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Friday, November 4, 2011

Too academic. Not enough dyke.


I scared myself away, and that totally misses the point. “So study evermore is overshot,” I’m inclined to sigh in honor of Berowne.[1] I set up this blog for creative freedom. As a place to write when I’m not really up for writing the items on my academic to do list. Must we recap? It exhausts me to think about everything I’ve written lately and it’s more exhausting still to think of everything I have left to write. And then, what woe, to scare myself away from my own blog and just when I needed a place to practice the craft without all the pressure.

But I set my own bar and lately I’ve had to confront some self-knowledge that I’d been blissfully denying. I’m an overachiever. And sometimes, so it would seem, this can yield negative results. Like when setting one’s own bar, for example.

Hereby, I will stop citing critical sources![2] And just write! Ah, to cry the charge of so many petulant writers before me! It satisfies. Try it.

And so I resolve to write with abandon. I will quench my insatiable thirst for (anonymous) publication by writing about my ordinary life.[3] But, ordinarily, my mind is on her. She inspires me to work and to rest, both to my fullest potential, and reminds me to learn the really important things first. And so, with Berowne, I sigh: “If knowledge be the mark, to know thee shall suffice.[4]






[1] Shakespeare, William. Love’s Labor’s Lost (I.i.142), 1594.
[2] As a tribute to my students, who teach me everything I need to know most, I also dropped the requirement I had for a works cited page and critical sources from the draft of an analytical essay assignment before I published it.
[3] Which, by the way, totally makes me want to cite an article I just read in PMLA by Joshua Gamson, “The Unwatched Life Is Not Worth Living: The Elevation of the Ordinary in Celebrity Culture, 2011. Also, Modern Language Association, I apologize for totally obfuscating any sense of proper citation format. I’m abandoning it. For the blog’s sake. I’m switching to simplicity-focused footnotes, but only here. Don’t hate me.
[4] ---. (IIV.ii.228).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Definitions: Dykademic & Deseret

Dykademic

I am indebted to Bonnie J. Morris, a women's studies professor at George Washington University, for my use of the term dykademic. I ran across an article by Morris earlier this year during a rather lonely and depressing time for me and her powerful word gave me that unmatachable freedom and potential that comes from self-naming. Finally, I had a name for who/what I was. Although I had been well-aware of my same-sex attraction for a long time, I struggled with admitting it, living it, and naming it. I felt isolated, lonely, and without community. Moving west to continue graduate school only increased this sense of alienation and by late winter I was nearly inconsolable. And then I found Morris.

Morris wrote candidly and honestly about growing up lesbian and being a lesbian in academia:

"There is a peculiar assumption that the Goddess creates lesbian scholars, fully mature and ready to publish, in graduate school, that we had no childhoods or that our childhoods as readers and scribblers don't quite count as punched-in lesbian time" (91).

She highlighted the lonely isolation I felt was crushing my spirit both in the graduate seminars at my university and in the local religio-politics of my new home in the intermountain west, and she helped to realize that I wasn't the first to experience such desolate and heartwrenching solitude. However, most importantly, Morris offered me hope. She gave me a purpose that helped me to look beyond the bleak realities of my current situation and to see how I might use my experience to help another "different bookworm" reading somewhere in the isolation of silence. Morris asserts:

"It's a question of seeing the dykademic role model, which is rarely presented to us in youth, as the person who translates lesbian intelligence into quality work or historical research of value and meaning to a lesbian audience" (97).

I feel so lucky to have discovered Bonnie Morris as a dykademic role model, and I hope that through publicizing my own private experience as a lesbian academic I can not only help to give hope and direction to others, but might also begin to assuage my own despair and participate in the community that until now I have only dreamed about.

Deseret

Before I moved west, I probably would have thought that Deseret was a misspelling of either dessert or desert. In fact, the provisional State of Deseret was proposed by LDS settlers in 1849. It existed for a little over two years, but was never recognized by the US government.

However, the legacy of Deseret, remains. I live in what might be called the "mormon belt." If you look at an LDS population map, I live in the dark, bloody center of that United States maxi-pad.

Let me be clear, I do not intend for this blog to be a location for mormon bashing or religious debate. I was not raised mormon, I knew very little about the LDS church before moving to their epicenter, and I don't really feel it is my place to judge their beliefs or practices. That said, I do feel that my location is inseperable from my experience. I think the world in which I live can be big through digital media and social networking, but it can also be small, like the nearby town that finally decided to allow an LGBT float in their parade, but only if they promised not to display any rainbows or other "gay paraphanalia." Small like my university neighborhood through which I have searched, fruitlessly, for an HRC or a rainbow flag so that I might feel some safety in solidarity and have the courage to hang my own. Small like the TV stations that "accidentally" censor anything to sexy or gay, like the opening number at this year's Tony Awards.

Living in this place has been a huge culture shock and I don't think that I could write honestly about my experience if I refused to pay attention to the fact that I'm living in the ghost-state of the most conservative major religious group in the U.S.

Works Cited
Morris, Bonnie J. "A Different Bookworm: Coming Out, Brainy-Girl Style." NWSA Journal 7.1 (1995) 91-97. Print.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Welcome!

Hello Blogosphere!

I think there probably comes a time in most graduate students' lives when the isolation becomes too much. When the pressure of writing an extensive project like a dissertation overwhelms and discourages the soul. And so, like the many other imbalanced scholars before us, we begin new projects, we seek new means of producing, and we engage ourselves with the kind of tasks that will bring more immediate satisfaction than the next chapter of our 200+ page beautifully and insightfully written scholarship.

One of my own blogsperations, Brantley L. Bryant wrote of his work on "Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog" that when "faced with doubts about career prospects, I found it comforting to lead a secret life as "The Chaucer Blogger." (17-18) Bryant found that writing a blog "both complemented and relieved me from work on my heavily historicist dissertation on parliament, economics, and a variety of late-medieval poets (including Chaucer)." (18)

I think it is a similar sense of compliment and relief that I am seeking in this blog. I imagine that I will use this space to write about a variety of issues that matter to me, most of which are summed up in the title. As a Dykademic in Deseret, I hope to write about life in academia, life as a lesbian, and life in the "mormon belt." Most importantly, I hope to write about my experience and about what I read, feel, see and hear in the world around me. Here at Dykademic in Deseret I hope to give voice to what, up until now, has been my silent, or at least very quiet, experience.

In a speech at the 11th Annual Women's Event in the New York LGBT Community Center, Jennifer Beals said:

"And I believe that there is a seismic change coming. I believe that people want to turn from fear towards hope, from divisiveness towards unity, from intolerance to an understanding that we all belong to one great community. Within all the chaos, within the despair, the not knowing, the anger, the anxiety, there is always the possibility for change. There is a seed of hope. And I'm not talking about a pie-in-the-sky kind of hope, but a kind of hope that calls on each and every one of us to stand up and be counted -- a kind of hope that calls on each and every one of us to give the very best of ourselves -- not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all of us, collectively. And there may be times when we ask ourselves, 'What is my very best? What is it that I have to give?' And so often our best is within our personal narrative. It is often one's own story, one's own truth, which then becomes everyone's story; it becomes a part of everyone's truth. It is the beginning of community. I've seen how storytelling can help shift the paradigm. And with the advent of The L Word, I've come to understand that telling the stories of LGBT people is a radical and transformative act for all of us. And if history is written by the victors, then we have made ourselves victorious by writing our own history." (http://www.jennifer-beals.com/media/speeches/womens11.html)

When I heard this speech, courtesy of one of the bonus features at the end of my L Word Final Season DVD, I was inspired to seek out a medium in which I could share my own stories and begin to join in a community that I was just beginning to realize existed. I'll explain a little more about my first brushes with this community in my next blog where, in true academic fashion, I'll define my terms, a process that promises to bring both Bonnie J. Morris and Brigham Young into the same blog entry. You won't want to miss it!


Works Cited
Bryant, Brantley L. Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog: Medieval Studies and New Media. New York: Palgrave, 2010.