Thursday, March 12, 2015


Phil Nel sent along this article after I posted my latest City Paper article:  "Living with Cancer: Coming to Terms," by Susan Gubar.  Gubar is a professor, and for me she marks changes in my own academic process:

  • When I was an undergraduate, her work turned me on in ways that led to the career I have now.  As an English major, I read Madwoman in the Attic and basically though, "OMG they are right!  Literature demonstrates horrific sexism, and here's how 19th c. women writers responded to that!  Activism that was available to them!"  It not only taught me about how authors could respond to sexism, but she helped me to understand feminism and how it manifested in the world.  And how you can identify it in its subtle ways and write about it.  That book affected my life.
  • Then I hit grad school and had the opportunity to 1) read more feminist things, and 2) recognize that feminism was growing and shifting away from things like Madwoman in the Attic.  The damages and dangers in the world weren't limited to middle-class white woman (and I talked to a scholar in grad school who actually did argue this--rejecting what my students and I call intersectionality).  This is an easy and problematic way for me to identify that, but she was someone who did second wave feminism and I did third wave.
Now here she is again, someone whose writing is resonating with me because she's an academic, and she has ovarian cancer.  The article I read was about the rhetoric surrounding cancer.  She wrote things like
So I was delighted to encounter an essay by another friend who encourages linguistic exuberance with respect to this matter of self-definition. In an article composed nine years before her death from metastatic breast cancer, the witty queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick recommended acronyms like BBP (Bald Barfing Person) and WAPHMO (Woman About to go Postal at H.M.O.). She then confided that she personally had alternated between PSHIFTY (Person Still Hanging In Fine Thank You) and QIBIFA (Quite Ill, But Inexplicably Fat Anyway) until she settled on “undead.”

None of those terms resonate with me, but I'm glad to read that she and a colleague/friend/person- whose-writing-knocked-my-socks-off-in-graduate-school were exploring how to say what you're experiencing.

And here's Maybelle--often a good way to end a blog post.  She and her Poppi are thrilled for the appropriate Cookeville experience:  they were buying butter twists at Ralph's.


  1. Susan was one of my profs at IU, along with Donald Gray. She's an amazing tour de force.

  2. I was proud to drop a "Madwoman in the Attic" reference in my review of the 2011 "Jane Eyre" movie. Thank you, college.

  3. I read in CCP that you don't care to be called a brave warrior (or something to that effect), so I hope I don't offend or trivialize you by saying I was glad to see another strong woman in our community. I am mother to an 8 yr old daughter and I am thankful she has more role models available to her. I haven't read your work, but whether I agree or not, you're a voice and it encourages her & other young girls to find and use their own. If you're on Craig's List shopping furniture search "Downs Syndrome" and you'll see a posting of mine. Feel free to send me any info on locally focused organizations. Ty and wishing you & your family the very best. Liz