When I was doing a degree in literature some years ago and researching women's writing, I came across Rachel Blau DuPlessis's article 'For the Etruscans' (DuPlessis 1987), and with it a whole new way of thinking about text. It was published, innocently enough, in a conventional (pace, editor Rick Rylance) book of LitCrit, but from its opening paragraphs was clearly doing something else, and going somewhere else, away from the norm. I looked for the conventions of academic English and found instead: Sentence fragments. Loose ideas. FORMATTING designed to ________ claim attention. Exclamation marks! All this in an article on women's writings that obviously belonged to the 'criticism' genre, that was itself highly literary in a postmodern sense, and at the same time was intruded upon (contaminated?) by disjunctures, shards of autobiography, blind alleys, and worst of all, personal comments. Now this was not, of course, the first time I'd come across critical writing that didn't fit obviously into its genre, or that incorporated something so personal, something so poetic, within an academic framework. But I'd not previously found anything that so promiscuously juxtaposed such unsympathetic genres, and that nonetheless maintained a clear narrative and argumentative thread. I'd not previously found something that offered me the prospect of writing theory or criticism in another way, a way that reflected my voice rather than fitting an academic template.
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|Published - 2002