Monday, September 1, 2008

Reading Jane Gallop's Anecdotal Theory

My friend Tanis recommended Jane Gallop's Anecdotal Theory to me this summer, and I'm so glad she did. I haven't read Gallop for years. I first discovered her in a grad course on The Politics of Pedagogy and then read her as part of my engagement with Lacan. At that time, I was dazzled (I'm lifting this great word from Editor, who used it in comments on my other blog recently) by her wordplay, her ability to do close textual analysis that got right into the heart of words, dissecting the French and German and Latin ones in flights of imaginative synthesis that built compelling arguments.
Reading Anecdotal Theory, I'm wondering why I haven't kept up with Gallop's writing -- a rhetorical question, really, as I know precisely why -- the little matter first of getting my dissertation done and for the three years since that, the other equally small matter of keeping up with prep and marking for a 4/4 teaching load. But this reading isn't work, it's truly pleasure, and I need to make more time for it! She's so elegant. Consider this chiasmus, which sums up the argument of the essays in the first third of the book: "Just as not all sexism is sexual, not all sexuality is sexist." Thus she warns against the trend in the politics of sexual harassment to forbid any sexual behaviour in the pedagogical relationship. She cautions that this is leading to a right-wing protectiveness that will eventually limit women's sexuality in a manner never intended by those feminists who pioneered laws against sexual harassment -- which, as she points out, did not originally mean harassment through sexual acts but rather harassment on the basis of sex/gender.
I'm only halfway through so far, but I'm paying close attention to the way Gallop explores the place of the anecdotal in academic writing, the honesty with which she reads her own earlier work for its (rather apologetic) insertion of the personal. She convincingly shows that the exorbitant (to use her term) anecdote is even more deserving than the supposedly more representative one of rigorous deconstruction -- that these exceptions can point to the rules, exposing the flaws in policy. Around the time I was reading and studying her in grad school, Gallop had displayed her own exorbitance with the outrageous (deliberately so, apparently) statement she made in the face of charges of sexual harassment that her "sexual preference [was] grad students." I have to say that my reading of her was arrested by this statement[and when I began this sentence, I meant my reading of her persona, but I wonder at the coincidence that I read none of her work after this]. While I haven't yet finished this collection, I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of the essays, and I'm glad to have got past that earlier conception and back to the pleasures of reading Gallop.

No comments:

Post a Comment