Introduction

It’s funny how often one tries to justify the things in life not understood. There is a human need to know and pinpoint an exact reason for why something is done. For me, it was the call to my mother when I was still a music major at the University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut. Standing in a sparsely furnished lounge area of Bethel Hall with the sun hanging on the right half of my face, I stared at a tree and told her that I wanted to change my major to English. Although I had been thinking about it for a while, I couldn’t really explain to her what prompted this decision; I couldn’t explain it to myself, but I just knew that it was the choice that I had to make, and that one decision changed my entire life as I knew it.  

As I continued through school, transferred, and moved back home, I began to notice that I read less; I stopped writing my stories and my poetry suffered. It wasn’t until I was in my first semester at Kean University as a graduate student that I had enough courage to fully admit two things: 1. I am absolutely a writer no matter what anyone else says and  2. I wanted my creative drive and edge back more than anything else in the world. Those two things alone led to the creation of a digital poetry project titled Breaking the Manacles that I curated in my Introduction to Electronic Literature course.

From doing that project, I had learned that I wanted to dig deeper into who I am as a person culturally, personally, and even spiritually. In trying to come back to myself reborn, I want to look at the ways that I work, cope, and react to the world situated around me. I think it is important to know the self before relaying information or advice unto others, and I feel like I have accomplished that by getting more in tune with myself and my creative process. In this paper, I attempt to show how my identity and voice has been constructed and shaped by race, gender, and a network of ancestors, poets, and other scholars. With an autoethnographic approach, and centered around the idea of boundedness, I explore how I maneuver through my craft as a black female poet. My work is complemented with a digital poetry project situated on the web that expanded upon what I had created in the first curated version of my poetry project from my Electronic Literature course.

With this thesis, I am able to delve into what I am passionate about, and I hope to help others believe that what they do, and what they have to offer this world with their writing is absolutely necessary. There is no one in the world that can provide what is uniquely yours to give. This is a piece of advice that I constantly give to myself, and hope to spread to those still struggling to work through what may be getting in the way of their craft.  

Considering this digital-born age, and the fact that a good portion of this thesis is published online, I examined the ways in which new media tools and the digital spaces that I worked in affected and/or enhanced my creative process. While new media tools have significantly impacted how digital content is curated and published, there is still some uncertainty in how it affects creative process. How does one find/claim voice in an oppressive social context?  These are the kinds of ideas I had been pondering on for quite some time, and needed research supported answers for.

In trying to get those answers, I intended to look at the work that I had already curated, and put it against the work that I was currently forming as I went through the process of writing this thesis. Within that, my thesis was shaping up to be this fascinating discovery of the similarities and differences that could occur when reflecting on my process and on work already done (sometimes years prior) with work that was fresh, exciting, and new. Further, I was excited about the ways that I could map out my creative process with this project. Over time, there has been a plethora of other poets, scholars, and writers that have influenced me. What would it be like to have a lens that focused solely on my influences and the impact that they have had on me, my voice, and my identity? Being a music major prior to pursuing English was an important part of my journey because music is one of my lifelong passions. With that being said, in what ways does music affect my process, and how much of a difference is there (if any) when I write with music versus without it? All of these questions were important; all of the questions were valid.

The auto ethnographic approach to this work deemed to be the most logical choice in choosing how I would approach this aforementioned pursuit. In looking at the literature backing the approach that I had chosen, Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams, and Arthur P. Bochner who wrote “Autoethnography: An Overview” note that autoethnography eschew[s] rigid definitions of what constitutes meaningful and useful research” (par. 4). No longer are we in an age where traditional norms and methods are the only ways to approach scholarly work. I wanted my work to live online and be on an open and digital platform to further defy the traditional ways in which we are taught to write academically.

Additionally, I wanted to make sure that what I was creating was a very intimate and personal encounter displaying the deepest sides of who I am as a person for any reader (or navigator) to be able to relate to and with me; I wanted readers to be able to feel like they have come on the journey of self discovery through my creative process along with me. Much like Sarah Wall stated in her article “Easier Said than Done: Writing An Autoethnography”, “it is important that those working with [autoethnography] reflect on the use of the method and share their experiences with others” (40); her exact sentiments are why I have pursued the approach for my thesis. There may be so many others grappling with aspects and facets of not only themselves, but their writing. Thus, I would like my work to be a resource for them to look into and reflect on when they are struggling with the same ideas and concepts as I did when trying to figure out the effects and impacts that the world around me yields when it came to my creative endeavours and discovering who I am as a writer.

 

Outline (rough)

  1. Introduction
    1. Here is where I plan to give an overview of my thesis. I will:
      1. Describe my thesis
      2. Answer “why am I doing this?”
      3. List questions (I will present the questions that I am posing… the questions I plan to address)
      4. etc. etc.
  2. Methodology
    1. Here I will speak on autoethnography, what it is, and how I went about marking my process. I can include things like
      1. My blog
      2. My tracking of each poem
      3. audio/visual reflections and narrations etc.
  3. Breaking the Manacles 1.0
  4. Previous work
    1. Here I will provide reflection and analysis (connected to theory) of previous work
  5. Introduction to new work
    1. Here I will provide a sort of in depth overview of my new work and what it stems from etc. etc.
  6. New work
    1. Here I will provide reflection and analysis (connected to theory) of my new work
  7. Comparison
    1. Here I will look at both my new and old work and see what kinds of things were similar or different. What sort of patterns arose? Where did I fall short or improve? Etc. etc.
  8. Conclusion
    1. Here I feel like a brief summary of everything talked about should suffice. I can go over highlights of my thesis and main points that I made as well as talking about why this work was relevant at this time in the field. I might be able to even mention areas where I feel I can go from where I ended up.
  9. Annotated Bib

 

Annotated Bibliography

Mentor Texts

Chase-Riboud, Barbara. Hottentot Venus: A Novel. 1st ed., New York, NY, Doubleday, 2003.

This novel is a fictional retelling of the life of the South African woman Sarah Baartman as she is kidnapped, sold into slavery and put on display for the French to tamper with. I feel this text can provide more knowledge, deeper insight, and a unique perspective on a story that I have touched on and condensed into a poem titled “Sarah Baartman” in 2015. I hope to use this as a continuation of my research and partly as a mentor text as far as narrative and storytelling is concerned.

Leon, Kendall and Stacey Pigg. “Graduate Students Professionalizing in Digital Time/Space: A View from “Down Below”.” Computers & Composition, vol. 28, no. 1, Mar. 2011, pp.  3-13. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2010.12.002.

This article by Kendall Leon and Stacey Pigg seems to be a very similar account of my personal process as a graduate student partaking in the act of using modernized techniques and digital spaces to enhance writing in a professional and creative manner. This text will be helpful in my research particularly to get a more direct and in-depth perspective of the very kind of work that I am doing currently.

Lorde, Audre. The Black Unicorn: Poems. New York, NY, W. W. Norton, 1995.

This collection of poetry by Audre Lorde can be seen as a work comprised of the many identities she claims, and may offer insight in the way of identity with poetry by a black woman for black women. This work can be essential to my research as a mentor text.

Waheed, Nayyirah. Salt. San Bernardino, CA, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013.

In this poetry collection, Nayyirah Waheed focuses on a myriad of topics such as the self, love, language and closely on the diaspora of African American and African people. This work has been a guiding light for my own creative work and endeavors, and can serve as a mentor text in the furthering of my research. Poetry inspired by Waheed has been compiled into a manuscript this year (2017) titled “marble.” and can possibly be of use in the poetic digital compilation to compliment my thesis work.

 

New Media/Internet

Arola, Kristen L. , and Anne Wysocki. Composing Media Composing Embodiment . Boulder, CO, University Press of Colorado , 2013.

Kristen Arola and Anne Wysocki have put forth this text arguing that writing in new media is essentially composing the body (it is embodiment). There is an urge to get professors and students on the same page in terms of composing in and engaging with new media tools and technology. Selected essays within this compiled text can compliment my research by providing insight into how identity can be developed because of these composing practices.

Koehler, Adam. “Digitizing Craft: Creative Writing Studies and New Media: A Proposal.” College English, vol. 75, no. 4, Mar. 2013, pp. 379-397. EBSCOhostlibrary.kean.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=tru&AuhType=cookie,ip,url,cpid&custid=keaninf&db=trh&AN=86131502&site=ehos-live&scpe=site.

In “Digitizing Craft: Creative Writing Studies and New Media: A Proposal”, Adam Koehler touches on the issues and concerns regarding the life of creative writing in digital spaces, and how it can essentially grow and develop in those spaces. This text will be beneficial in my research as I feel my thesis can act as a response or an example of one of the unique ways in which creative writing lives on as the world continues to make strides in technology advancement everyday.

Magearu, Mirona. “Making Digital Poetry: Writing with and through Spaces.” Journal of Literary Theory, vol. 6, no. 2, 2012. ELMCIP, doi:10.1515/jlt-2012-0002.

“Making Digital Poetry” by Mirona Magearu focuses on the affordances of new media culture to transform poetry, which is at the heart of what I intend to pursue. This article will be essential to my research being able to provide background and context for the digital and poetic aspect of my thesis. This article aims to highlight the magnitude of digital writing spaces. 

Birkerts, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. Fawcett Columbine, 1994.

In The Gutenberg Elegies, Birkerts jumps back to the very familiar conversation about whether or not books are dead. The elegies focus on the fate that these very digital times leave for reading, and to him, it is not good. I feel that this resource can be beneficial to me because although my thesis is not centered around books, I am pursuing a hybrid thesis where parts will live online. Navigators of my online site will essentially be “reading online”. Birkert’s book can act as a counterargument for my work. With my thesis being somewhat hybrid (living online and on paper) I feel I am showing that reading online or even just having/publishing work online may not be so bad, and can bring about some amazing affordances that I would not have otherwise.

Lanham, Richard A. The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1998.

In this book, Lanham advocates for the use of electronic text and gives a clear opinion of how he feels it has benefited the arts and creativity. He argues the fact that technology has not necessarily forced a “ cultural reevaluation” in any way, but instead advocates for the way technology can “ express so eloquently an omnipresent reevaluation already in being” (p. 84). I would like to use Lanham’s work as one that can support my thesis as it will be an endeavor that is highly involved with technology/digital spaces and tools. I feel that his argument may be a bold stance in favor of the claim that I will be making with my thesis in that this electronic age that we are in has afforded so many different resources and ways of creating, making, and publishing that can work together with the traditional modes that still hold the weight that they deserve.  

Ethnography and Reflection

Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art. 10, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108.

In this article, Ellis et al. begin by defining autoethnography and noting that it essentially fits the bill as process, but also as product. The research is broken down into important information relaying detailed information about the process or doing an autoethnography, as well the product that results from it, and some of the issues and criticisms that can follow autoethnographic work. This resource would be great for my thesis because it essentially gives me, as the title states, a complete overview of the work that I am in the midst of purpsing. Not only can this article help me to understand the scope of the project that I am taking on, but it can also add some much needed depth and perspective.

Wall, S. (2008). Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography. International Journal

of Qualitative Methods, 7(1), pp.38-53.

In this article, Sarah Wall brings to the forefront some of the complications that can be run into when it comes to autoethnography. There are a number of concerns that still exist with this method of  doing research as if narrative and storytelling are not valid forms. This article can prove to be beneficial to me because at the same time that I am receiving valuable information surrounding autoethnography, there are counter arguments and claims that need to be addressed with this method. I would hope to prove that the kind of information gained from this sort of work is absolutely valid and essential to the field as it stands.

 

Essential Feminist Influences

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. 2nd ed., New York, NY, Routledge, 2000.

This book seems to explore black feminist thought as a concept. Collins notes her growth in starting the book with the idea of trying to claim voice on behalf of African American women as a whole, but realized that what matters is how voice is instead used effectively by those lucky enough to have it. She emphasizes empowerment and social justice for black women; this book, then, can provide more insight for my research in terms of empowerment through pain as well as acting much like a mentor text because of the similar sentiments that I share with Collins when it comes to the African American community, women, and transnational practice of black feminists.

 

Voice

Hooks, Bell. “Marginality as site of resistance .” Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, edited by Russell Ferguson et al., The New Museum of Contemporary Arts, New York, NY, 1990, pp. 341–343.

In this section of the book, Bell Hooks talks about life for African American people on the margins of society, and how they saw life uniquely as people part of the whole unlike their white neighbors. I believe this section will help me to flesh out some of the points that I would like to make about claiming voice when faced with adversity, as well as inheritance when it comes to what my ancestors have endured and then left behind.

Jeffries, Devair and Rhonda Jeffries. “Mentoring and Mothering Black Femininity in the Academy: An Exploration of Body, Voice and Image through Black Female Characters.” Western Journal of Black Studies, vol. 39, no. 2, Summer 2015, pp. 125-133.EBSCOhost,library.kean.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/ogin.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,cpid&custid=keaninf&db=hlh&A=109380556&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

This text focuses on body, voice and image pertaining to the black female. This text can still be beneficial in the way that it aims to empower and reduce the amount of outside individuals telling the black woman’s story versus letting her tell it herself. This text will be relevant to my research for the very reason aforementioned about the emphasis on body, as well as the fact that I hope my thesis can be an example of work that helps to show how voice and image for the black female is constructed and shaped.

Bryant, Lizbeth A. Voice As Process. Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc., 2005.

In this book, Bryant talks about voice as a process of construction and explores the different kinds of voices that she sees in her classroom; she explores the ways in which students can still be successful with the many voices that they own and how those voices can accommodate the specific writing task that they may be tackling at the time. I feel this source may be useful to me with my idea of constructing voice. I can relate to some of the stories that she provided from her ethnographic research about her students when it comes to voice in academia. This text may help all that I am pursuing as I hope tochallenge the traditional ways of thinking about writing and the process of it.

Royster, Jacqueline Jones. “When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 47, no. 1, 1996, pp. 29–40. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/358272.

In this article, Jacqueline Royster centers her argument around subject positioning, and notes that it is crucial when it comes to voice. There is a power and an authority that having voice contains, and in her personal experience, she notes that “when the subject matter is me, and the voice is not mine, my sense of order and rightness is disrupted” (Royster 31). This text may prove very beneficial to my work because of the direct correlation and ties that Royster make to the African American community and how they are shaped by voice. Our stories have been told by others far longer than they should have been; I can relate to her urge to want to claim voice because I am trying to claim mine.

 

Identity & Body

Domosh, M. “Geography and Gender: The Personal and the Political.” Progress in Human Geography, vol. 21, no. 1, Mar. 1997, pp. 81-87. EBSCOhostlibrary.kean.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=tr&AuhType=cookie,ip,url,cpid&custid=keaninf&db=aph&AN=7392746&site=ehostliv&scpe=site.

While this article makes a point to relate heavily to women (in particular) and feminist geography, Domosh starts off by diving into stories and speeches by Bell Hooks that pertain to her personal life with political influence and relevance weaved in. A lot of Hooks’ stories underline her vast number of identities while focusing on concepts dealing with the female body and how it is constructed through spatial practices. This article is relevant to my research in how it will be able to add depth to my discussion about the body as a theme, what it is subjected to and how that plays a role in society and identification.   

Kalmanson, Leah. “Buddhism and Bell Hooks: Liberatory Aesthetics and the Radical Subjectivity of No-Self.” Hypatia, vol. 27, no. 4, Nov. 2012, pp. 810-827. EBSCOhostdoi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.2011.01224.x.

Hypatia, the Journal of Feminist Philosophy, published this intriguing article about Bell Hooks’ idea of the “radical black subjectivity” under the scope of a Buddhist doctrine called “no self”. This article will be able to assist this current research with the notion of appreciating beauty without any unwelcome/unnecessary biases. Thus, the article can be a way into how African American and African people (cultural perspective), as well as writers in general, can go about the “crafting and recrafting of identity”.

 

Race

Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. Routledge, 2002.

In Cybertypes, Nakamura aims to prove that race and the stereotypes that we associate with it live on the internet (web); we are exposed on an everyday basis to race in a way that one sometimes does not expect. There are so many different cultures and genders that make the experience online what it is. This source seems to be a very profound one, and can potentially help me make my argument in looking at the ways that my own identity has been shaped with the internet and the media.

 

 

 


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