More por favor!

The sound of rolling tongues,
behind heavy full lips
are no longer foreign to me.
The words come easily from friends
sitting around my kitchen table
with clear dark brown and caramel eyes
short stylish haircuts and delicate perfume
pepino con limon y sal
ummmm my favorite hot day appetizer,
with a glass of chilled citrus filled sangria
cucumber with lemon and salt, sometimes a bit of Tabasco,
red wine with a splash of spiced rum, oranges and limes, SALUD!
Pupusas staying warm in the oven,
melted cheese, squash, and homemade frijoles,
mingled about conversation: men, classes, food, travel.
I’m warm, light headed and happy:
beautiful palabras
delicious comida
gracias for being
mis bellas amigas Claudita
Ana Maria
Posted in Memoir, Poetry | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Aloneness is Delicious

I enjoy my aloneness now in the middle of crowds or in a living room alone with my cat and some warm light and soft clothes.
I enjoy my aloneness because my life has so little of it.
Like a piece of chocolate after a savory meal.
“Aloneness is delicious” so it is Ms. Brooks.
Posted in Feminism, Poetic Fragments, Poetry | Tagged , | 1 Comment


I thought
I heard
my father’s voice.
It caught the air
in my throat
and turned solid,
an unnamed ball there formed.
I had to release the thing:
before I choked.
It was not my dad,
and I don’t even have to turn around,
to know that.
Posted in Art, California, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Poetic Fragments, Poetry, San Francisco | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A San Francisco We

We walk, escape our
four walls, paid for with our
time-to-have. We close our faces to
live. Open them to push the
loneliness out.  Drink our coffee
in crowded cafés. We are the energy
we seek, the Buzz. We laugh-

hysterically. Cry and weep and
morn. We love intensely, with
a certain amount of distraction.
We curse with fervor under breath.

Drink to excess to discover
ourselves, to get away from those
discovered selves. We sneeze. We walk around
with our cell phones attached to our
ears-lobes-umbilical cords to our
worldwomb. We dress ourselves

characters in the city stage:
leather boots, leggings,

yellow cashmere turtle necks,

fair trade t-shirts, inked skin, vintage

dresses. We attach ourselves to:
lovers, yoga, and health-food stores.
We rush by: in our cars,

swaying body to body on

buses, on bikes, to get from here
to home. We fight, yell from car
to pedestrian to bike. Backhandedly
bickering, with coworkers, lovers,
friends, neighbors and shop-
keepers. We create intricacy

out of the air- shape the
Buzz.  Go to the park, the beach,

barbeque vegan hot dogs, drink red
wine in red plastic cups, philosophize.
We have pets, mutts, purebreds, the
ridiculous absurd, givers of tactile

love-affection. We blow bubbles on street
corners to make each other smile, then
talk-about-smiling. We’re infatuated with
ourselves, and kill ourselves. We wake up,
fall asleep, watch the waves in little
secluded beaches round the bay. We ride
our bikes proudly. Have bright blue hair,
secondhand jeans, stiletto heals and three

thousand dollar sutes. We walk for
pleasure, exercise, purpose. The men
watch the men and sometimes the woman too.
We have schedules, appointments, engage-

ments to keep, money to make. We live.
Breathe our city. We dance to the
music, in the park, in our homes and the music in our
heads.  Let the sun touch our skin,
the fog lick our lips, the moon
wash our fingertips and our showers and
sheets kiss our skin. We share the shape
of our bodies in galleries, alleyways,

clubs, and runways. We procreate,
take walks with strollers, give up
our one life-for-another. Indulge
in pedicures, indigenous wine,

home grown cocaine, foreign hot stone massages.

We read, write, watch our city
wake and go about our day. We marry,
live to excess, eat organic. We cycle,
recycle, reduce and say no to plastic.

We transplant ourselves,
try our roots in this soil this city.
We are educated, eccentric, accented.

We run catching buses, keeping our noses firmly in the air

Posted in Poetry, San Francisco | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Music in Fourteen Lines

Ebbing cultural constructions
A ball of red clay turning in circles
Valerie sitting down at the piano, inside me something focuses
Outside in the warmth, in the dark lit stage music spills out over me
You are ever so tangible
I am a hot summer night
Mad self, mad house, mad street
Hot bodies cold beer, the middle of the afternoon
This moment of clarity: floating floating floating
The drummer telling my skin, my feet to move move move
Heat from my body jumping
hot hot hot
All of this matters because we make it matter we tell ourselves it matters
What for
What for
All of this matters because we make it matter we tell ourselves it matters
hot hot hot
The heat from my body jumping
The drummer telling my skin, my feet to move move move
In this moment of clarity: floating floating floating
Hot bodies cold beer, the middle of the afternoon
Mad self, mad house, mad street
I am a hot summer night
You are ever so tangible
Outside in the warmth, in the dark lit stage music spills out over me
Valerie sitting down at the piano, inside me something focuses
A ball of red clay turning in circles
Ebbing cultural construction
Ebbing cultural constructions
Mad self, mad house, mad street
All of this matters because we make it matter we tell ourselves it matters
What for
I am a hot summer night
Valerie sitting down at the piano, inside me something focuses
Outside in the warmth, in the dark lit stage music spills out over me
The drummer in the band telling my skin, my feet to move move move
Heat from my body jumping
Hot bodies cold beer, the middle of the afternoon
hot hot hot
A ball of red clay turning in circles
You are ever so tangible
In this moment of clarity: floating floating floating
Posted in Poetic Fragments, Poetry | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Talk to me about my mouth

I slid up his body for a kiss.
He watched my lips,
I knew this because they began to itch.
“Talk to me about my mouth”
His words came abruptly with out warning
Your mouth?
Your lips are full
No not full so much as luscious
Lushes lips
Honey sticky lips full of sugar
You always went a little off the deepend for me
Talk to me about my mouth
I tried to get you back to my world out of the abstract land you inhabited between your ears behind your eyes
Posted in Poetic Fragments, Poetry | Tagged | 1 Comment

A Story of Female Agency: The Revolt of “Mother”

Mary Ellen Wilkin Freeman’s short story The Revolt of “Mother” is a story of female agency.  It is a story that sheds a sympathetic light on a woman’s struggles.  Unlike most stories written before the Women’s Suffrage movement about woman’s agency, Freeman rewards her protagonist, Mother Sarah Penn, for taking action against her oppressor.  Sarah operates within her cultural framework, she is established as a good, small, subservient, wife and mother before she ever takes action.  Once Sarah does take action she only does so because it’s reasonable to ask for and take what she and her family deserve.  Her husband, Adoniram is the antagonist-oppressor.  Sarah is justified in her rebellion because Adoniram does not properly provide for their family.  Through precise dialogue, tension, foreshadowing, argumentative rhetoric, and kinetic landscape,  Freeman sways her reader to feel sympathy for female agency and individualism.  The Revolt of “Mother” calls upon woman to help themselves and their families within their current social system.

Freedman is working within the system to expose it’s unfairness to women.  She creates sympathy for Sarah by painting a virtuous strong woman who normally works well within her submissive role.  She only makes a three speeches to really let men and the reader know just how she truly feels.  The first speech is to her husband in the setting of Sarah’s domain: the kitchen.  She has to almost drag him in to talk to her and when he is there he just sits and listens and either does not respond or says “I ain’t got nothin’ to say.” Sarah expresses her desire for the new house that was promised her forty years ago.  She is making the appeal on the part of her daughter, “I ain’t complained; I’ve got along forty year, an’ I s’pose I should forty more, if it wa’n’t for that- if we don’t have another house, Nanny she can’t live with us after she’s married” (233). Not only does she want a better life for Nanny but she does not believe that Nanny is strong enough to take care of a home on her own.  Sarah wants Nanny to live with them because Sarah has always took the heft of everything off her, an’ she ain’t fit to keep house an’ do anything herself.  She’ll be all worn out inside a year.” She tries to get empathy out of her husband and fails but succeeds in terms of Freeman’s greater appeal to the reader.

Sarah’s relationship to her daughter is two sided.  Sarah warns Nanny about men with her words, You ain’t found out yet we’re women-folks, (…) One of these days you’ll find it out, an’ then you’ll know that we know only what men-folk think we do, so far as any use of it goes an’ how we’d ought to reckon men-folks in with Providence” (231).  With her actions, moving the whole house out to the new barn, Sarah shows Nanny how a woman can get what she needs no matter what a man thinks.  She show’s Nanny that a woman can have agency and that a women can better their situations.  In a way Freeman is showing all woman through this example that women can have agency, one could even call this fine piece of literature feminist propaganda.

After Sarah argues her case to Adoniram she goes into her room and cries.  Presenting her husband with her raw feeling for the first time in forty years has taken an emotional tole on her and yet when she comes out of her room she just starts working again making shirts for Adoniram.  Here again Sarah is characterized as a hard worker,  she goes fluidly from one task to the next not making a mess.  Freeman does a great job of describing emotion- she shows through physical description what a character is feeling like Sarah’s red-rimmed eyes and later in the same scene Nanny, how tender red flamed all over her face and neck.

The idea of moving the family out to the new barn comes to Sarah the same day she laid out her argument to her husband.  The idea came through the agent of Nanny, “We might have the wedding in the new barn.” (234)  The next moment Nanny notices the curious expression on her mother’s face and asks her why she look(s) so.  Sarah simply responses with “Nothin’” but at this point the ball is rolling, Sarah has begun to spin the plan for the move.

Once the new barn is built and ready, Sarah’s plan goes into action.  Her brother Hiram sends word that he has a horse that Adoniram should come look at and buy.  The reader is given a hint to how Sarah feels about her husband’s departure in the line, she was very pale, and her heart beat loudly.  Even in the midst of her distress and plans of mutiny Sarah performs as a perfect wife: she helps her husband pack and get ready for his journey, she even, buttoned on his collar and fastened his black cravat (necktie).

When Father is about to leave on his journey he speaks to mother apologetically about the new cows that will be coming to the new barn, Adoniram knows he’s done wrong by his wife and so does the reader.  He then turns around with a kind of nervous solemnity one last time before leaving and reminds Sarah that he will be home in only a few days.  Father’s hesitation builds tension and foreshadows the climax of the story.  Freeman holds the reader in suspense by not disclosing Sarah’s thoughts, rather she describes her physicality, Her eyes had a strange, doubtful expression in them; her peaceful forehead was contracted.  At this point the reader knows that something is about to happen.  Within a few paragraphs Sarah’s demeanor calms and becomes strong and righteous, She formed a maxim for herself.   Because of the limited third person point of view the only way for Sarah to admit to the reader that she had anything to do with Adoniram’s going out of town for a few days is to speak it to her daughter, S’posin I had wrote to Hiram.  Even still it is left ambiguous, she gives responsibility for Adoniram’s absents to God, it looks like a providence.

The story is then propelled foreword again by Sarah’s.  Her first action is to stop a load of hay from being deposited in the new barn.  Sarah directs the men, including her son, to put the hay in the old barn.  When she says “…there’s room enough in the old one, ain’t there?” The hired man response with a key bit of information: “Room enough” (…) “Didn’t need the new barn, nohow, far as room’s concerned.” This bit of information aids to Sarah’s righteousness, Father did not even need the new barn but he built knowing that the family needed a new house.  The next action Sarah takes is to enlist her children’s help.  Before they start moving anything or the real plan is laid out, the tension towards the climax increases.  Sarah’s children are made nervous by her actions: Sarah packs the dishes and then tells Nanny to pack her things and tells Sammy to help her take apart the bed in the bedroom.  When her children ask “Oh, mother, what for?” she responds with “You’ll see.” At this builds the tension is at it’s maximum.

Freeman compares Sarah’s action of moving their home into the barn to the French General James Wolfe’s surprise storming of the Plains of Abraham above Quebec.  In so doing she gives Sarah’s cause dignity.  At this point in the story the reader is more or less fully sympathetic with Sarah’s actions: she and her children have been wronged and now Sarah is righting the massive wrong with a courageous effort.              Apparently, it only takes from lunch until five o’clock in the afternoon the little house in which the Penns had lived for forty years had emptied itself into the new barn. Either the three Penn’s are ridiculously fast, strong, movers or the Penn’s have been living ridiculously sparely.  I believe the latter to be true.

Directly after Sarah takes action the community interjects for the first time.  The reader is made privy to their reaction, Men assembled in the store and talked it over, women with shawls over their heads scuttled into each other’s houses before their work was done (…) Some held her to be insane; some, of the a lawless and rebellious spirit.  As a result of the community’s gossip, Pastor Herstey comes by the Penn’s new home. Before he can say anything about what Sarah’s done she sets him and the reader straight, “…I believe I’m doin’ what’s right.  I’ve made it the subject of prayer, an’ it’s betwixt me an’ the Lord an’ Adoniram.  There ain’t no call for nobody else to worry about it.” With those simple words she dismisses the community.  Sarah goes even further in defense of her actions for the benefit of the pastor but also for the benefit of the reader, “I think it’s right jest as much as I think it was right for our forefathers to come over here from the old country ‘cause they didn’t have what belonged to ‘em.” Freeman has made a female character on par with any man who has ever done anything ‘great.’

Freeman lays out her strongest piece of blatant Feminist idealism in one of Sarah’s statement to the pastor: “I’ve got my own mind an’ my own feet, an I’m goin’ to think my own thoughts an’ go my own way, an’ nobody but the Lord is goin’ to dictate to me unless I’ve a mind to have him.” It’s almost as if Freeman is calling for all women to stand up for their individual humanity or at least she creates a role model for women so inclined.

The story continues on now at it’s maximum state of tension with Adoniram expected home any moment.  The children are nervous but there was to them more pleasant excitement than anything else. An inborn confidence in their mother over their father asserted itself (238).  The children’s confidence lends it’s self to further aid Sarah’s cause in that they know what she’s done is right.  When Adoniram gets to the house he’s confused and winds up with his new horse in front of the new barn, he asks “What on airth you all down here for? (…) What’s the matter over to the house?” (238).  Sammy steps in and tells his father that “We’ve come here to live.” To which Father asks her wife what it means.  Mother in her simple intelligent way articulates to her husband that she is not insane, but the family is going to live in the new barn because they have a right to, she also tells father a list of things he’s going to need to make it more comfortable for the family.  All father can say is “Why, Mather!”  Sarah is a very smart woman, she has his favorite meal cooked and ready.  She leads him like a child to wash up and get ready for supper.

Through kinetic landscape Freeman imparts the feelings of Adoniram and Sarah: There was a clear green glow in the sky (239). After all of Sarah’s domestic duties are done she goes outside to find Adoniram.  She finds him weeping, he says “I’ll—put up the- partitions, an’—everything you—want, mother.” Sarah is triumphant, her daughter will have a proper home and wedding and she will have a proper kitchen.  The family can go forward in their gendered roles.

Again, Freeman likens their struggle to that of something greater, Adoniram was like a fortress whose wall had no active resistance, and went down the instant the right besieging tools were used.  At the stories’ close Adoniram says something strange, “Why, mother, I hadn’t no idea you was so set on’t as all this comes to.” I believe what Freeman was really saying was, men underestimate woman and can be broken with the right tactics.



Posted in Criticism, Feminism, Literature | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Room of One’s Own: The Interruption Act

Hello There!

I’m working on a piece right now involving ‘A Room of One’s Own’ and in an attempt to derive inspiration I went back to an essay I wrote on the subject last year.  I’m happy to report it is helping.

17, December 2009

A Room of One’s Own: The Interruption Act

I have chosen to research A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf because of my strong reaction to it both emotionally and intellectually.  Woolf’s fundamental argument is strong, direct and set forth in the first meaty paragraph “…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction…” (4).  Her argument is incredibly compelling for me due to the fact that I am a woman and an aspiring fiction writer.  Woolf writes A Room of One’s Own within the form narrative essay.  Woolf utilizes her form to, amongst other things, highlight the idea of ‘interruption acts.’  To make it plain, she sews in interruptions for her narrator “Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or by any other name you please…” (5) to illustrate the point of the interruption act itself.  Women are interrupted if they do not have a room of their own and enough money in order to sustain themselves. Now that is interesting.  Is that why I find myself writing this paper late into a dismal day on campus?   I, like so many other women, do not have a room of my own or enough money to keep me from almost constant worry.  I have to agree- good point Virginia Woolf- my thoughts would come out clearer if I had a room of my own and enough money not to worry about things like rent and food.  There must be millions of woman who feel the same way I do.  Woolf’s assertions from eighty years ago are still valid today to woman writers.

I’ve come to the library on my University campus to search out articles written about A Room of One’s Own and the interruption act.  On my way into the library I passed through the food court where I first smelled and then saw all kinds of: coffees, sweet bread, wraps with bacon, and citrus juice drinks.  My stomach was grumbling but I did not have enough money to buy food on campus.  First I thought of how much writers like to write about food these days.  Things must have been different in Woolf’s experience, due to how she prefaces her food description with “It is a curious fact that novelist have a way of making us believe that luncheon parties are invariably memorable for something very witty that was said, or for some thing very wise that was done.  But seldom spare a word for what was eaten” (10).  Secondly, I thought of Woolf’s description of Oxbridge’s luncheon, in which she went into great detail about the “soles, sunk in deep dish, over which the college cook had spread a counterpane of the whitest cream” (10).  How decadent when compared to the woman’s college meal of “…the soup. It was plain gravy soup” (Woolf 17). Her sentence length even shortens in her description of the woman’s college to bring attention to the small, chopped up inadequacy found there.  Here again she uses form to make her point ring clear.  She’s illustrating the difference between what it is to be a woman studying at her time and what it is to be a man.  She gives long, drawn out descriptions of food in order to illustrate how rich men are.  She then illustrates how poor women are, how their poverty affects their ability to write well or write badly accordingly, with short stubby sentences, almost choked.  I am incredibly fortunate to live in a time when I am able to attend the same universities as men, where I can study such things as Literature and Creative Writing. Though, oddly enough, I am not wealthy enough to buy food from the campus eateries.  I’ve gotten hideously off topic, where was I?

Here I am, Andrea Conwright or Loretta Davies or any other name you would like to assign me, sitting at a table in the midst of a library full of academic looking books and students, starring into my computer screen.  I get up to browse the shelves looking for the section on Virginia Woolf.  I have a nagging hunger in my stomach and a reoccurring thought of how am I going to pay the rent? I come across the biography Lyndall Gordon wrote, Virginia Woolf: A Writers Life.  It really does not help me in my search for interruptions except in understanding who the person Virginia Woolf was and what her life was like in order for her to come up with such an argument.  She was not educated in the traditional sense of going to a university, as I am now privileged to be so doing.  Instead she stayed home and read books from her family’s library.  She also would have had a great interest in the Victorian Era woman writers cannon due to her parents’ involvement in the art world during that time.  Apparently, her mother was a model for the Pre-Raphaelites.  Was Woolf’s mother at all like Christina Rossetti’s unfortunate sister-in-law, Elizabeth Siddal?  Coincidently they did both pass untimely.

I move away from the books and back to the computer with a database full of academic published articles.  I am having the hardest time concentrating, just like Woolf’s narrator was when she sat down to research at the British Museum.  It occurs to me as I look out of the many glass windows that today is not unlike the day in London that the narrator describes as “The day, though not actual wet, was dismal…” (26). I look around and find a young man that matches the description of the young man at the museum; he is so satisfied with himself writing away and hummhumming to himself.

His smug academic air gives me a wave of inspiration.  I come across an article by Anne Fernald entitled A Room of One’s Own, Personal Criticism, and the Essay. Although it had many good pieces of information, I was only able to find one paragraph of use.  She starts off the paragraph with “…the interruptions of A Room of One’s Own are not the highly controlled interruptions of a philosophical dialogue with oneself” I find that very interesting (Fernald 179).  Here I thought that they were controlled interruptions, I suppose not- are my interruptions not controlled then?  If they are not controlled at least let them reflect another of Woolf’s devices or forms: stream of consciousness.  Fernald picks out the interruption of the “Oxbridge beadle who has the position and power to wave the narrator off the turf or to demand to see her is [sic] permit to the library” (Fernald 179).  Fernald goes on to impart “As important as these indignities are in themselves, more important is that the resulting interruption causes Mary Beton to forget what she had been thinking: “What idea it had been that had sent me so audaciously trespassing I could not now remember” (Fernald 179).  The interruption indeed is the more distressing loss.

The most poignant point Fernald makes in her paragraph pertaining to the interruption acts within Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is, “The intrusions serve the argument of A Room of One’s Own as they could serve no other; they are Woolf’s best evidence of the frustration of being interrupted” (Fernald 179).  I could not agree more.  Have I not been feeling the same frustration of interruption through out this entire essay?  It was so good to finally come across real information written by a woman that is coherent and to the point.  Fernald further extrapolates on her argument of form aiding intention: “That is, the good which comes from anger at being expelled from the grass or the library is Woolf’s ability to articulate the connection between patriarchal oppression and the loss of a thought” (Fernald 179).  Brilliant! Now this was something of a break through.   Narrative form is the only way that Woolf could have expressed this injustice.  If she had just written it plainly as Fernald had in her critique Woolf may not have been taken seriously or her readers may have felt as though their heads were being pushed down by a thick voice saying listen to me listen to me!

The last nugget of truth I would like to share from Fernald’s essay pertains to the reader’s ability to feel the loss Woolf’s narrator experienced: “Readers feel the loss of the thought acutely: first analytically, as readers of an argument; then, sympathetically, as readers following a character’s effort to construct an argument” (Fernald 179).  I feel such sympathy with Virginia Woolf’s narrator at this moment as I grasp to polish off my argument.  My cell phone rings and it’s my boyfriend- apparently our last rent check bounced.  I’ll have to push that down and out if I’m ever going to get any writing done today.

If Woolf’s argument of space and money is still relevant to me, I’ll bet I’m not the only woman writer in this predicament of interruption.  To that end, I stumble across another article this one by another Anne: Anne Aronson, “Composing in a Material World: Women Writing in Space and Time.”  That sounds like a course in woman’s studies.  Aronson’s essay appears to be the analysis of the finding from a case study performed on adult female student writers.  The study includes woman of all different backgrounds.  I look down at my watch: I only have an hour before I need to go check in on my ageing Grandmother.  I wish I didn’t have to today.  A wave of shame floods over me.  I can be so selfish.  In the midst of my thoughts, my eyes roll over the section Writing in Time. Aronson discusses how the women in her case study share the same feelings of guilt in respect to the time they spend on their writing instead of with their families, “The fact that women feel guilty when their roles conflict is news to no one; my point is that these conflicts are acted out hour by hour minute by minute, within the specific concrete material conditions in which women write” (295).   Validation! I was right, other woman are facing the same issues I am.  I read further to where Aronson writes about how most of the women in her study write in public family spaces such as the kitchen or living room.  These women are constantly interrupted and watched over.  I feel this same way at my grandmother’s house and in my own home, I do not have a space that I can write in that is off limits to the rest of the household.  Is this because I’m a woman?  Aronson articulates the concept of being watched over as an interruption act, “When the women in my study write in public spaces within the home, they not only face the challenges of trying to concentrate in a bustling environment, but they are also subject to surveillance by others” (Aronson 290). My hour is running out, I best get on with it then.

I am still sitting in the library and the hummhumming gentleman has gotten up and left, the day is still dismal.  New people are sitting where he was and I’m struck with the reality of time passing.  How much time has passed since Virginia Woolf wrote and published A Room of One’s Own?  Eighty years have passed.  I recall an argument Woolf makes about creating ‘woman writing.’  Have woman been able to accomplish everything Woolf set out?  Authors like Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Anne Lamott come to mind, they have accomplished what Woolf was looking for.  I would say women have come a long way and have been recognized for their talents as woman writers.  I have a few more minutes so I’ll search around for some other woman’s opinions on the matter.  Here’s an article Shakespeare’s Daughters by Rachel Cusk in The Guardian.  How funny, I believe Virginia Woolf wrote for the Guardian at some point.  Cusk asserts her opinion about “woman writing”, “…it seems to me that “women’s writing” by nature would not seek equivalence in the male world. It would be a writing that sought to express a distinction, not deny it.”  She goes on in great detail about “woman writing” being the book of repetition appose to the masculine book of change. But does she have anything to say about the interruption act? Here we are: “What compromises women – babies, domesticity, mediocrity – compromises writing even more. She is on the right side of that compromise – just.” A contemporary woman writer for the Guardian holds Woolf’s argument to still be true.  She is arguing on the same side of Aronson.  Cusk goes on, “Her own life is one of freedom and entitlement, though her mother’s was probably not.” Again very interesting, does she mean to be a ‘mother’ means to not be an accomplished writer?  My phone is ringing, it’s Grandma.

Before I head off to help out Grandma and deal with my rent situation I’ll leave you with this: I agree with Virginia Woolf’s narrator one must have a room of one’s own and money in order to write well.  Woolf used narrative form very effectively to illustrate her argument that a woman must have a room of her own and be financially stable in order to write fiction well.  She used her form to illustrate how when one does not have the luxury of space and money one is often interrupted.  It was not just physical interruptions like the Oxbridge beetle but psychological interruptions like the ones I have put down on paper for you, making the rent and feeding one’s self.  Further, I am not alone in my difficult situation.  Many, if not all, woman writers are experiencing interruptions eighty years hence Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own publication.  It is good to note we have produced writers like Didion, Morrison and the like in the mean time.  As far as my writing is concerned- I am aware of the obstacles set out in front of me, keeping me from writing the best work that I am capable of.  It is now my decision whether or not to hold onto guilt or hold onto my desire to write.  Only time will tell- my Grandmother is calling again.  It’s time to say good bye and good luck!

Work Cited

Aronson, Anne. “Composing in a Material World: Women Writing in Space and Time.”             Rhetoric review 17.2 (1999):282. Web.

Cusk, Rachel. “Shakespeare’s Daughters” The Guardian: (2009): 12             December 2009. women-writing-review. Web.

Fernald, Anne. “A Room of One’s Own, Personal Criticism, and the Essay.” Twentieth             Century Literature 40.2 (1994):165. Web.

Gordon, Lydall. Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Life. London: W.W. Norton & Company,             1982. Print.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. New York: A Harvest Book Harcourt Brace &             Company, 1989. Print.

Posted in Creative Nonfiction, Criticism, Feminism, Literature | Tagged | 2 Comments

Marianne & Juliane: A Film of Sisterhood

The German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta creates a tangible world governed by the alogical love of sisters within Marianne & Juliane. Von Trotta explores the complexity of sisterhood and in so doing: womanhood it’s self.  The film is weaved together by means of the sister’s shared memory, in the form of flashbacks ranging from their childhood to the present.  The film takes on Juliane’s perspective, the plot is driven forward by her agency: her need to understand her sister Marianne, herself, and their deep emotional connection.  Von Trotta does not limit herself to a linear story line.  The first scene is clearly placed after Marianne’s death but quickly moves back in time to a second beginning, years before Marianne is even incarcerated, with embedded flashbacks there in.  It is at times difficult to tell the chronological sequence of events but the emotional trajectory is easy to follow.  The non-linear sequencing mirrors the alogical-emotional quality of love/memory that the sister’s share.  Throughout the film von Trotta brilliantly depicts the dual political and personal nature of sisterhood.  Through Marianne and Julianne, von Trotta carves out a space in cinema for intelligent emotional women who love and admire each other as much as they differ in their political/personal selves.

Julianne and Marianne are depicted as intellectual equals.  They are complex multidimensional developed characters, …actively engaged in a struggle to define their lives, their identities, and their feminist politics… (Kaplan 105). In mainstream Hollywood cinema, woman are not depicted so complexly rather they are depicted as they correlate to men: lover, mother, daughter, sister, or as Claire Johnston puts it Within a sexist ideology and a male-dominated cinema, woman is presented as what she represents for man (Johnston “Counter-Cinema” 135).  Marianne and Juliane have set themselves outside the mainstream, they reject motherhood and wifehood: Marianne leaves her son and husband to fight as a terrorist in some unnamed cause and Juliane refuses to get married, bare children, and take in her orphaned nephew Jan.

In the beginning of the film Juliane actively rejects becoming a mother as demonstrated when she is asked to take in her nephew by Marianne’s suicidal husband.  Juliane reminds him it has been her decision to remain childless and recognizes her long-term partner Wolfgang desires to have children, making her decision all the more politically charged.    Later on when Wolfgang confronts Juliane about her neglect of their relationship she verbally confirms her need to find self and understand her sister above their ten plus year relationship.  Juliane is punished for this act by being called ‘monster’ and a hard slap in the face from her otherwise gentle Wolfgang.

Von Trotta is rather fair in the scene where Wolfgang strikes Juliane.  Before Wolfgang’s blow, Juliane is shown fully immersed in her own world of investigation mostly ignoring Wolfgang.  When he finally does have her attention Juliane expresses her desire for a break in their relationship until she’s done with her investigation.  It is at this moment that Wolfgang strikes Juliane, but Juliane does not succumb to his wishes.  Von Trotta does not depict Wolfgang as one-dimensional; he’s not an abusive man although he does this one overtly abusive act.  The audience is sympathetic to Wolfgang but also with Juliane, Wolfgang does not understand Juliane’s need for the investigation and Juliane cannot give Wolfgang the companionship he so desires in Juliane. The decision to take control of one’s body, reproductive rights, and time is for a woman not only personal but by it’s very nature political.

Interestingly enough Marianne also expects Juliane to take on the normal female role in terms of taking in Jan.  When Marianne asks Juliane to take in Jan, Juliane retorts that Marianne wants her to take on the life that Marianne had herself rejected.  This conversation, as each conversation between the sisters, demonstrates their similarities and their grave differences; every interaction is leaded with meaning.  Von Trotta plays with female identity, how her characters are female and how they are individual.  A great example of von Trotta’s identity play is the scene in which Marianne is being held in the new high security prison.  When Juliane goes to visit Marianne they must have their visit through a thick pain of glass.  The scene is shot in such a way that the woman’s faces are overlapping one another: they mold into one.

Von Trotta, through both Juliane’s refusal to take in Jan and her refusal to put her relationship with Wolfgang first demonstrates very clearly how woman must choose between self and family.  Though von Trotta’s feminist critique is not limited to the binary oppositions between masculinity and femininity but is also critically concerned with deconstructing women’s different and sometimes contradictory ways of responding to inequality and struggling for their place against opposition (Rueschmann 158). It is clear that the two lead characters Marianne and Juliane have chosen to react very differently within the patriarchy system but end up with much of the same results: punishment.  The man she loves physically abuses Juliane and the government kills Marianne, they both are punished for taking control of their womanhood.

As I asserted previously, for women the personal is very closely intertwine with the political.  The personal decision of having a child or not, working or not, marrying or not, is made political due to the nature of patriarchy staking claim in the female sexuality-body, …not to adopt the nurturing role of the mother is for both sisters a political choice… (Linville 450). Von Trotta brings the sister’s political rejection of motherhood full circle back to the personal when Jan is severally burned due to neglect by both woman, and to be fair by his father who abandons Jan through suicide.  It is as if von Trotta is reminding us that there are consequences outside of self for personal political decisions, consequences suffered by those that we love.

According to Eva Rueschmann Von Trotta’s films have been analyzed and categorized as either political statements or as psychograms of female identity with melodramatic overtones, approaches that have rarely been seen as mutually interdependent (Rueschmann 149) which reinforces the artificiality of separating the two.Von Trotta is part of a film movement already interested in combining the personal and the political, (Kaplan 106) as a female director Von Trotta’s influence rendered that “personal” more intimate, emotional, and less distanced than it has appeared in the films directed by men… (Kaplan 106). Each sister represents a different way in which women react within the patriarchal system.

Due to Von Trotta’s more intimate, emotional, take on the personal/political nature of sisterhood, I personally feel very engaged by Marianne and Julianne in a way that I have never felt by another film. As a woman and as a woman engaged in a complex dually personal/political sisterhood, Marianne and Julianne is welcomingly insightful. The concept of a shared memory amongst sisters is incredibly rich, as von Trotta has demonstrated. My biggest point of connection is with the fierce a-logical quality of the sister’s love.  I had never seen a film articulate my sister’s and my bond so clearly.  Von Trotta was able to create a world which mirrors my own not because of her biological female sex but because of our shared female social experience in a male-dominant society. There is a certain amount of self-justification that comes from seeing one’s own life experience spelled out on the silver screen.

I would now like to comment upon the non-linear, alogical structure in terms of plot structure by means of flash back.  The flashbacks seem random in terms of chronological sequencing at times, but in terms of the emotional trajectory and the conceptualization of memory they fit in perfectly.  Susan E. Linville suggests that the randomness of the flashbacks in the film conforms further to the rhythms of memory, its editing indicating, often subtly, at times more obviously the complex connections that run through familial and social, private and public, patriarchal economies (Linville 450).  The flashbacks are the armature of the film.  Each flashback gives more and more insight into Juliane’s self realization process and to Marianne’s humanity.  The flashbacks are strung together brilliantly with scenes such as the brick of the jail yard becoming the brick of the sisters’ childhood play-yard.

The flashbacks also aid in demonstrating how the sisters are the same, how they are different, and how understanding their relationship’s complexities is of the most importance to Juliane, memories are the sisters’ strong connection and competition with each other from childhood through adulthood, their alienation from structures of the dominant culture, and their divergent pursuits of alternative political stances (Linville 448).  Through flashback von Trotta is able to comment on the framework of the female struggle: Her works combine dreams, visions, ambiguous flashbacks, and personal obsessions within a “realistic” framework of women struggling to negotiate their place in a patriarchal society (Rueschmann 148). I can’t help but think that a women’s sensibility is ‘a-logical’ only because it is being measured by a man’s ‘logic.’ When the standard is male anything that diverts from this standard is ‘wrong’ or illogical- thus a woman’s logic by it’s very being non-male will be a-logical.

Marianne and Juliane explores a very important component of womanhood: sisterhood.  The complexity of this very important female relationship is properly shown through shared memory by means of flashback.  The flashbacks are the armature on which the story’s non-linear plot line is constructed.  Each memory brings the viewer further and further into Juliane’s emotional trajectory.  Along the way the dual political and personal nature of womanhood and sisterhood are explored in terms of their realities both detrimental and self-liberating.  Von Trotta is a brilliant filmmaker and I look forward to viewing her many other rich films.

Work Cited

Johnston, Claire. Sexual Stratagems: The World of Woman and Film: Woman’s Cinema as Counter-Cinema. ed. Erens,                 Patricia. Horizan Press: New York, 1979. Print.

Kaplan, Ann. Women and Film: Both Sides of the Camera. (Female Politics in the Symbolic Realm: Von Trotta’s Marianne           and Juliane) (1981) London and New York: Metheun, Inc., 1983. Reprinted 1990. Print.

Linville, Susan E. Retrieving History: Margarethe von Trotta’s Marianne and Juliane PMLA, Vol. 106, No. 3 (May, 1991),           pp. 446-458

Rueschmann , Eva. Sisters on Screen: Siblings in Contemporary Cinema (The Politics of Intersubjectivity: The sister Films         of Margarethe von Trotta) Philadelphia: Temple U of Pennsylvania P, 2000. Print.

Posted in Criticism, Feminism, Film | Tagged | Leave a comment