People @ Goddard
Residency Sites: Plainfield, VT
I am both a writer and a "recovering academic"—in fact, I have a hard time separating the two. A book that I read as a graduate student at Brown University called The Politics of Literature blew the top of my head off and nothing has been the same since. After designing and teaching one of the first ever Women's Studies courses at Brown, I took a leave of absence and set off for the Women's Writers Center in Cazenovia NY. Several years later I went on to found Trivia: A Journal of Ideas, a radical feminist literary and political magazine, which I edited for nine years.
I resonate strongly to the word "radical"—I like getting to the root of things, both in myself and in the world—and I like to see radical change! Writing I came to see was a way to change things from the bottom up. "If one woman told the story of her life, the world would split open," Muriel Releaser wrote, and I wanted to be there when it happened. As a teacher and editor, I’ve worked with writers in a wide range of forms, from critical and personal essays to fiction, plays, and experimental writing. My specialty is helping break writers out of the academic mold, a form of self-censorship with which I have special sympathy.
I moved to Montreal in 1990, in large part because of the experimental writing scene here. These many years later I am still in love with this city—for its mix of cultures and languages, its proximity to wilderness, and its cafes and restaurants in which until recently smoking was still allowed.
I am a published writer of short fiction, essays, reviews, and translations, and am also an obsessive chronicler of my dreams, which tend to prove an invaluable source of information, about the world and myself. I’m currently at work on a book of creative nonfiction titled In Search of Pure Lust. As a reader, I am most powerfully drawn to what I call the literature of extremity, especially writing by lesbians and women of color and native peoples all over the world, those who know what the stakes are and tell it like it is; I am excited by all forms of theory about such literature. Lately I find myself thinking and reading a lot about our relationship with the non-human world, which is going to have to change radically if we’re to have a liveable future. It seems to me that any kind of serious thought in this historical moment has to take into account the accelerating threat to our ecosystems posed by human stupidity and greed.
Since 1986 I've been a practitioner of Zen and Vipassana meditation and increasingly have come to see spiritual practice as a site of radical change, both personal and political. Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings have been a big influence in this respect; I'm also interested in the ways that women's entry into Buddhist practice in the West has begun to alter the tradition. I've practiced Yang style T'ai Chi for fifteen years and am presently doing so with an exacting Chinese master in Montreal. I bring the knowledge I’ve gained from these body disciplines—which I value as highly as any I’ve gained from books—to Goddard’s new focus area in Embodiment Studies, which has served as a container some truly groundbreaking and compelling student work.
Though a long time critic of traditional education, I also value many of the tools I came by as a product of it. I believe that the more radical our ideas and impulses are, the more firmly they need to be grounded in rigorous and disciplined thinking. Some of the student projects I've overseen are: a feminist critique of American medicine, a memoir of a woman's life lived in conscious communion with animals and the earth, a creative ethnography of Abenaki Indians, a study of lesbian writers and the politics of language, a fictional retelling of the life of Mary Magdalen, and a Vietnam war novel. Though I am unable to identify any trend here, what I can say is that, like so much of the best writing coming out of the U.S. and Canada just now, my students' work tends to be on some level about healing--whether from incest, from anorexia, from cancer, from self hatred, or more generally, from any of the forms of fragmentation to which we are heir in this culture. As I see it, all my students are trying in their own way to piece themselves and the world back together again--and this is work that I feel honored to be a part of.
PhD in Comparative Literature, Brown University; MA in Comparative Literature, Brown University; BA in Comparative Literature, Cornell University.