Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Jane Thompkins

I will now regurgitate my speech I recited for you on Monday:

" The public-private hiearchy supplies our oppression as writers. I say to hell with it all! The reason we feel embarrassed to write or speak personally in a professional context is because I have and you have been conditioned to feel that way! That's all there is to it! I know most of you are scared to talk about yourselves. Why? Because you haven't the guts to do it! Ya know I love it when an author talks about themselves-don't you? Why? You feel connected to them! Your experiences as a person, writer, and student match up. Take into consideration this quote from Hawthorne:

When he casts his leaves forth upon the wind, the author addresses, not the many who will fling aside his volume, or never take it up, but the few who will understand him-it may be pardonable to imagine that a friend, a kind and apprehensive, though not the closest friend, is listening to our talk.

Hawthorne too notices that this "personal-relationship" between writer and audience is rare. Western epistemology is encouraged to believe that emotion should be excluding in the process of attaining knowledge. Women are weighed down and forced to be at bearers of emotion, while men repress it! The epistemic authority of women is therefore shut down! Ever since I was small, I have felt forced to act in a way that isn't me. No wonder I feel uptight! It's like wearing shoes that are too small!

Writing in another voice that's not familiar to us, except when we write, requires a lot of thought and revision because we want it to be perfect. Our own voice, the voice we truly know, is hard to express because its a voice we so seldom use because we have been convinced that it doesn't fit in.
I encourage you as English majors to write in a way that will reach out and steal someone's heart. You can't get behind the thing that casts the shadow: You cast the shadow. Self consciousness will not make us better than who we are.

Write as if you knew who was listening. The "other voice" writes as if no one was listening.
I encourage you to take off your straight jacket and take the road less traveled (as Frost says)."

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man"
Thank you
-Jane Thompkins

*Most of my information came from Jane Thompkins piece in The Norton Anthology titled Me and My Shadow and her book A life in School: What the Teacher Learned.
Jane Thompkins claims that contemporay theory lacks personal feeling and is therefore impersonal and distant from what is so called "personal criticism." Thompkins attended two universites-Bryn Mawr, where she received her B.A. in 1961, and Yale, where she received her Ph.D in 1966. During the 1970's, Jane became a popular figure who developed and expanded reader-response criticism. She taught at various universities along the way which includes: Hartford Community College, Temple University and later at Duke where she taught until 1998. Currently she is a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago in the education department.
In Jane's most popular work, Me and My Shadow, she writes criticism keeping her personal side at the fore-front. This essay illustrates how Jane combines the intellect with the professional.
She also has a subjective rather than objective approach to literary theory. She urges individuals, especially women, to bring out the way women feminists draw attention to themselves by whining and talking about how they are the weaker sex. Jane suggests that "theory itself, at least as it is usually practiced, may be one of the patriarchal gestures women and men ought to avoid." Professional writers are encouraged to oppress their persoanl life from entering their writing. As Thompkins states, and as I stated in my speech, " The public-private hiearchy is a founding condition of female oppression. I say to hell with it! The reason I feel embarrsessed at my own attempts to speak personally in a professional context is that I have been cnditioned to feel that way."


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