In addition to almost hiring me away from SMU to come back and teach at my Alma Mater, Macalester, Stephen Burt is also one of our finest literary critics, essayists and poets. I am intrigued with a post that he wrote for the VIDA blog. VIDA, founded in 2009, encourages female writers of literature and others to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of women’s creative writing, and among other projects it has tracked the percentages of women published and/or reviewed in leading literary publications. In his blogpost, Burt puts pressure on the assumptions that underlie “the count.”
Here are a few questions from the post:
7. Is it possible to read a piece of literary writing without imagining that the author has a gender (perhaps an unusual gender, or maybe two gender or three genders, but at least one)?
8. How do you think the answer to that question (beginning “Is it even possible”) would differ in a language, such as Persian, where neither pronouns, nor noun case-endings, differed by gender?
9. Is it possible to read a piece of literary writing without imagining that the author has an age, or a profession, or an ethnic identification, or a height, or a weight, or a race?
10. Is it possible to read a piece of literary writing without imagining that it has an author?
11. What about cookbooks, hard-news journalism, government documents, furniture-store instructions, math? Must we imagine authors for all those?
The other twenty-five questions are equally engaging. I’m linking to Burt’s piece today, and then I thought I’d spend the week answering a few of his question myself. Click on the link below to read the rest of the post.