I love the winter—for me, it’s time for reading, writing, and dreaming—but I’m keeping an eye on the new year lately, too. All kinds of beginnings are important. My friend and collaborator Carla Nappi recently published an inspiring annotated essay on beginnings over at our Invisible College, from which I’ll just quote a little bit here:
We don’t go into [academic] performative contexts expecting or being able to assume generosity. And so we’re afraid. And so we keep reproducing the same forms that everyone complains about. Because the reality is: there are consequences. Academia is not yet the generous space that many of us want it to be. …. It is that fear, that shame, that I’m talking about here. And that’s what I want to leave behind by beginning and beginning and beginning.
In beginning 2019, I’ll be going into various talks and readings, refusing to reproduce those “forms that everyone complains about.”
My Spring 2019 talk schedule contains three academic talks and a literary festival. I don’t know yet exactly what these performative appearances will look like, but I can promise that none of them is going to look like a middle-aged woman meekly repeating her latest journal article or book chapter, adopting the armour of “expertise” because she is ashamed to get up on that stage/podium/performance space and begin doing something that is vulnerable and different.
To be clear, it’s not that I won’t feel the shame. I will.
My talks will likely focus around the Symposium Reimagined project, which talks back to Plato and the academy about love, sex, gender, power, knowledge, and other things. The first published sections from Symposium Reimagined include my “Before Aristophanes,” which is in some ways a poem about trying to begin back before (what I’ve always been presented with as) the beginning, but is also about having an existential panic attack. Beginning and beginning and beginning is terrifying, but the beginning is where the wild possibilities are.
I understand the appeal of being regarded as an “expert,” and I know well that it’s a requirement for being taken seriously, both inside and outside the academy. But at my core I decline to be an expert. I aim to be a beginner.