Structuring my essay with being beside and besides

As I indicated in my previous post, I am struggling with my essay. I got stuck thinking about how to write about Butler’s complicated and highly theoretical notion of grief and its value for politics and political and ethical projects for social transformation. Reading over the manuscript again, I feel like I am getting bogged down in the theory and losing my ability to respond and connect to Butler and grief. The section on Butler and grief seems so disconnected from my introduction of the three Judiths. Then, it came to me; I don’t want to write a straightforward academic paper in which I articulate Butler’s argument concerning grief, making sure to fully contextualize it and to properly present it, and then critically interrogate how it does/doesn’t speak to my own experiences with grief and loss. While I imagine this as a valuable project, it doesn’t fit with what I want to do right now. To write with such an overwhelming academic tone not only encourages abstraction (I am always already too prone to thinking abstractly), but it might discourage a wide range of non-academic readers from engaging with my words. This essay is not only for an academic audience. It is for anyone who reads my blog, it is for my sisters, and, most significantly, it is for the two most important Judiths in my life: my mom and my daughter.

In addition to wanting to ensure that this essay is accessible and compelling, I want to use it to experiment with how to think about my academic self (the one who is most often beside Judith Butler) in relation to the daughter self (the one who is most often beside my mom, Judith Puotinen) and the mother self (the one who is most often beside my daughter, Rosemary Judith Puotinen). My experiences with relating these selves is that they don’t always fit together easily. I frequently find that I can’t and don’t want to integrate them. Yet, even so, they somehow exist together, informing and responding to each other in unexpected ways. I think the idea of being beside and besides is instructive here. To be beside something is not to be the same as or even to be fully integrated/combined/connected to that something; it is to be next to it and/or in addition to it, but to still be connected and not fundamentally separate from it.

I think that my experiences of living with and beside grief exemplify the complicated and contradictory ways in which I negotiate these roles. I want those contradictions and complications to be represented in this text. I want to play with my different voices—voices that aren’t really fragmented or schizophrenic, but aren’t fully connected and integrated–and put them next to each other, but not always in direct conversation with each other. What would it look like to do this? Perhaps my last blog entry provides some clues. In that entry I put big chunks of Butler’s prose next to both my academic explanations and my italicized musing/asides about the texts. Maybe I should keep in the asides, along with a few story fragments of grief as a scholar, daughter and mother. For the purpose of this manuscript, I envision this placing of voices next to each other to be fairly uncomplicated. Maybe I will use different fonts or italics to represent the distinctions. In future versions of this project, I want to experiment even more—STA had a lot of cool suggestions on how to visually represent and place these texts beside each other. I can also imagine it as a wonderful digital storytelling video.

Randomly, I feel compelled to include this quick youtube clip. It makes me laugh, something I always look forward to in the midst of writing/thinking/experiencing grief.

This clip is just one of many; yes, dramatic animals is a youtube genre! I am particularly fond of the dramatic sloth and dramatic lizard.

5 thoughts on “Structuring my essay with being beside and besides”

  1. I was unaware of the dramatic animals. I loved the dramatic chipmunk and will now go investigate what other over the top creatures may be lurking in cyberspace…

Comments are closed.