To read makes our speaking English good.
I was very fortunate to be selected to present a 20 minute paper at the Excess and Desire conference this week at UQ. I presented a (heavily edited) version of the exegetical component of my Honours project, exploring contemporary female comedic memoir, and was able to spend three days listening to amazing women from around the world discuss literature, creativity, and diversity. There were papers on classical Indian dance as revisionist feminism, home improvement as a theme in contemporary poetry, nomadic Iranian writing, and more. I also attended a workshop on ‘multi-lingual excess in a national cultural frame’ as presented by Sneja Gunew. It was a most excellent time, and I want to go there… again.
Abstract: Dimensionalising the Female Self: Comedic Memoir as Feminist Rhetoric
This paper offers a discussion of a desire for empowering and multi-faceted representations of women as represented in comedic memoir. It considers the ways in which female comedic memoir combines the feminist possibilities of both comedy and memoir to open a unique space for feminist representations of identity. Such representations often include “failures of femininity,” a term coined by Helen M. Buss (2002, 65) and drawing from the work of Judith Butler (2007, 145) to refer to unattainable gender ideals dictated by patriarchal tradition. This paper examines how female comedic memoirists juxtapose their failures of femininity alongside their personal successes in an aggregate feminist act. Contemporary comedic memoirists Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Amy Schumer are analysed to provide contextual evidence. I contend that the synergistic intersection of female comedy and memoir opens a space for intimate and disruptive representations of women. Further, I suggest that the juxtaposition of failures of femininity and personal success ameliorates some of the potential pitfalls of depicting failures of femininity alone. It dimensionalises women, creating constructions that depict women failing to live up to unattainable ideals and thereby pointing out the fallacy of those ideals. It depicts women as more than just these failures, or moments of resistance.
Katharine Pollock recently completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) (Creative and Professional Writing) at QUT, receiving first-class honours and a University Medal. She has had creative work published in Kill Your Darlings, Funny Ha Ha, Novel Collective, and Lip Magazine, and has contributed reviews to Lip Magazine and The Music. This paper is based upon the findings of her Honours project, in which she examined female comedic memoir in an integrated creative and exegetical thesis. She plans to continue researching femaleness and feminism on her return to postgraduate study.