I just downloaded an article from the Electronic Journal of Sociology (citation on bibliography page – Fox, Nicholas) on the concept of intertextuality, defined as: “the process whereby one text plays upon other texts, the ways in which texts refer endlessly to further elements within the realm of cultural production” (1). This immediately reminded me of Gottlieb subtly drawing upon Cixous and her theories of writing one’s self… it’s always nice to be able to attach a label to whatever you’re writing about. The second connection I made was also from the first page, this time in the from of a definition of postmodern analyses, which “challenge the ontological status of modernist claims to knowledgeability concerning the world” (1). To me, this sounded extremely similar to the definition of queer theory as quoted in my last post. When applied to writing and intertextuality, these analyses (whether defined as queer or postmodern) view texts as  “fabrications and as such are subject to deconstructive re-writing and re-reading” (2). Claims made in social science texts, for instance, should be seen not as essential, capital-T Truths but rather as “claims” of truth, or narrative work that can be contested. Compare this to a portion of the Sandahl definition of queering: “appropriating a representation for one’s own purposes, forcing it to signify differently” and you can see commonalities surrounding critical analysis and reclamation of concepts, constructions, texts, and supposed Truths.

Fox also looks at Cixous and her concept of ecriture feminine, or the act of writing woman, linking it to textuality by using “one text as de-constructive of another, itself in turn dissolved or reread” (6). One particular passage also reminded me of my sexuality and gender classes, contrasting Cixous’s philosophy concerning feminism with that of a Marxist and/or modernist viewpoint:

Unlike philosophies of resistance… which have grounded their logic of resistance in identity (membership of a class or gender), a concern with the intertext is a celebration of difference and the possibility that things can be otherwise. Such a politics of difference goes far beyond feminism and suggests the potential for resisting discourse, knowledge and power through intertextual practices. In the context of writing social research, it replaces objectivity with indeterminacy and the search for control and closure with generosity and openness.

Applying these notions to Daphne Gottlieb and her poetry comes in as less concrete and more conceptual (which itself is postmodern or queer in nature) in comparison to academic and social science writing. Poetry in Gottlieb’s sense is definitely a form of narrative work and/or claim of “truth” from a personal sense. She details her personal-is-political esque stories using language and formatting that is quite unique to her work yet also reminiscent of her influences, or her intertextuality. For example, drawing upon Cixous’s theories is a form of tracing the genealogy of her work even though the wording and very medium is different between the two women’s writing. Gottlieb engages in the process of writing her self, writing “woman,” and therefore celebrates the concept of difference over sameness, subjectivity over objectiveness. I enjoyed taking this article, which was clearly written with academia in mind, and using it as theory upon which to build my analysis of poetry in this project.

Daphne Gottlieb’s poem “haircut” reminded me of a discussion we had in class yesterday about gendered appearance and stereotypes about butch/femme. (I’m including the entire poem this time)

My baby keeps her hair
short.
Number 2 guard, 1/4 inch white oster clippers short
short hair.

Not I’m-depressed-and-I’m-going-to-shave-my-head short,
just short.

She’s got beautiful baby-short hair.
Baby short, not basketball-player short
or concentration camp short or
or military short or militant short:
not monk short
or cancer short.
Just
short.

Her gray hairs shine like
flashbulb filaments,
one for each brilliant
idea she has.

She’s getting more and more
gray. She says it’s my
fault.

My baby keeps her hair
short:
Nothing to cling to desperately,
nothing to get tangled up in.
My baby keeps her hair short–
she likes it that way
and so
do I.

I feel like Gottlieb is using hair, an aspect of the body, as a marker of an identity. She makes sure to distance her lover’s hair from both “military short” and “militant short,” images often tied to women with short hair, but does not create a hierarchy between the concepts; she just points out what Is (reminding me of the reading Safe Trip in which calling the narrator’s lover a bull dyke is like yelling “Trees!” at a forest).

Because hair (specifically long hair) is so closely tied to what could be considered hegemonic femininity, rejecting the ideal is a way of subverting gender norms. Although Daphne herself has long hair (from any pictures I’ve seen), which could lend itself at first glance to the butch/femme sexual stereotype, Daphne rejects that as well with her language usage. In other poems in which she is the first-person narrator, she uses strong and sometimes masculine language, which would tend to conflict with her outward appearance. Likewise, she refers to her short-haired lover as “my baby” repeatedly, calling her hair “beautiful” and “Baby short,” also conflicting with norms relating to such short of hair.

On a personal level, I love this poem because it deals with short hair as an identity marker. Although this may seem silly, as soon as I chopped my own hair off (which seems slightly longer than the subject’s in this poem) I immediately felt more connected to the “queer” label that I claim as an act of moving outside of the gender binary.

Just wanted to insert this little footnote from my original paper proposal:

The word “woman” is used in Cixous’s The Laugh of the Medusa (1976) inclusively to mean both woman-as-woman and woman-as-person. She states that man must write him self as well: “it’s up to him to say where his masculinity and femininity are at,” which in turn will cause them to “[open] their eyes and see themselves clearly” (877).  Cixous sees men as victims of the oppressive patriarchal state just as women are: “the way man has of getting out of himself and into her whom he takes not for the other but for his own, deprives him, he knows, of his own bodily territory” (877). However, because language and speech are explained and seen to be “governed by the phallus,” the concept of femininity remains the default in her essay as well as my own (881).

Also: In class, we discussed the gendering of pronouns and using gender-neutral language, and while I can recognize that using woman-as-person (with the disclaimer about men) excludes individuals who do not subscribe to or fit into the neat little boy/girl gender boxes that we have socially constructed, I do appreciate her early use of the female pronoun as opposed to the typical male default.