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.”

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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