Write It Slant: Queerness and Form in The Argonauts and Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through

Student: Eleanor Linafelt
Majors: English, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Advisors: Natasha Bissonauth, Susanna Sacks

This presentation is only available to College of Wooster students, faculty, and staff.

Read the abstract

View Presentation on Sharepoint

Eleanor will be online to field comments on May 8:
Noon-2pm EDT (PST 9am-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

42 thoughts on “Write It Slant: Queerness and Form in The Argonauts and Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through”

  1. This IS makes me think back to when I was talking to Greg Sexauer about moving past language. At first glance my thought is that everything can be described and is thus effable. But there are many things that we do, like the way I hold a musical instrument or the way I load a part into a machine to be milled that are “just right” but effectively indescribable to someone else, though someone else might discover them of their own accord. It seems a logical extension that queerness could be yet another one of these inherently ineffable concepts that is yet understandable through some personal mode of expression, perhaps through the forms of these books. Loved to watch you grow through this project and all my best to you in the future!

    1. Thanks Marg 🙂 In The Argonauts, Nelson writes about how she also spent much of her life believing your initial thought – that everything can be described through language. For her, it was when she found herself trying to describe queerness in particular that this idea was challenged. This is kind of the starting point for the whole book, and of course a really significant realization for her. Thanks for all of your support & interest this year!

  2. I couldn’t see the presentation but I am wowed by your abstract. Proud of u. Missing ur genius. Miss u. Happy Birthday again.

  3. Hello Eleanor!

    The presentation will not load on any of my devices, but I am sure that it is absolutely brilliant! Thank you so much for four years of a wonderful friendship, sharing books/resources, and making space for us to ramble about queer theory. Your future (such a contested word) is incredibly bright and I hope that we can write theory together one day!!! Thank you for sharing your work with us.

    1. Thank you Sharah! I contacted Marketing & hopefully the presentation will be back up soon. I’ve learned so much from you & can’t wait to learn more! I feel very lucky to have spent my time at Wooster and in WGSS classes with you.

      1. Everything is working now and I am nodding in agreement with your wonderful work! So excited to continue with sharing resources, podcasts, and articles with you. Thank you for being an incredible classmate and friend.

    1. Thank you, Professor Thomas! Thanks for a great class this semester and I hope you’re well.

  4. Hi Eleanor! I don’t know why your presentation isn’t loading but I was able to read your abstract! I was wondering if it was difficult to combine your two majors, or if they kind of went together seamlessly? Also can you talk about the evolution of your I.S. and how the focus might have shifted throughout the year?

    Amazing work!

    1. Hi Waverly! I contacted Marketing & the presentation should be working now. My majors definitely went together seamlessly. This could have easily been just an English I.S. or just a WGSS I.S. because both majors are so interdisciplinary on their own, but having the coursework in both made me feel much more prepared to tackle this project. Though I declared my English major first, I found myself constantly drawn to books with WGSS themes, so it felt natural that I double major and combine the two into my I.S.
      To answer your second question, it took me a long time to figure out my argument. I knew at the beginning of the year that I wanted to write about these books, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say about them, and it took a lot of rereading & noticing what interested me and then also diving in secondary sources and theory to formulate my argument. It was a long and tricky process, but I also was tickled to notice, looking back at the I.S. notebook I kept all year, that I was working towards these ideas all along, without really being aware of it at the beginning of the year.
      Thanks for your interest Waverly! I’ve been so lucky to have you as a fellow English major (and EiC!) at Wooster 🙂

    1. Thank you! Couldn’t have done it without you as my carrel buddy, fellow WGSS major, and go-to friend to talk queerness with.

  5. Imagine me excitedly chanting this while jumping up and down and waving around a foam finger: ELEANOR! ELEANOR! ELEANOR! ELEANOR!

    I’m so so proud of you! You have worked so hard on this and you deserve to celebrate. You’ve written about writing that deserves more attention for sure: writing that plays with form and breaks expected rules, all to give space to questions and identities that can’t fit in the limits of what folks usually “expect” when they’re met with a piece of writing. We need more writing like this! Our Experimental Fiction class helped me see how freeing experimental form can be, how it can help us express so much more. That class and your I.S. have inspired me to dive deeper into experimental forms, because they’re so valuable! Thank you for sharing YOUR GENIUS with us! I’m always here for experimental book recommendations if you have any to give to me. BYE!

    1. Thanks so much Samantha!! You’ve shown me how to see the JOY in experimental forms. I’ll send you some book recs soon 🙂

  6. Hi Eleanor, I’ve so enjoyed your thoughtful questions at various talks throughout the year and it’s great to get the chance to see some of your own work, which Prof. Sacks highly recommended! (I also feel lucky in having been able to view the presenation!)

    My own work is deeply interested in aspects of form such as the ones you present here, so I’m excited to learn about these texts and I look forward to reading them. My question comes from my parallel and intertwined study of the material aspects of texts–how books and book-like objects have been crafted and presented over the centuries by authors, illustrators, binders, publishers, collectors, etc. Are there material-formal aspects of these books that have interested you? For example, I have a friend at another college who studies how writers have used experimental forms and formats from (and beyond) an indigenous identity perspective. Thanks so much, and congratulations!!

    1. Hi Professor Eager, thank you so much for taking the time to look at this! I have not thought much about the materiality of books but I know there is so much fascinating work there and much I would like to learn about. As I begin the job search, I’ve been looking at some small publishing houses that pay careful attention to the handmade, material aspects of their publications and would definitely be interested in learning more about that part of the publishing process. Thanks for sharing about the work of your friend! My project deals with only a very particular way that writers can use form to express identity, but I’m so interested to learn the vast and varied ways that writers from all different identities backgrounds do so.

  7. You’re amazing Eleanor!! Was so lucky to learn from you and alongside you this past year. Your IS is such a testament to your strength as a writer, theorist and scholar. Miss you!

    1. Thanks so much Ellie! I was constantly inspired by your commitment to your own work and WGSS classes this year. Thanks for all of the support and miss you so much!

  8. I love your presentation, Eleanor, especially the way you hone in on the creative methods writers use to expand the limits of language and create a queer space of articulation. Congratulations, and keep in touch–we’re excited to see what you do next!

    1. Thanks so much, Professor Hayward! And thanks for your guidance in junior I.S, when I was just beginning to try to figure out how to tackle queer theory and literary analysis together.

  9. Eleanor, you are a genius. ineffable write it slant

    I’ve got a blank space queerness is

    is not

  10. Eleanor, great Powerpoint, beautifully designed! Congratulations on this wonderful project, about which I’ve heard such good things. It must have been an interesting year to be thinking so deeply about ineffability and the resonances of queerness. (I’ve been thinking a lot about Lee Edelman since the pandemic started.) Thanks for sharing your work!

    1. Thanks so much, Professor Beutner! Yes, these two books also deal quite a bit with queer futurity, which I would have analyzed more if I had another year to work on this! Honestly, the way these writers think about moving into the future has been pretty comforting for me to re-read during the pandemic. It’s been so interesting to see these books continue to shift in meaning for me as our circumstances change.

  11. You did an amazing job with this, and I hope you feel incredibly proud of this accomplishment. You are AMAZING!

  12. Hello Eleanor! You gave an excellent presentation, and I’m honored to have been able to watch it. I’m intrigued by the way you examined not only what the writers said, but also what they didn’t say, and how they didn’t say it. It’s so antithetical to what we think of as the purpose of writing, but it’s still so indescribably effective. I’m wondering if you think there’s any other avenue of expression or extension of how the authors wrote that you think could have been effective in wordlessly expressing queerness, such as perhaps art or poetry. Great job, and congratulations!

    1. Hey Alexis, thanks so much for taking the time to carefully look at this! Yes, I actually write quite a bit about visual abstract art in my paper, but didn’t have the time to explain that in my presentation. I found reading about the way abstract artists deal with queerness beyond the use of language or representation in their work to be incredibly helpful for thinking about the way the visual forms of these books work. Fleischmann in particular also writes extensively about abstract art in their book. And my love of poetry was what got me interested in literary form initially! I think poetry is where we can most easily see how writers use formal elements such as blank space to express their ideas beyond the use of language, and I think a lot of the formal elements in these books could be thought of as poetic, or drawing on poetry. Thanks so much for your question, and I hope you’re doing well!

      1. Thanks for writing a bit to explain that for me! Looking at things from the frame of another perspective is always helpful, especially with such a complex topic. I hope you’re also doing well! Great job!

  13. Hey Eleanor, this is really interesting! It is SO philosophical.
    From your presentation, I got that these texts you consider use non-textual elements to convey queerness (blank space, etc.). Please correct me if I am wrong.
    Given this understanding, I have two questions:
    -Do you think they are successful? That is, do their non-textual elements actually allow them to talk about something which words cannot capture?
    -What exactly do you mean by “normativity”? Do you mean the normal way of writing words on a page?

    Great job, really proud of you!!

    1. Hi Pedro! Hahaha maybe I need to rethink my conviction that I am “not interested in philosophy at all.” Yes, that’s what I am arguing! I do think they are successful. This presentation mostly focused on what I talked about in my second chapter – analyzing the formal elements themselves. My third chapter, however, explained more why I think they are successful in dealing with the problem that I initial lay out of being unable to fully write about queerness through language.
      There’s a couple ways to answer your second question. I think you’re referring to normativity in terms of the form of these books. In my I.S., I outlined the genres that these books are deviating from (memoir & essay, respectively) and what their formal elements typically look like. For example, a normative memoir would follow a person’s life linearly, but The Argonauts is structured non-linearly. And a normative essay would look like typical prose, while Fleischmann lineates sections and includes blank spaces that deviate from that. Those are just two of many examples, but hopefully clears up what you were wondering. There’s also, of course, normativity as it is understood in queer theory which I also deal with in my paper. For example, heteronormativity and cisnormativity are things that queerness deviates from. So these books are using non-normative form to deal with non-normative, or queer, content. Happy to discuss further of course if you have more questions!

  14. Hi Eleanor, I really enjoyed your presentation-it’s very well organized and beautifully crafted. I never thought that literary forms could be analyzed as queerness, especially the use of non-literary forms like blank space! I wish you lots of good luck in your future!

  15. It is such a pleasure to see this project come to fruition after having the privilege to work with you on the beginnings of it in Jr IS! You’ve done a spectacular job. Thank you for bringing such life and compassion and thoughtfulness to queer theory!!

    1. Thank you Christa! I’ve learned so much from you at Wooster and will miss running into you on campus.

  16. Sorry I missed your presentation. What a brilliant application of the inability of language to describe objects that exist beyond traditional margins! It’s exciting to see the trajectory of your work since the thoughts you shared with us in First Year Seminar. Best wishes!

    1. Thanks so much Prof. Seeds! I often think back to your FYS as one of my very favorite classes I took at Wooster.

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