Snow Day! And a Portrait

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The University of Nebraska-Lincoln actually closed up shop today!  Hallelujah for a much needed break for all concerned.  My dear Chican@ lit students just won themselves two extra days to write their papers, which means their work will be two days' better written.  Win-win. 

I trudged and gallumphed home through the little drifts with my face wrapped up like one of the sand people on Star Wars.  So cold!  Horizontal snow!  It's not quite at white-out stage yet, but I'm definitely flashing back to that part when Ma ties a rope from the house to the barn to go do the milking.

My marvelous, beautiful, dear old friend Jill wrote to request my reading list for the modernist women's lit course, about which I've been generating so much overheated blather on here, so I thought I'd pop it on here.  I'll leave off the scholarly readings and just give you the juicy books, which are listed in chronological order:

Katherine Mansfield, Stories (1910-1923)
Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons (1914)
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1925)
----, A Room of One’s Own (1929)
Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)
Margery Latimer, Guardian Angel (1929, 1932)
Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark (1934)
Meridel Le Sueur, Ripening (1927-1945)
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
My personal favorites are Hurston, Rhys, Mansfield, and Latimer, in no particular order.  They're all knockout.  And of course Woolf is important and how could you not read her?  But sometimes her prose feels stuffy and tight, a bit cautious.  (How can I say that about such a groundbreaking writer?  I don't know.  I mean, of course I'm glad she broke the ground she did.  But personally, I just like something with a little more rawness, a little more sensuality.  A gut-punch.  A French kiss.)

Actually, I'll post the little syllabus-commercial, too--you know, the part at the beginning that makes it sound like we're going to be having all kinds of intellectual fun together?

During the last twenty years, an astonishing amount of recovery and reconfiguration work has been done by feminist scholars on women’s texts of the modernist period.  In 2009, we no longer have to argue for these texts’ and writers’ validity, contributions, or value.

What kinds of new questions can we now ask about these texts, as informed by our own scholarly interests (ecocriticism, postcolonialism, narratology, performance, trauma studies, spatiality, etc.)?  What interesting patterns emerge when we read diverse women’s texts of the period in conjunction with each other?  What happens when we read women’s modernisms across boundaries of nation, sexuality, canonicity, religion, physical ability, race and ethnicity, and class?
I know, I know:  it sounds like a thrill ride, doesn't it?  I hope Jill thinks so.

Let me just say a word about Jill.  We met during our first year of college when we were both 16 (she's one month younger than I am, to the day)--a time when, honestly, we should not have been left unsupervised.  Those were raucous days.  She was hopelessly glamorous and exquisite, like the subject of a Tamara de Lempicka painting, and knew how to smoke and dress.  A very few years later, she was kind enough to share a house with me, walking distance from the campus, and I remember that her kitchen hygiene was significantly more advanced than my own, to our mutual chagrin.  She once dated a boy I later dated, so I suppose we had similar tastes.  We both married and divorced rather young.

She's witty and smart and went on to get her doctorate in art history--with, if I'm remembering correctly, a thesis on Suzanne Valadon and a dissertation on Elaine de Kooning (but I could be screwing that up)--and now she's an esteemed museum curator.  In fact, I think she's my only female friend from college (am I forgetting someone?)  who went on to become an academic--in the arts & humanities, no less.  (Our male pals who went on for Ph.D.s generally got them in the pocket-protector disciplines.) 

Jill and I aren't close; we don't get in touch often.  We've seen each other only a few times over the years, and we occasionally email.  But I just like her so much, and admire her, and old friends are still the best kind, I think.  Last summer, after she attended a college reunion I couldn't make it to, I got to have a long phone conversation with her, and not only did she give me the acerbically funny scoop on the crimes and misdemeanors of our old crowd, but just hearing her voice was a joy. 

And now she makes time to read modernist lit?  For fun?  My hat is off. 

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