Launch Night Excerpts

Art by Priyanka Meenakshi https://www.priyankameenakshi.com/

We celebrated Project Myopia with a beautiful launch event towards the end of semester 2. It was a night of music and poetry, as well as an opportunity for some of our contributors to elaborate on their essays and ideas. Our performers touched on a wide range of serious issues: from the exclusion of racial minorities’ contribution to the canon of literature, to the oppressive nature of zero-hour contracts that prevent tutors from being able to fully engage in helping all students get ahead, let alone those from a minority background who need assistance most. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who performed and shared their experiences, and we also have to thank everyone who attended and helped us drink the wine we provided! Project Myopia aims to bring marginalized people together and amplify their voices, and our launch felt like a perfect culmination of our semester’s work: people came together and shared their experiences of an academic world we need to change.

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‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ by Mary Wollstonecraft, and ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ by Sojourner Truth

Mattia Ventre

Edited by Toby Sharpe

Art by Alice Markey

Two figures spring to mind as the key voices of feminism and women’s rights in modern history that every student should discover: Mary Wollstonecraft, and Sojourner Truth. In my experience, however, a undergraduate student would struggle to hear about these women fully in class, let alone appreciate the impact of their ideas on our society. Women’s experiences have been erased from our curricula, and great thought from women is denigrated even today.

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Quicksand by Nella Larsen

Sarah Thomson

Edited by Rianna Walcott

Art by Jazmine Sheckleford www.facebook.com/jasmineillustrations13

Despite taking courses titled ‘International Modernism’, ‘World Gothic’ and ‘Comparative Feminist Drama’, it wasn’t until enrolling in a ‘Black American Fiction’ seminar in the final semester of my degree that I was first assigned a text written by a woman of colour, Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929). Although I initially I felt guilt that I’d apparently chosen classes with so little diversity, I soon realised that Passing would have made a fitting addition to a range of courses I’d studied previously. A concise but complex novel, Passing packs articulate discussions of class, gender, sexuality and race into just over 100 pages. It’s an injustice to the quality of Larsen’s prose to see it pigeonholed into the category of ‘black’ fiction, rather than used to enhance a course on something else entirely. The fact that it took enrolling in a seminar built around race before it was addressed in one of my classrooms speaks to the prevailing issue of the erasure of minority voices in academe.

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Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Iona Glen

Edited by Karli Wessale

Art by Anonymous

There is always the other side, always (Rhys 106)

Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys is a dark, compelling novel that charts the backstory of the infamous ‘madwoman in the attic’ of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), exploring themes of colonialism, gender, and power. Rhys wrote the novel in response to Brontë’s oblique representation of the Caribbean and Mr Rochester’s first wife, investigating processes of oppression through the character of Antoinette Mason, renamed Bertha by her husband as a means of controlling her identity. In Rhys’ version of the story, Antoinette’s marriage to an unnamed Englishman in the 1830s unravels dramatically following revelations of her mother’s alleged promiscuity and mental disintegration. She becomes Brontë’s ‘intemperate and unchaste’ creation who thwarts Jane’s marriage to Rochester, spiralling into madness and, eventually, arson and suicide (Brontë 270).

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The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson

Vicki Madden

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art by Arta Ajeti https://www.instagram.com/artawork/

Shirley Jackson is probably best remembered as the author of “The Lottery” (1948), a short story so controversial that, upon its initial publication in The New Yorker, readers cancelled their subscriptions to the magazine and sent Jackson copious amounts of hate mail. While today, “The Lottery” is often hailed as a seminal piece of American fiction, however, Jackson’s other works have been criminally overlooked, especially when it comes to university curricula. In particular, Jackson’s novel The Bird’s Nest, which details a young woman’s struggle with dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder), has received very little academic attention despite its historical significance.

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Julian of Norwich: England’s forgotten first

Katherine Dixon 

Editing by: Vicki Madden

Art: ‘The Young Virgin’, Francisco de Zurbarán

Julian of Norwich, an early fifteenth century East Anglian anchoress, and important Christian mystic and theologian, is the first person to draw attention to her own limitations as a woman. She makes it clear that she is unable to serve as a teacher to her reader, ‘For I am a woman, lewed, febille, and freylle’ (ST 7). Julian pens this admission close to the beginning of her writings, in which she wonderfully and wisely documents a divine visionary experience she had whilst deathly ill in 1373 and on which she continued to ruminate over the course of her subsequent life of enclosure in a Norwich anchorhold. In contrast to her contemporary counterparts, Margery Kempe in particular, Julian is often unduly overlooked in every strand of medieval studies despite being uncontestably deserving of canonical status, not least because she is the first woman ever known to write in the English language.

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“The Danger of a Single Story”: A Speech By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for TED Talks

Maggie Hunt

Editing by Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo

Art: ‘Aunty’ by Olivia Twist

http://www.yesoliviatwist.com/

In “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns against the misunderstanding of others, noting how generations of misrepresentation and stereotypes have dominated mainstream Western society. A consciousness of this issue is crucial to contextualising literature, media and their transmission in academia and in life. This TED Talk is a lesson in challenging these ‘single stories,’ and Adichie’s experiences of and insight into the subject illustrate the problems single stories create.

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Chewing Gum

Maygan Eugenie Forbes
Editing by Rianna Walcott

Art: ‘Relax Yourself’ by Olivia Twist

http://www.yesoliviatwist.com/

The first episode of Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum opens with Tracey staring longingly at the crotch of her righteous boyfriend whilst he prays away impure thoughts, a scene frequently intercut with a frenzied montage of Tracey in orgasmic throes with her lover. She is swiftly brought out of her fevered daydream and shoved back down to Earth, when her celibate partner ends the prayer with a clipped “Amen”.  As she is leaving her boyfriend’s house, Tracey turns to the camera and says, “sometimes he lets me stay and watch him sleep, I could never do that though because when I sleep I get wet dreams.”

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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Snigdha Koirala
Editing by Avani Udgaonkar

Art by The Ink Wave http://www.theinkwave.com/index.html

I first came across Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies while in search of more female South Asian voices in literature. And since first reading her collection, my relationship with her work has developed into one of communion – one of personal and emotional resonance. Lahiri explores the lives of Indian immigrants, attempting to bridge the gap between two places that are simultaneously foreign and familiar – places that are of belonging and of isolation. And given my own history of such attempts (having been born in Nepal, raised in Canada, and now living in Scotland), it didn’t take long for my aforementioned communion to develop with Lahiri’s stories.   

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Confronting Uncomfortable Pasts: Towards An Intersectional Approach to Women and Film

Katie Mackinnon
Editing by Daisy Silver

Screenshot from film: Elle-Maija Tailfeathers’

In my third year studying at McGill University, I took a course on French feminist filmmakers that changed the way I thought about the role of women in art. Once a week, in a darkened room of an old house on Peel Street, we would sit together and watch the films of Agnès Varda, Claire Denis, and Catherine Breillat in awe. These were films I had never heard of before, like Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962), or Claire Denis’ Beau Travail (1999), and it was during these moments of stunned silence, when all my senses were attuned to the projected screen, that I developed a deeper understanding of the history of female writers and directors. We talk a lot about “gaze” in film and media studies, and it was through studying these films that I was first naïvely introduced to the fight to achieve the female gaze in cinema. Cléo de 5 à 7 is a masterpiece for many reasons, but what struck me most was watching a female protagonist engage with her own reflection, and to have the film acknowledge her own gaze as a important means of autonomy and communication.

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