about the writing process these days.  To be sure, I have no vendetta against them – especially not when they’re written by accomplished authors.  I remember, years ago, reading Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, in which she talks about taking life, and taking writing, step by step, the way her brother had to take a science project “bird by bird” when he stayed up to do it at the last minute.  And in my early 20’s, I was obsessed with Mary Pipher’s Writing to Change the World.  Pipher is the author of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, and along with formulating the renowned theory that our society is taking something away from its girls during the transition from childhood to adulthood, she also sought to give people advice on how to write – especially on how to write in a way that would change things, that would make a difference.  That was a fair undertaking, because Reviving Ophelia had made waves, and its theory still has resonance today, years later.  Continue reading “Reading About Writing: Stephen King’s “On Writing””

Reading About Writing: Stephen King’s “On Writing”

The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative

the shining 4.3In the beginning of Place: An Introduction, Tim Cresswell describes the significance of placing a specific art exhibit, one foregrounding Bollywood movies, in an elite Swedish town where only the 1% tend to visit, in part because it’s difficult to get there.  Cresswell includes the following quote in his introduction: “ ‘It’s difficult to get to,’ Mr. Wakefield added, ‘but because of that, it also demands a different kind of attention.  You discover the art through the place and the place through the art.’  The exhibition at Gstaad reflects a wider interest in how art and place interact on the part of both the artists and art theorists” (2).  This got me thinking that it might be intriguing to examine The Shining not just from a few lenses but – perhaps – from the intersection of a few lenses:  Space or place, as its conveyed in the film, the cultural space in which the film is produced, and the current cultural space in which I, the viewer, am watching the film.  This move, I think, is necessarily spectral, or turns the art under examination into a specter that disrupts linear time, since I become sort of engaged in this spectral moment, where I’m looking at the art forward, backward, etc – and this is especially true of The Shining, which situates its primary space, The Overlook Hotel, as a place that’s both mad and spectral, that consistently – if not constantly – manifests itself as a presence in the spectral moment by embodying both the past and the present – and, to the contemporary viewer, the more recent past (1921, 1980, 2017, but arranged as 2017 encompassing a film that shifts back and forth between 1921 and 1980, that begins by emphasizing 1980 but ends by emphasizing 1921).  As a “cautionary note,” I found, as I was watching, that it was challenging to thread the entirety of this analysis throughout my interpretation of the film, especially for a blog post, but that’s the general angle I’m coming from when I look at the film.  (As a sidenote, I wonder the extent to which we could deduce that all art is “spectral” – or maybe that’s what I’m getting at, but that seems like a sweeping argument for a later time).     Continue reading “The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative”

The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative