I’ve entered that state of “oh no, fall semester is just around the corner!” quite a bit earlier than usual, because I’m doing two presentations at the upcoming Society of American Archivists conference, both on August 3. One for a panel on trigger warnings and primary-source instruction at SAA’s Teaching with Primary Sources unconference, and the other for the SAA Women’s Collections Roundtable, “Documenting Diverse Women.” I’m having a phone conversation on Thursday with the other presenter for the primary-source instruction one to get a sense of how we’ll organize what we do, but I’m expecting to present on/talk about three sources that I used for the dating-history course that addressed date rape. The Roundtable talk is going to be about intellectual girls in the archives, and will focus on Audre Lorde, whose paper—including her girlhood journals—are at Spelman. I’m spending a day at Spelman next week to dive in, and I can’t wait. I read Sister Outsider (2007 edition) while on vacation and I’m halfway through the University of Mississippi Press collection Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004; ed. Joan Wylie Hall).
Lorde talks about beginning to write poetry as a girl in terms that get me very excited, so much so that I can’t quite order my thoughts to get them into a suitable form here. The presentation is going to start with my recent inclination to return to the structure of my dissertation—i.e., focus on individual girls and their intellectual communities, however defined, the way I focused on four individual poets—rather than focus on spaces as I’d originally thought I’d do. Eve Sedgwick’s assertion of “respectful attention” for 9-year-old Eve Kosofsky’s claim to being an intellectual has shifted my thinking a little. Ever since I came across Kosofsky’s review in Seventeen, I’ve wanted to focus on Kosofsky the girl, rather than just on Kosofsky-to-become-Eve-Sedgwick, and I’m thinking now that focusing on individual girls (relying heavily on Sedgwick’s point about attention to the girl as intellectual in her own right) and their communities/milieux as a way of highlighting both girlhood intellectual effort/activity and communities, however they formed. Lorde and her friends at Hunter College High School seems like a path into that.
Additionally, Lorde as an adult talks about her early thought processes in ways that I can’t quite put into words yet (largely because I’m worried about not doing them justice). So I’d rather let her speak for herself. Just a bit, from her 1979 interview with Adrienne Rich:
From her 1979 interview with Adrienne Rich:
I remember trying when I was in high school not to think in poems. I saw the way other people thought, and it was an amazement to me—step by step, not in bubbles up from chaos that you had to anchor with words. . . . If I read things that were assigned, I didn’t read them the way we were supposed to. Everything was like a poem, with different curves, different levels. So I always felt that the ways I took things in were different from the ways other people took them in. I used to practice trying to think.
Audre Lorde, “An Interview: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich,” in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Rev. ed (Berkeley, Calif: Crossing Press, 2007), 83, 84.
I’m so eager to see what her journals look like: not just for what she writes, but for how she writes it.
Still thinking about who the other chapters might be on. I’ve wanted to steer away from Sylvia Plath because so much has already been done on her and I really want to showcase other girls who’ve received less “girl” treatment (much the way I wanted to steer away from Whitman and Dickinson in my dissertation), but I’m thinking maybe a coda or epilogue on her, since she is a known girl-poet figure. And, like Sedgwick and Lorde, Plath also published in Seventeen. Not that I’m determined to have every girl I focus on be a girl who appeared in Seventeen. Not a requirement.
As for the other presentation, well, my date-rape sources are going to be:
- Career Girl, Watch Your Step! (1964): excerpt touching on dating and how a career gal should line up a married man who she can “phone, using the magic word or words that mean ‘Come at once and bring some muscle.'” (p. 67) Written by Max Wylie, “Auxiliary Police, 22nd Precinct, New York” in a very “My name is Max Wylie. I wear a badge” style.)
- Two and the Town (1952), a novel for teen boys about the heartbreaking (/sarcasm) story of football Buff Cody, who ruins, ruins!! his future by
date-rapinggetting a naive girl, Elaine, pregnant. He’s ruined, of course, because she gets pregnant. The girl is to blame for not knowing enough to stop him. And by the way, the girl contemplates suicide but realizes this would kill the baby, too. In the least happy ending, the couple reunites after Buff deserts her for the Army, where he meets an older soldier with children who teaches Buff to value family. Elaine’s father, unsurprisingly, is reluctant to let Buff have his daughter/grandchild again until Buff calls him “Pop,” which immediately warms his heart and convinces him that Buff has changed. No one really cares about how Elaine feels, but when I finished this book (the first time I tried to read it, in library school, I had to stop after the description of the date rape not even remotely consensual sex but hey, who cares?conception because it was so disturbing). Click here for the WorldCat record and note that the date rape aspect is completely elided in the book’s description: Elaine and Buff “become outcasts from their own group and have to adjust to an entirely new way of thinking and living.” Yeeeah. And come the 1970s, Elaine is going to be outta there.
- And finally, this item from the GSU student newspaper, the Signal:
GSU Police Program Teaches Rape Refusal (page 4) (“I would prefer not to”?). One of my students used this as one of her sources, and it’s worth talking about for what it implies about “rape refusal” and for how the class responded to it. (We laughed. Nervous laughter. Dark humor. Like what I just did by quoting Bartleby. Which is something I also want to talk about).
The Career Girl, Watch Your Step! and Two and the Town readings are both linked from the course website, under “Advice Manuals” and “Popular Fiction.” I’ll be updating that site soon for the new version of the course, but those two readings will definitely remain.
If the presentations seem showable after they’re done, I’ll link them to my publications/presentations page. But now I’ve got to sit down and actually write them!