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Bowen, Deborah Silverman.
Towards an e-criture feminine
h [electronic resource] :
Woolf, DuPlessis, Cixous, and the emerging discursive tradition in women's online diaries /
by Deborah Silverman Bowen.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2004.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 172 pages.
ABSTRACT: Women are drawing together the concepts of space, style,and medium and using these concepts collectively as a foundation for a new discursive tradition in the online autobiography. This dissertation, positioned in postmodern feminism, draws on a variety of disciplines to argue the development or evolution of a new women's discourse. While a broad base of material exists which acknowledges the presence of women's discourse (formed by combining women's writing and women's genres), very little information explores its evolution, particularly in/on the new medium of the World Wide Web (WWW). A combination of extant social and literary theories supports the idea that women are developing a new e-criture feminine via the online diary.Both the virtual medium and the historically female genre echo the very tenets of this new writing style: privacy, individuality, and a lack of (restraining) conventions. This dissertation will contextualize the phenomenon of women publishing online diaries in the poststructuralist ideologies of Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous. Following an explication of women's space, women's style, and women's medium, this dissertation will demonstrate that women successfully concatenate these concepts in their online journals, resulting in the creation of a new feminine discourse.
Adviser: Sipiora, Phillip.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Towards an e-Criture Feminine : Woolf, DuPlessis, Cixous, and th e Emerging Discursive Tradition in WomenÂ’s Online Diaries by Deborah Silverman Bowen A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D. Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D. Kimberly Golombisky, Ph.D. Timothy Bajkiewicz, Ph.D. Date of Approval: November 03, 2004 Keywords: autobiographies, gender, Internet, journa l, postmodernism Copyright 2004, Deborah Silverman Bowen
This dissertation is dedicated to all women who write themselves. I listened to your voices, and found mine. -DSB, 2004
Acknowledgements Thank you to the members of my dissertat ion committee: Drs. Phillip Sipiora, Marilyn Myerson. Kim Golombisky, and Tim Ba jkiewicz. This project would not have been possible without your support, ideas, and rigorous commentary. Thank you to my parents, Drs. Stuart a nd Helene Silverman. Your dual spheres of influence in my life are wider than either of you could hope to imagine. I am proud to be your daughter. Thank you to my brother David. Without your funny, uplifting emails and phone calls, time spent online would have been cons iderably colder. New York is far too far away. Thank you to my friend Chuck McSorley. If laughter is the best medicine, you should be a physician. IÂ’m so glad you are a part of my family. Thank you to my son Benjamin Gil. In many ways, the credit for this belongs to you. Thank you to my husband Phil. Your insight and guidance helped turn a harmless pastime into a legitimate avocation. How honor ed I am that you never stopped believing in me. You are now and forever will be Â“sweet like candy to my soul.Â” I love you so, so much.
What matters is that lives do not serve as models, only stories do th at. And it is a hard thing to make up stories to live by. We can only retell and live by the stories we have read or heard. We live our lives through text s. They may be read, or chanted, or experienced electronically, or come to us, lik e the murmurings of our mothers, telling us what conventions demand. Whatever their form or medium, these stories have formed us all; they are what we must use to make new fictions, new narratives. -Carolyn Heilbrun In postmodern America we are culturally obsessed with getting a life -and not just getting it, but sharing it with and advertising it to others. We are, as well, obsessed with consuming the lives that other people have gotten. The lives we consume are translated through our own lives into story. -Sidonie Smith and Julie Watson oh i can't tell you how incredibly happy i am to have this back. it is my safe-haven. i am in love with diaryland. Â… i f eel so safe herelike no one could find me. it's like i am bundled up in a nice warm comforter of pub lic seclusion. that's an oxy moron, i know... but it fits well. i'll write something more meani ngful later, but for now i am just revelling in the wonders of my long-missed friend, "carallyne". -Â“Carallynne,Â” Diaryland.com
i Table of Contents Chapter One: Women Write the Web.................................................................................1 The Purpose and Theoretical Standpoint of the Project..................................................1 Thesis......................................................................................................................... ...10 Chapter Two: Research Specifics.....................................................................................13 Methodology.................................................................................................................13 Operationalization of Defin itions and of Assumptions................................................15 Background...................................................................................................................24 Chapter Three: En/gendering the Internet........................................................................39 The Masculinization of the New Technology...............................................................39 How Women Engage the Internet.................................................................................43 The Nascence of the Online Diary................................................................................45 Chapter Four: Autobiography..........................................................................................51 Women Chronicle (T hroughout) History......................................................................51 Contemporary Autobiographics....................................................................................58 Chapter Five: Theoretical Foundations.............................................................................61 Virginia Woolf..............................................................................................................62 Rachel Blau DuPlessis..................................................................................................64 Hlen Cixous...............................................................................................................66 Chapter Six: A Virtual Room of OneÂ’s Own...................................................................72
ii Chapter Seven: Dimensi onality and Texture...................................................................80 Chapter Eight: An Infinite Number of Inks.....................................................................87 Chapter Nine: The Theory in Progress............................................................................96 Space.......................................................................................................................... .100 Style.......................................................................................................................... ..108 Medium.......................................................................................................................12 3 Chapter 10: The End?.....................................................................................................133 References Cited.............................................................................................................14 3 Appendices..................................................................................................................... .162 Appendix 1: Diaries Used...............................................................................................163 About the Author............................................................................................................164
iii Towards an e-Criture Feminine : Woolf, DuPlessis, Cixous, and the Emerging Discursive Tradition in WomenÂ’s Online Diaries Deborah Silverman Bowen ABSTRACT Women are drawing together the concepts of space, style, and medium and using these concepts collectively as a foundation for a new discursive tradition in the online autobiography. This dissertation, positioned in postmodern feminism, draws on a variety of disciplines to argue the development or evolution of a new womenÂ’s discourse. While a broad base of material exists wh ich acknowledges the presence of womenÂ’s discourse (formed by combining womenÂ’s wr iting and womenÂ’s genres), very little information explores its evolut ion, particularly in/on the ne w medium of the World Wide Web (WWW). A combination of extant soci al and literary theories s upports the idea that women are developing a new e-criture feminine via the online diary. Both the virtual medium and the historically womenÂ’s genre ec ho the very tenets of this new writing style: privacy, individuality, and a lack of (restraining) conventions. This dissertation will contextualize the phenomenon of women publishing online diaries in the poststructuralist ideologies of Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous. Following an
iv explication of womenÂ’s space, womenÂ’s styl e, and womenÂ’s medium, this dissertation will demonstrate that women successfully c oncatenate these concepts in their online journals, resulting in the creati on of a new feminine discourse. The goal of this project is to provide reader s with a theoretical explication of this new discursive tradition. Certainly, a number of critical and academic works exist which address the Â“genderingÂ” of the written medium, the phenomenon of women publishing online, the importance of women developing their own voices. What is missing from academic dialogue, however is the assertion that these individual elements unite to create a new discursive tradi tion that is at once li terary and rhetorical. Using the work of Woolf, DuPlessis, and Ci xous, this dissertation presents, explicates, and ties together these elements in an effort to introduce and theori ze the significance of this new discursive tradition within the context of postmodern feminism/s. Ultimately, this dissertation seeks to demonstrate that women are experiencing the organic concatenation of the concepts of space (Woolf), style (DuP lessis), and medium (Cixous) as they relate to the Web in order to de velop an important ne w womenÂ’s discursive tradition.
1 Chapter One: Women Write the Web The Purpose and Theoretical Standpoint of the Project "Soul Reaver," 21st-century American teenager, chronicles her life at approximately 14 kilobits per second, tops. "Tim e drips away, so intens ely slow . as if the world was locked in a freeze-frame and I am the only living thing," she writes in her second entry, captured during a slow mome nt at her summer job on August 15, 2000, and uploaded that very day to the Open Diar y, a Web site that hosts online journals. "Exhaustion, my eternal exhaustion, can't peace fill me for an instant?" These diaries are less private memoirs than performance art, descriptions of random chunks of time and space in a personÂ’s life, dressed and decorated and served up for mass consumption. As recently as two year s ago, the number of online journalers was estimated to be in the low hundreds, but new commercial sites like the Open Diary, diarist.net, and DiaryLand now host or index millions of online diaries, Â“the biggest chunk of them young women and girls confiding in the world their fear s, hopes, crushes, and three-pound weight gainsÂ” (Dib bell http://www.villagevoice.com/). In this project, I will examine the phenomenon of women doing autobiography on the Internet, specifically writing and publishi ng diaries on the World Wide Web (WWW), and contextualize that phenomenon in the posts tructuralist ideologies of three postmodern feminist literary critics: Vi rginia Woolf, Rachel Blau Du Plessis, and Hlne Cixous.
2 In order to provide a platform for argume nt, I will adopt the theoretical standpoint of postmodern(ist) feminisms Postmodernism itself attempts to subvert and challenge the hierarchy that exists w ithin cultures, thus by defin ition (or by unders tanding of the term), postmodernism deconstructs, as well as constructs, negotiates, and challenges the notion of feminism(s). According to Butler, postmodernism, as she understands it, questions the manner in which it uses examples in order to substitute that which it wishes to explain. The body of feminism referred to as eith er Â“postmodernÂ” or Â“poststructuralistÂ” incorporates many different viewpoints and objectives, and so ought not to be understood as homogenous. Poststructuralis t feminists generally have become self-conscious about the metaphysical assumptions of feminism as a body of thought. This generalization permits a grouping of these disparate feminist s under the one heading of Â“postmodern.Â” Postmodern feminisms typically reject th e very notion that an epistemological claim could be empirically adequate or true ; the idea of an indepe ndently existing world waiting to be explored and the idea that a st atement could accurately describe or fail to accurately describe such a world are both an athema. Instead, postmodern feminists would argue that the statements and theories of ep istemology are just like the statements found in any other "text" and are, therefore, no more or less meaningful and no more or less informative or authoritative th an the statements made in a ny other "discourse." There is no Grand Narrative; there is only personal ex perience and personal tr uth or relevance. Paradoxically, autobiography fits into this paradigm as the only kind of reliable record of Â“truthÂ” available to narrators.
3 What interests postmodern feminisms are th e effects of the various discourses / theoretical frameworks /stories people tell, or use. Postmodern feminism/s would ask: Â“What are the multiple effects of stories a bout patriarchy and women's oppression? Do they unintentionally re-produce those very ideologies they seek to dispel?Â” Postmodern feminisms accept the Â“realityÂ” of the male/female binary as a main categorizing force in society, acknowledging its existence even as they reject the fundamental premise of the binary. The moveme nt/s criticize the stru cture of society and the dominant order, especially in thei r patriarchal aspects, and identify female as having being cast into the role of the Other. A deconstruction of the title of ButlerÂ’s work Â“Contingent Foundations: Feminism, and the Question of PostmodernismÂ” gives the reader insight as to ButlerÂ’s own take on the subject. According to accepted postmodern theory, feminism/s are questionable, dubious, uncertain, conditional, provisional, and reliant. For Butler, the very foundations of feminism/s are Â“con tingent,Â” dependent on or conditioned by something else. By accepting the mere fact that postmodernism attempts to Â“deconstructÂ” the term Â“feminism,Â” one is not only implying its existence, bu t s/he is also implying that it is a reaction to what others have rec ognized, understood, and learned in prior times. Consequently, it is not to sa y that postmodern theory is proposing or offering something Â“new,Â” rather Â“the pursuit of the Â“newÂ” is the preoccupa tion of high modernism (Â…) the postmodern casts doubt upon the possi bility of a Â“newÂ” that is not in some way already implicated in the Â“oldÂ” (Â“ContingentÂ” 37). Moreover, domination and power play a ro le in deconstruction, since it is through power struggles that people construct, m odify and produce meani ngs in society. Â“We
4 might adopt the very models of domination by which we were oppressed, not realizing that one way that domination works is thr ough the regulation and production of subjectsÂ” (Â“ContingentÂ” 39). This produc tion of subjects indeed creates, corresponds and is compatible with postmodern theory in that th rough the exclusion of feminist subjects we are producing and constructing the term Â“femin ism,Â” and while this subject or notion is intended to suppress the connot ations of feminism, it func tions quite conversely. The reason for this is evident: why would one need to subvert or suppress a non-existent subject or concept? Postmodern feminism/s, however, is concerned w ith its construction, foundation and the Â“how.Â” Thus, these femi nisms are attempts to unlock and employ feminisms as never before, perhaps even a ssigning them new meaning/s. According to Butler, Â“to deconstruct the subject of feminism is to release the term into a future of multiple significations, to emancipate it from the material or racialist ontologies to which it has been restricted, and to give it play as a site where unanticipated meanings might come to bearÂ” (Â“ContingentÂ” 43). The establishment of founda tions that would decons truct, reconstruct and restructure feminism would include the s ubject and description of women and their oppression, as well as concepts, symbols and per ceptions that are socially constructed and produced over time. Writes Butler, Â“(t)he s ubject is constitutedÂ… that subject is never fully constituted, but is subjected and pr oduced time and againÂ” (Â“ContingentÂ” 48). Hence, feminist perspectives in pos tmodernism presuppose th e reification and deconstruction of the subject, allowing it to be redefined, negotiated and challenged, in turn generating and granting th ese new assignment of meaning.
5 In keeping with the postmodern rejec tion of the Grand Narrative, postmodern feminism/s revel in diversity, embracing multiple truths, multiple roles, and multiple realities. Essentialism is rejected: there is no single way to Â“beÂ” a woman. Despite the rejection of the Grand Narrative, postmodern feminism/s thoroughly embrace the idea of self-inquiry, a constantly shifting examination of oneÂ’s many selves. According to Hartsock, feminism itself is an epistemology, a mode of analysis, and not a set of given conclusions. To that end, questions of process and change become significant. This dissertation, the focus of which is the de velopment and evolution of a new literary tradition, certainly adheres to Hartso ckÂ’s premise that feminism is a mode of analysis, rather than a set of given conclusions, and that as such, questions of process and change (as in this case of evolving discourse ) become significant. Fe minist analysis is thus concerned with recognizing process a nd interaction, examin ing structures of relations in process (rather th an as given categories), and un derstanding the world as a set of interlocking and dynamic elements (38-39). In her own examination of feminist st andpoint theory and its relationship to feminist postmodernism, for example, Hundleby uncovers hidden dimensions of HartsockÂ’s articulation of difference and dive rsity among women. Hundley is thus able to argue that rather than focus on the traditional (mis)interpretation of HartsockÂ’s standpoint theory (i.e. ignoring differences), on e can actually tease out HartsockÂ’s acknowledgement, discussion, and accommoda tion of differences among women in her previous writings. Thus, it is not impossible to reconcile HartsockÂ’s standpoint theory with the concept of diversity among women.
6 OÂ’Leary attempts to further close the gap between postmodernism and HartsockÂ’s standpoint theory by locating standpoint theo ry within postmodernism. This provides a new style of standpoint theori es that transcend HartsockÂ’s allegedly unitary image of women. This retooled conceptualization of standpoint theory acknowledges difference in experiences of women, and encourages them to establish their own standpoints. Thus, a standpoint theory becomes an epistemological position instead of a methodological movement. Finally, HirschmannÂ’s work succeeds in closing the gap between standpoint theory and postmodernism by accommodating the latter in the former. She distinguishes Â“feminist postmodernismÂ” from Â“postmodern feminismÂ”. The postmodern feminist theory is relatively tolerant to the possibility of unity among women, while feminist postmodernism longs to accept complete diversity among women. In order to reconcile the disconnect/s between standpoint theory a nd postmodernism, feminists often conclude that the former is more desirable than the latter. Thus, the concept of postmodern feminism/s dovetails with HartsockÂ’s careful distinction between a "standpoint" from actua l beliefs of individual women. In her definition, a standpoint is a tool and active stance, not a statement of actual consciousness. "Thus," argues Hartsock, "I ma ke no claim about the actual consciousness of existing women, but rather I am arguing about the theoretical conditions of possibility for creating alternatives" (236). A standpoint is not generated de facto through experience but born from struggle; "not generated unproblematically by simple exis tence in a particular social location. It is a product of systematic theore tical and practical work, and its achievement can never be
7 predicted with any certainty" (237). Using HartsockÂ’s own definitions, then, this dissertation can successfully be presente d from the standpoint of postmodernism feminism. Feminism, as conceptualized in this di ssertation, can certain ly cope with the collapsed notions of foundationalis t premises, such as that of the stable and unified selfconcept. Many feminists can live without the idea of the Â“IÂ” in its formerly institutionalized form. Butler asserts that th ere is no general Â‘IÂ’ wh ich/who stands behind discourse. Rather, the Â‘IÂ’ only comes into being by individuation, by being Â“called, named, interpolated" (143). Thus, postmodern feminism allows for a new creation of Â“IÂ”s. As Butler summarizes it: "If identity is asserted through a pro cess of signification, if identity is always already signified, and yet continues to signify as it circulates within various interlocking discourses, then the question of agency is not to be answered through recourse to an 'I' that pree xists signification" (ibid). Although this work is not specifically fixe d in the paradigms of cyberfeminism, I would be remiss if I did not include some in formation about this intriguing postmodern epistemology, since directly or indir ectly, any project on women-writing must acknowledge the contributions that this movement has made. Cyberfeminism is a compound word made up of Â“ cyberÂ” (a prefix referring to computer related technology, in pa rticular the Internet) and Â“ feminismÂ” (which has multiple meanings, but generally could be described as the theory and practice that seeks to understand and subvert systems of gender inequality). The theo retical roots of the movement tend to grow out of an interest ing mixture of Donna Haraway and French third-wave feminism and poststructurali sm (Galloway, http:/ /switch.sjsu.edu).
8 The term Â“appeared on the scene in the 1990s as feminists responded in various ways to the rapid global proliferation of information and communication technologies (e.g., the Internet, WWW, and email)Â” (Leithau ser http://home.gwu.edu). In earlynineties Adelaide, Australia, a group of artists and activists formed and called themselves VNS Matrix. This group developed and publishe d the first Cyberfeminist Manifesto. The movement took root, and began to flourish in Europe. On September 20, 1997 in Kassel, Germany, the First Cyberfemin ist International conference met at Documenta X, an international exhibition of contemporary art. Like feminism, cyberfeminism is open to definition, and focuses on gender as its overarching element. With feminism as its st arting point, cyberfeminism then turns its gaze upon contemporary technologies, explor ing the intersections between gender identity, the body, culture and t echnology. Cyberfeminism is al so engaged in both theory and practice, unwilling to remain critical of new information technologies without exploring the potential for challenge and change. Despite international recognition, howe ver, cyberfeminism remains a highly problematic theoretical framework. Like many avant-garde political movements, cyberfeminism offers no formalized or codi fied party line, but rather an amorphous Â“trade unionÂ” consciousness. Perhaps the movement is best delineated through the following set of questions: Â“How does techno logy gender us? Does the Internet escape discrimination through gender anonymity? Can technology help us overcome patriarchy? Why are computer geeks dispr oportionately male? Who wrote the history of computers? Are digital machines fundamentally male or female?Â” (Galloway http://switch.sjsu.edu). One might also inquire if these machines are neither Â– or both.
9 According to Haraway, best known for her work on cyborgs, technology, and feminism, cyborg imagery and politics have pa rticular relevance for those seeking to break down those binary oppositions that inevitab ly result in hierarchical configurations. These binary oppositions are constructed a nd promoted by patriarchy (particularly linguistic patriarchy), colonialism, a nd capitalism: man/woman, culture/nature, machine/organism. Haraway emphasizes the tr ansformative and Â“liber atoryÂ” potential of the cyborg in breaking down systems of pow er. Â“Cyborg imagery,Â” she argues, Â“can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselvesÂ” (181). This manifesto suggests that women and feminists embrace technology as an aspect of our embodiment in order to continue reclaiming our (cyborg) bodies and our (cyborg) selves. Cyberfeminist theory has been dominated by the themes of bodies and identities. Much of the focus on bodies stems from the process of forgetting the body or trying to forget about forgetting the body. The advent of cyberspace is the story of bodies migrating and morphing into new contexts. (Galloway http://switch.sjsu.edu). In fact, Leeson goes so far as to claim that "new [W eb] users are forming the largest immigration in historyÂ” (328) Women ar e literally and figuratively making themselves literally and figuratively at home online. In order to successfully argue my points, I must first present myself to the reader. I am writing this work from the perspective of a white, heterosexual woman in her early thirties. I have Â“been onlineÂ” in some form or another since September of 1992, when I was first introduced to the concept of the World Wide Web via available UNIX chat and e-mail utilities. Since then, I have come to rely quite heavily on the Web as a tool for
10 communication and information. I have used e-mail and Web browsers extensively, and have drawn on Web applications for meeti ng other like-minded individuals via MultiUser Domain chat programs (Internet Rela y Chat), site-specific chat programs, and instant messaging programs (e.g., ICQ and AOLÂ’s proprietary format). I have written and published a variety of Web Â“homeÂ” pages, enti rely autobiographical in nature. Finally, I have been reading online diaries since May of 2000, when an online friend published her first diary entry (now available in archives at http://boogie.diaryland.com/older2.html). Thesis The premise of this project is that wome n are drawing together the concepts of space, style, and medium and using these c oncepts collectively as a foundation for a new online discursive tradition in the online autobiography (diary or journal). Three critics in particular speak to these c oncepts: Woolf to space, DuPle ssis to style, and Cixous to medium. The work of these crit ics will serve as the primary theoretical foundation of this dissertation. This project, positioned in postmodern femi nism, is critical to current academic conversations because it draws on a variety of disciplines (literary criticism, cultural studies, feminist gender studies, new media studies) in order to allow me to argue a single, critical poin t: the development or evolution of a new womenÂ’s discourse. As demonstrated in the review of the literature, this dissertation aims to make a contribution to the study of womenÂ’s writing: while a broad base of material exists which acknowledges the presence of womenÂ’s di scourse (formed by combining womenÂ’s
11 writing and womenÂ’s genres), very little inform ation argues for an active evolution of the discourse, particularly in the new medium of the World Wide Web (WWW). Throughout the project, I will use available critical commentary on the gendering of the diary as a Â“womenÂ’s genreÂ” to shor e up my argument that women are consciously working within rhetorical mores traditiona lly ascribed to women. Additionally, I will propose and support the idea that the World Wi de Web is itself a womenÂ’s writing space, the ideal medium for women to develop an e-criture feminine, an online womenÂ’swriting. I will also use establis hed qualitative research methodology and collect empirical examples to support my claims. This interdisciplinary work is critical to the ongoing conversations in several academic fields, chief among them English l iterary and rhetorical theories, gender studies, feminist studies, and cultural studies. The project posits that an entirely new discursive practice is devel oping online, an assertion th at can be well supported by drawing on established literary and rhetor ical conventions. Additionally, the work engages and challenges contemporary social theo ries of gender identity development and draws in elements of new media theory as a function of popul ar culture studies. The goal of this project is to provide readers with, as the title indicates, a theoretical explication of th is new online discursive trad ition. Certainly, a number of critical and academic works exist which addres s the following topics: the Â“genderingÂ” of the written medium, the phenomenon of wo men publishing online, the importance of women developing their own voices. What is missing from academic dialogue, however, is the assertion that these individual elements are uniting to create a ne w discursive tradition th at is at once literary
12 and rhetorical. Using the work of Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous, this work will present, explicate, and tie together these academic elem ents in an effort to introduce and theorize the significance of this new discursive tr adition within the context of postmodern feminism/s. Ultimately, this dissertation seeks to demonstrate that women are experiencing the organic concatenation of the concepts of womenÂ’s space (Woolf), womenÂ’s style (DuPlessis), and womenÂ’s medium (Cixous) as they relate to the Web in order to develop a new womenÂ’s discursive tradition online.
13 Chapter Two: Research Specifics Methodology For this project, I will appr opriate and adopt certain standard methodologies of literary analysis as guiding pr inciples of my scholarship: bibliographic research; critical analysis of primary and secondary source mate rials; synthesis of sc holarship; formulation of an argument; and, ultimately, the development of ideas germane to the research area that further scholarship through this original contribution. My work will be comprised of two discrete parts: examinati on and explication of primary s ources (critical theory), and applications of the critical theory to available online diaries. I created a set of critical parameters usi ng the texts of critic s Woolf, Cixous, and DuPlessis and contextualized these parameters in an established theoretical paradigm Â– postmodern feminismand provided support a nd justification for these parameters through an extensive literature review and seri es of theoretical summaries and supports. In order to substantiate my claims, I have examined 30 online diaries, chosen arbitrarily, for use as referents. Diaryland.c om, one of the largest diary sites on the Web, offers not only an extensive, browsable coll ection of diaries, but provides virtual space for its members to archive past entries for several years. Diaryland.com allows surfers to browse us ers by screen name. I began with letter A, and selected the 25th diary that appeared in the listing, adding that diary to my list of Â‘FavoritesÂ’ in my Internet br owser for subsequent visits.
14 In order to be approved for use, each diar y must have met two criteria: the author must be self-identified as a woman (although admittedly, there is no way to conclusively prove the gender of a relatively anonymous onlin e author) and the author must have been using the diary for at least two (2) years. I selected January 1, 2003 as my starting point for reading, an arbitrary date which offered two important cr iteria: 1. each diarist would have been writing for at leas t several months prior to th at selected date; and 2. each diarist would have a number of entries available for perusal. One must note, however, that the number of entries was not consistent between any two diarists. Some updated once a week; in most cases, however, the diarist offered multiple weekly or daily updates. There was no obvious pattern to when or why each diarist chose to update; occasionally, the diaris t would make mention of a particular event in her life that spurred her to write, or indi cate that she had been Â‘too busyÂ” to sit down and update her work for a while. Rarely did I find a diarist who did not update at least weekly without an explanation or an apology to her readers, a phenomenon that suggests an implicit understanding of the two-way relationship even in this supposed one-way form of communication. Without conscious awar eness, these diarists were participating in dialogic communication, ac knowledging FishÂ’s Â“active read er,Â” concretizing readerresponse theory through these highly personal do cuments. These diarists are aware of the power of their texts, both to themselves and to others. On the occasions I selected a diary writt en by a male, by an author with no gender specified, or with too recent a start date, I elim inated that diary, counted down five screen names, and verified that this new diary met my criteria before admitting that diary as a replacement.
15 I cycled through the alphabet selecting diaries letter by letter, and began again with letter A, contin uing until I had my 30 secondary sources. This dissertation, then, will us e literary analysis to argue the idea that a womenÂ’s discursive tradition is evol ving on the Internet, as exem plified by online diaries (and journals and autobiographies). Operationalization of Definitions and of Assumptions This dissertation is grounded in the idea that the concepts of Â“identity,Â” Â“language,Â” and Â“means of discourseÂ” are fluid, polymorphous. To that end, I am obligated to ascribe definitions to those and other slippery terms, definitions that will, ideally, provide clarity and c ohesion to the overall series of arguments found herein. I will start from the premise that it is possible to theorize gender attributes as forming a spectrum of constructed possibi lities, from which the individual either chooses, or unconsciously internalizes, and th en expresses these attributes in a way that is far broader and more fluid than Â“standardÂ” gender stereotyping would suggest. In the postmodern paradigm, "feminism" is no longer analogous to the experience of women and the necessity to prove to the world that women were indeed oppressed. Instead, the oppression and eras ure of women is taken as a given, and the focus of postmodern feminism becomes the analysis of how and why such oppression and erasures occurred. For the purposes of th is dissertation, the model of postmodern feminism/s signifies the body of thought that seeks to want to understand how and why the persons embodying the feminine (women, usually ) are negatively impacted by this
16 gender/hierarchy structure. It is a focus more on "why things happen" instead of just "what things happened" relating to women's lives (Grant 130-131). While feminism, within the context of pos tmodernist theory, refers to a womenÂ’s commitment to liberation, justice, and equali ty amongst all peoples, regardless of gender, race, religion, or economic background, Â“(p) ostmodern feminism focuses on cultural forms as against structural analysis, especia lly in the role of Cu lture and Language...Its use...indicates that feminism has succeeded in sh ifting the terrain of cultural politics; not necessarily implying that the battle has b een won...but making it necessary to read texts differently..." (Andemahr, et al.). This an ti-essentialist movement understands that masculinity and femininity are cultural cate gories (or social constructions) that are subject to interrogation and change. Fina lly, postmodern feminism focuses on, among others, otherness, authorship, identity and selfhood (Tong 194). Because postmodernism denounces the idea of the Grand Narrative, it is reasonable to assert that no uni fied theory serves as the gu iding force or mythos for any contemporary Western society. Therefore, one can make the argument that no unified theory guides concepts found in contemporary society, specifically th e ideas of Â“sexÂ” and Â“gender.Â” Â“SexÂ” is usually understood as rela ting to inherent gene tic, physical Â“factsÂ”: reproductive organs, genitalia, the role of the person in the reproductive process. Â“GenderÂ” is usually understood as relating to those arbitr ary social and behavioral characteristics of men and women, the result of years and years of rigorous social constructivism. This work, on the other hand, will adopt ButlerÂ’s definition of Â“gender,Â” and, to a lesser degree, Â“sex.Â”
17 In the past, feminists regularly made a distinction between bodily sex ( corpo/reality of biological organs and functions that Â“defineÂ” and Â“distinguishÂ” men from women) and gender ( social conventions that determin e the differences between masculinity and femininity). Certain visible an atomical structures do mark the differences between those which we call Â“menÂ” and Â“wom en,Â” but the argume nt can strongly be made that most of the conven tions that determine the beha viors of men and women are, in fact, social gender constructions that have littl e or nothing to do with genitalia or reproductive roles (Felluga http://www.purdue.edu). According to American second wave lib eral feminism, sex is a biological category; gender is a historical category. Bu tler questions that dis tinction by arguing that "gender acts" have such an affect on material reality and anatomical reality that even the perception of corporeal sexual differe nces is affected by social conventions. For Butler, sex is not "a bodily given on which the constr uct of gender is artifi cially imposed, but... a cultural norm which governs the mate rialization of bodies" ( Bodies 2-3). Sex, for Butler, "is an ideal construct which is forcibly materialized through time. It is not a simple fact or static condition of a body, but a process wher eby regulatory norms materialize 'sex' and achieve this materialization through a forcible reiteration of those norms" ( Bodies 2). Here, Butler is influenced by the postmodern tendency to see the conception of reality as determined by language, so that it is ultimately impossibl e even to think or articulate sex without impos ing linguistic norms: "there is no reference to a pure body which is not at the same time a further formation of that body" ( Bodies 10). Thus, according to Butler, the very act of Â“sayingÂ” (or writing) something about sex ends up imposing cultural or ideological norms: "'sex' becomes something like a fiction, perhaps a
18 fantasy, retroactively installed at a prelinguistic site to wh ich there is no direct access" ( Bodies 5). Nonetheless, that fic tion is central to the establishment of subjectivity and human society, which is to say that, even s o, it has material effects: "the 'I' neither precedes nor follows the process of this gendering, but emerges only within and as the matrix of gender relations themselves" ( Bodies 7). "Sex" is thus unveiled not only as an artificial norm but also a norm that is subject to change. According to Butler, individuals can be made to understand gender as a symbolic social construction, in which power and dom inance are constituted and materialized in bodies. Gender is produced by discursive and performative practices, which produce subjects in connection with a normative twogender-system and enforced heterosexuality Indeed, Butler argues that gender, as an objective natural thing, does not exist: "Gender reality is performative which means, quite simply, that it is real only to the extent that it is performed" ("Performative" 278). Gender, a ccording to Butler, is by no means tied to material bodily Â“f acts,Â” but is solely and comple tely a social construction, a fiction, one that is therefore open to change and contestation: "Because there is neither an 'essence' that gender expresses or external izes nor an objective ideal to which gender aspires; because gender is not a fact, the various acts of gend er creates the idea of gender, and without those acts, there would be no gender at all. Ge nder is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis" (Â“ PerformativeÂ” 273). The body becomes its gender only "through a series of acts which are rene wed, revised, and consolidated through time" ("Performative" 274). If "gender" is constructed through arb itrary signifiers, the connection between signifier and signified can be weakened, changed, or br oken. The signifiers of gender
19 help maintain the system of binary oppositio ns that shape Western thought; by dividing the world into "male" and "female," "m asculine" and "feminine," gender can be deconstructed, and the elements that constitute stable notions of ge nder can be put into play. According to Nicholson, the term Â“ge nderÂ” is used in two different and contradictory ways within feminist discourse: 1) it refers to a soci al construction rather than the biologically constructed sex; and 2) it increasingly refers to any social construction that separates "female" bodies from "male" bodies. "If the body is itself always seen through social inte rpretation,Â” she writes, Â“then se x is not something that is separate from gender but is, rather, that wh ich is subsumable under it" (39). Even in feminist discourse that does not endorse the idea, Nicholson demonstr ates that gender is still seen as dependent on bi ological sex via her Â“coat-rack" view of self-identity: "Here the body is viewed as a type of rack upon wh ich differing cultural artifacts, specifically those of personality and behavior, ar e thrown or superimposed" (41). This Â“coat-rackÂ” approach allows some feminists to explain both commonalities and differences among women and to avoid the pitfalls of biological determinism. The shape of the rack can make certain demands as to what it can accommodate, but its shape does not solely or completely determine th e items it winds up holding. This view allows feminism to maintain the idea that there are basic natural constancies regarding gender while not closing women off to social change. Nicholson calls this Â“coat-rackÂ” approach biological foundationalism (b.f), distinguishable from biological determinism because of b.f.Â’s reliance on one or more elements of social construction. Nicholson feels that b.f. and the Â“coat-rackÂ” view of
20 identity ultimately stand in the way of really understanding differences among men, among women, and regarding who is identified as either. It is not acceptable to just use and accept male/female differences; one must investigate how these differences come about, how they are socially constructed, and how they play out in different times and places. "What I am calling 'biological foundationa lism',Â” she writes, Â“is best understood as representing a continuum of positions bounded on one side by a strict biological determinism and on the other side by the posi tion I would like feminists to endorse: that biology cannot be used to ground claims about 'women' or 'men transculturally" (49). On this continuum of b.f., positions are relative, not simply either/or. Approaches that delve into biological differences make invisibl e the many ways in which men and women do not fit the generalizations. A feminism of differ ence is both true and false, offering no conclusive reading of difference, and adhe ring to the paradigma tic status quo of the binary. Bearing in mind NicholsonÂ’s critique of biological foundationalism, I will focus my definitions on ideas of Â“genderÂ” and excl ude the notion of Â“sex.Â” For clarityÂ’s sake, this dissertation will use the term Â“genderÂ” to refer to those established societal constructions which create and underscore the binary opposition of Â“maleÂ”/Â“female.Â” This term is so defined in keeping with its generally accepted uses outside of academic feminisms, where one typically encounters a lack of comprehension of gender as a construct and an emphasis on gender loosely defi ned as Â“traits that exemplify biological Â‘givens.Â’Â”
21 A blanket definition of woman is impossible, because of the diversity of the gender (e.g., race, social class, sexual orient ation). Â“The womenÂ’s voices most likely to come forth and the womenÂ’s voices mostly likel y to be heard are, in the United States anyway, those of white, middle-class, he terosexual Christian womenÂ” (Lugones and Spelman 21). This marginalization of an already marginalized group threatens the development of (a) womenÂ’s voice, insofar as this voice is key to fighting repression, establishing opportunity, and creatio n of recognition (26-27). According to various forms of feminism, the underlying theme of the struggle of women is to overcome communication and cultural barriers, a nd to destroy the patriarchal perspectives and definitions of women that in form language and philosophy. Cixous uses this idea to define woman as the Â“inevitable struggle against conventional manÂ” (279), and argues that Â“woman must put he rself into the text Â– as into the world and into history Â– by her own movement. The futu re must no longer be determined by the pastÂ” (279). According to Cixous, writing woman will help overcome negative history by creating a new history, written by women, to ward women. Cixous, does not, however, wish to fit all women into one mold of woman ; rather she wishes to focus the entire gender on the struggle for woman. Using ButlerÂ’s definitions as a guide, but not as a series of absolutes, I will use the generic term Â“womanÂ” or Â“womenÂ” to refe r to those individuals who have adopted, consciously or not, the cultura lly and socially constructed Â“normsÂ” which mark that group of individuals as thusly gendered. In these linguistic parameters, the n, the term Â“feminineÂ” takes on its own meaning, a greater meaning than just Â“of or relating to the female.Â” One might
22 immediately define the term as simplistical ly, or, worse yet, fall back into binary oppositions, and define Â“feminineÂ” in its relation to the privileged quali ty of Â“masculine.Â” One may make the following logical assumpti on simply on the basis of its adjectival modal form: that which is feminine associated with the female, has been categorized as such using the same types of cultural and soci etal suppositions that result in arbitrary designations of and characteristics of gender Poststructuralist cultural th eorists of gender claim that gender is a set of signifiers attached to culturally defined sexually dimorphi c bodies, and that these signifiers work to divide social practices an d relations into those bina ry oppositions (male/female, masculine/feminine). A beaded handbag, for ex ample, may serve as a signifier: a beaded handbag generally signifies femininit y. It is the case, however, that anyone is capable of carrying a beaded handbag. Ther efore, by extension, anyone is able to be / capable of being feminine The concept, then, becomes more than merely a set of qualities arbitrarily associated with femaleness; the concept beco mes an individual and collective act, the deliberate appropriation of and designating of behaviors as intr insically (but not inherently) female. Humans are biological (Â“naturalÂ”) beings; we are also social (Â“ar tificialÂ”) entities. As such, I must address the concepts of transgender and intersexuality and their relationship to the terms Â“womenÂ” and Â“w omenÂ” in the context of postmodernism. Transgender, in true postmodern fashion, does thwart the convenient binary opposition of Â“male/female,Â” crossing and bl urring the lines of gender Â‘typing,Â’ both physically and culturally. Theorists like Butler rely heav ily on the concepts of the body and gender as constructed rather than fixed and essentia l, the notion of the body as a commodity, the
23 destabilization of empiricism, the disrupti on of sex in relati on to gender and the problematization of sex and gender binaries Here, too, one may certainly argue that certain attributes of both ge nder and sex are conscious and dynamic choices, not fixed and static physical or social givens. Gende r, as a social construct, can be wholly performative; sexuality, a subset of gender, can also be, to some degree, a series of conscious deliberate acts (how one engages with his/her organs, how one uses his/her organs, etc.). In brief, this dissertation will ask that the reader use the following terms and definitions: Female will refer to those with a spec ific set of physical, observable characteristics or signifiers; female thus becomes a quality that is not necessarily judged by ability to procreate. The bulk of this dissertation will use the terms Â“womanÂ” and Â“womenÂ” as contextually ap propriate, but in some cases, the term Â“femaleÂ” must be used. This is particular ly true when referring to traditional or canonical Western philosophical or linguistic thought, bot h of which rely quite heavily on the concepts of Â“femaleÂ” and Â“m aleÂ” in relation to one another, and to the binary relationship of Â“maleÂ”/Â”femal eÂ” that informs so much of Western ontology. Feminine will refer to one having the quali ties arbitrarily associated with Â“female.Â” The term has been categorized with the same types of cultural and societal suppositions that result in arbitrary designations of and characteristics of gender
24 Gender will refer to a changeable adoption of codified societal constructions which create and underscore the bi nary opposition of Â“maleÂ”/Â”female.Â” Woman or Women will refer to those who have consciously or unconsciously adopted those societal mores ascribed to Â“women.Â” Background The following background material seeks to position this disser tation as an active part of the current conversation in both literary criticism a nd social sciences. The primary focus of this project is online discourse anal ysis located in the feminist ideologies of Butler and the social ideologies of Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous; al though there exists a wealth of articles on communication and ge nder, online activity and gender, and online pedagogy and gender, there ha s been very little writ ten about gender-specific types/genres of online writing. Still less ha s been written using postmodern feminist critique to justify gendered writing. Two areas of investigation are relevant to the premise of online feminine discourse presented in this dissertation: the idea of traditionally Â‘feminineÂ’ literary forms (specifically the diary) as exemplifying a developing womenÂ’s disc ursive tradition, and the use of the new electronic medium as th e right vehicle for development of the new discourse. Although a considerab le body of material has b een written on gendering in computer-mediated communication (CMC), what is missing from much of the work is the acknowledgement of the singularity of the phenomenon of women publishing on the Web.
25 The burgeoning number of women authors online is indicative of a collective desire to populate this new medium, and, as a result of this populati ng, to establish a new and different presence in this new medium: he nce, the new womenÂ’s discursive tradition. This dissertation seeks to a ddress not only the manifestati on of the new tradition, but to justify it in the context of postmodern femi nism and three specific critical ideologies (Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous). I intend to bring a single facet of CMC Â– the online diary/journal or autobiography Â– to the fore, and argue that it s presence signals this new online discursive tradition. The first of the investigations of mode rn linguistic studies were focused on general language development in children: imitation and ha bit versus the learning and adoption of linguistic rules (Skinner 1957; Chomsky 1957). Chomsky asserted that children have an innate knowledge of gram mar rules, that linguistic systems are somehow part of an individualÂ’s genetic hard -wiring. As a result of the rise of AfricanAmerican consciousness in the 1960Â’s, lingu ists embarked on further evaluations of ChomskyÂ’s claim of the level of Â“genetic grammatologyÂ” among the races (Silverman 1964, Davis 1969). The late 1960Â’s brought about a similar time of awareness for women as the second wave of the American womenÂ’s moveme nt began to take sh ape and gain public prominence. Because of this attention, linguist ic studies turned to the differences in language not among the sexes, but between the sexes. This observation was not Â“new,Â” per se: Key notes that sin ce as early as 1582, it had been assumed that women speak substantially differently th an men do ("Behavior" 281).
26 These initial studies were concerned ma inly with vocabulary and conversation topics (Lakoff 1975; Bodine 1975; Brend 1975; Lakoff 1978). In traditional Â“offlineÂ” linguistic and discursive theories, this approach seems to have been neglected in favor of using influential, shaping texts to reinfor ce the male/female polarity in communications, focusing on, among others, audible vocal cues of patterns of inte rrupting (Zimmerman and West 1975) and vocal pi tch control (Brend 1975). Early articles and books on gender and c yberculture primarily dealt with the computer mediated communication aspect of the Internet, as there was no mass World Wide Web. In the early days of CMC, thos e who studied Â“gendered linguisticsÂ” focused on three main areas: differences in co mmunication (Tannen 1991); the intersection between these differences and the ways in which knowledge is constructed; and the most effective method of learning for members of each gender (Freire 1971; Carr and Kemmis 1986; Elliott 1991; Kramarae and Spender 1993). Herring (1993) was one of the first to debunk the idea that because CMC is a f aceless medium, many hoped that it would neutralize impressions of gender id entity and provide women with an equal playing field. Scholars have acknowledged that differe nces do exist between the kinds of identities presented by men and women online. Gender has been a significant topic for those writing about electroni c communication, but the focus of the scholarship has mainly been about the negotiation of gende r or gendered styles of communication in interactive communication (De Lauretis 1987; Stone 1991; Herring 1994; Turkle 1995; Hall 1996; Donath 1999). In the relatively new disc ipline of pedagogically-cente red CMC, much critical attention has fallen on the best ways in wh ich to use CMC as a tool for observing
27 differences between the genders in the classr oom, and the best ways in which to use CMC as an effective teaching tool for ei ther gender (Matheson 1991; Hardy, Hodgson, and McConnell 1994; Herring 1996; McConnell 1997; Gregory 1997). Even more recent is the work of feminis t theorists charting the development of womenÂ’s e-space (Balka 1993). The most dominant frame for this type of analysis is the postmodern paradigm, and the ways in whic h one can use postmodernity as a lens through which to examine these differences (Halberstam 1991; Plant 1996). The online environment is a new social and political locat ion, offering women access into male-dominated computer culture. Plant (1996) indicates that initially, the WWW (a subset of the Internet) was inte nded to be a military weapon, a Â“male toolÂ” from the start, while Fallon (1998) claims that because the Internet was developed within an already established technol ogical culture it ignored wome n's role and participation. The cultural background of the Internet is rooted in a gendered construction of a patriarchal, hierarchical institution. Cybe rspace became an unfriendly environment to women. Some theorists suggest that women are being excluded from positions of influence within the context of electronic networks just as they have been historically excluded from other technologies; as Cook and Stambaugh (1997) glibly suggest, "the problem for women is that men got there firs t," meaning that cyberspace reflects male socialization and interests (Hawisham and Sullivan 1998). Alternately, other theorists argue that this Â“exclusionÂ” is not the case, that in fact in this significant space, men become Other as young women establish their own spaces on the Web (Boese 1999; Takayoshi, E. Huot, and M. Huot 1999).
28 The medium itself allows a woman author to create, to develop and to test out her own voices, even as she joins in the collec tive chorus of the new online discursive tradition. In contemporary feminist studies, for example, the concept of DIY (do it yourself) has become instrumental for schol ars of girls' studies (Comstock 2001) to describe the specific ways in which young women produce culture through the appropriation of technologies and/or dominant discourse to create alternat ive identities and media that resist mainstream representations. The concept of creating Â“gendered online cont entÂ” is critical to the thesis of this work. It is important to c onsider the language itself as it s own episteme. Unfortunately much linguistic theory rides on the assumption that such differences not only exist, but are documentable in the context of the othe r gender, implying, of course, that one is Â“normal,Â” the other is Â“d eviantÂ” (Herring 1994; Shade 1993; Shade 2002). The idea of differences also presumes f undamental (essential and biolog ical) differences between the genders, differences that are th e result of genetic hard-cod ing, and not the result of societal convention. Herring (1994), for exam ple, argues that comm unication disparities are present between the genders, and for that reason, women w ho defend their own spaces are engaging in subversive acts. According to Spender (1995), dominant male culture designed the Internet and its accompanying Internet Â‘discourse', a language designed to protect and perpetuate men's interests. Both Spender and Fallon also assert that terminology such as Â‘abort', Â‘chaining', Â‘thrashing', Â‘execute', Â‘head crash', and Â‘kill' portray negative images of sex and violence to women, creating an uncomfortable and unf amiliar terrain (Spende r 1995; Fallon 1998). In response, women are devel oping this new discursive trad ition, destroying misogynistic
29 paradigms, inverting the traditional forms of oppression and using these forms not for self-empowerment, but rather for a reshapi ng of the patriarchal linguistic status quo (Gerrard 2002). Spender debunks the assumption that wo men will share in the gains from the newest information age, an argument that retains relevance even ten years after its publication (161). She claims th at exclusion of women from previous knowledge-making processes, such as the inve ntion of the printing press, should be a warning for the technology of today. There is, writes Spender, "plenty of evidence t oday to suggest that women are again being kept out of the produc tion of information as we move to the electronic networks" (161). Just as the assu mption was made years ago about math being a "male" subject, technology, too, is often Â“genderedÂ” the same way. Although women are present in many as pects of technology, their singular and collective presence is often overlooked, since when credit is given for technological projects, womenÂ’s contributions are rarely cited as key. Zeroes and Ones PlantÂ’s account of womenÂ’s roles in the development of t echnology, also offers information about the tremendous impact that women have had on the disciplines of mathematics, science, and technology, even as she recognizes the lack of recognition of women' s work within those fields. According to Spender, online t echnology can no longer be an "option" but a necessity for women: "The electronic medi um is the way we now make sense of the world, and this is why women have to be full members of the computer culture" (168). In one particular Â“cornerÂ” of c yberspace, women are free to explore e-criture with little fear of reprisal. Online autobiogra phy (diaries, journals) offers women a new medium for reading and writing criture feminine
30 The computer is a natural vehicle for communication. Women, writes Spender, are "thrilled with the potentia l of the computer for human communication" (175); in fact, Spender cites PlantÂ’s assertion that wome n should feel comfortable in cyberspace because the medium is more attuned to a woman's way of working (non-linear, antichronological) than to a man's (229). Perhaps the most critical aspect of the Internet for regular women users of technology is the opportunity to share their own thoughts and ideas. Why does the online diary, the cyberautobi ography present itself as the ideal medium? It can be argued that few historical texts are as compelli ng to read as personal letters and diaries. To the reader, these pieces appear to be written without pretense; they come across as spirited, ofte n reflective of the writerÂ’s ow n personality, and, more often than not, full of details. Both le tters and diaries seem to emerge directly from the writer, fresh and deeply intimate. Traditional autobiography is thought of as the bringing of the self into focus, and the subsequent presentation of that self to the public through a written (verbal) medium. Feminist theorists began in the 1970 Â’s to note that men write most traditional autobiographies, since the struct ures of traditional autobiographies did not seem to fit the existing structures of women's lives. This im mediately demanded an examination of the concept of autobiography, and a redefinition of other literary genres that could fit the type. Until recently, most critics and theorists of autobiography have accepted as the narrative persona of the generic prototype th at of the unitary, autonomous, liberal male subject. This subject position remains exclusive and exclusiona ry, not at all desirable to
31 those who have wanted to write autobiogra phy. Not only does this model marginalize and isolate a whole range of autobiographical po ssibilities, but it also fails to acknowledge gender (not to mention race and class); it resists inclusion, and exerts Â“inherentÂ” patriarchal influence upon self-representation in its assumption and presumption of the masculine/male subject position. Not surpri singly, womenÂ’s autobiographies (which frequently inscribe experience s of the world and th e self that do not conform to canonical definitions of autobiography) have often been misread or ignored completely. It is through (or against) the fictive "rep resentative subject" that the woman-Other has had to represent herself. Sadly, the Other is always portrayed as dismissively local and specific to that subject's lens as bei ng merely universally representative (read: stereotypical). Whether "minority," "regional, "ethnic," or generica lly "women's," these representations of Other subjectivity are, by necessity, revisionist, as writers in these Other subject positions must create in a dichotomous disc ursive space: fracturing the dominant paradigms in order to recons truct and represent the Other self. The exclusionary nature of the subject pos ition has allowed the consistent default to the masculine. A subject that does not Â“f it" (into) the masculine paradigm is made minor, relegated to the margins, positioned in an Elsewhere, somewhere outside the (masculine) norm by an exclusiv e Symbolic status quo that falsely claims universality and equal inclusion. This ideological cons truct is rooted in the foundational gender polarity: "masculinity" and "femininity." The Sy mbolic concept of Â“binariesÂ” would have one believe that the concepts are balanced, equally weighted on two poles of a fulcrum, while in narrative reality, masculinity and femi ninity are, in fact, entirely hierarchical. While masculinity reigns on the positive pole and femininity looming over the negative
32 pole, the opposition creates a subject-object relationship that situates women as not-men the ultimate negation of subject position, the co mplete evisceration of the Â“IÂ” self. When a woman writer attempts to shift her representa tion from object to subj ect she is obligated to blow apart a deeply inte rnalized and normalized linguis tic, historical, and cultural paradigm. Contemporary women's autobiographical fiction Â– as opposed to pure autobiography Â– communicates to the reader the painful position of having no "place," no Â“roomÂ” to call one's own. Furthermore, wo men's self-representation articulates the struggle of making a "place" for oneself, and th e attendant difficulty in being forced to construct this space within alienating narra tive and cultural forms, even as the women writer attempts to splinter these forms so th at they might accommoda te "the subject" of the marginalized Self. Feminist critical scholar s have begun unearthing a vast number of (O)her autobiographical writings that had heretofore been excluded from the traditional definition of autobiography: letters, diaries, and scrapbooks, quilts, samplers, family Bibles, and familial oral traditions. These materials were considered peripheral, and therefore not eligible for incl usion in the canon of autobiogra phical work (or, indeed, the very category itself). Some feminists assert that the exclusion was deliberate, since Â“mereÂ” women were the writers of th ese autobiographies (Jelinek 1980). As feminist critics began to study thes e long-neglected pieces of writing, these scholars immediately rejected shoehorni ng them into the traditional form of autobiography, instead choosing to establish an intrinsically Â“womenÂ’sÂ” autobiographical tradition and playing havoc with canonical boundaries of autobi ography (Culley 1985;
33 Huff 1989; Bunkers and Huff 1996). The criter ia of what constitutes an autobiography have been overturned and expa nded with the inclusion of the diary and journal as a form of autobiography. The diary is a "profoundly female, femi nist genre," a "feminist practice,Â” precisely because of its multiplicity of modes, its joining to community and collectivity, and the way in which the fo rm makes primary the personal (Huff 1989). SmithÂ’s feminist inquiry into the genr e has revealed that autobiographical criticism seems to have been informed by androcentric assumptions that both marginalized and trivialized subjectivity of women. Smith holds that the dominant theoretical paradigm, again, until recently, co ntinues to claim that experientially, the sexes/genders were indistinguishable. The dom inant paradigm, argues Smith, asserts that the ways in which men and women experi ence the world and the self, and their relationship to language and to the instituti on of literature are identical (5). These Â“beliefsÂ” also include the idea that womenÂ’s autobiographies, because they emanate from lives of these Â“culturally insi gnificant people,Â” are themselves culturally insignificant; or that womenÂ’s autobiographies, because they ma y not inscribe an a ndrocentric paradigm of selfhood, are something other than real autobiography; or that autobiography is fundamentally a male generic contract (ibid) The subject position of the woman aut obiographer proves problematic in the traditional canon of autobiography, which reli es heavily on the notion of a singular, univocal self (Brodzki and Sche nck 1988); scholars of the genr e hold that the exercise of writing oneÂ’s autobiography fulfills a desire of Â“coming to knowledge of the selfÂ” (Benstock 1988). Emulating Virginia Woolf' s own description of her autobiographical essays, feminist critics have proposed the canonical adoption of the term life-writing a
34 new genre that challenges th e traditional limits of by enco mpassing memoirs, diaries, letters, and journals, bildungsroman and other personally inflected fictional texts (Benstock 1988). Smith and Watson (1998) recommend the building of archives and documentary collections that incorporate works traditionally considered "'merely personal' and extraliterary" (3 8-39). Examples of such work s include "diaries, letters, journals, memoirs, travel narratives, medita tions, cookbooks, family histories, spiritual records, collages, art books, and others." E xpanding the category to include these genres would itself be an act of breaking the se quence, embracing disjunction, nonlinearity (Benstock 1988). As a non-sexist theore tical paradigm, postmodernism accepts womenÂ’s autobiography. These self-consci ous, self-representational narratives tend to describe a particular space-time in flux and denote a peri od of transformation of social and symbolic structures and a restructuri ng of values. Postmodernism shunts aside traditional symbolic systems and voices of authority in favor of multiple perspectives and the authority of individual authorship. Within this constantly shifting cultural schema, the very nature of the speaking subject is conti nually rethought, reworked, deco nstructed and reconstructed, but never codified. As Braidotti notes, "t he historical contradiction a feminist postmodernist is caught in is that the very conditions that are pe rceived by dominant subjects as factors of a 'crisis' of values are for [her] the opening up of new possibilities" (2). Rather than demanding a Barthesian deat h of the author and th erefore, by extension, the subject, feminist postmodernists cite an epistemological shift that has splintered authoritative centricity, particularly phallocentrism.
35 criture feminine embraces and embodies that premise with polyvocality, relationality, and in the new cyber-world, hypertextuality. Traditional autobiography does not Â–cannot Â– comprehend the concept of many voices; the form is locked into itself and cannot account for any deviation from its norm (Friedman, 1988). "The self constructed in women's autobi ographical writing,Â” writes Friedman, Â“is often based in, but not limited to, a group consciousness -an awareness of the meaning of the cultural category WOMAN for the patterns of women's individual destiny" (41). Time and time again, women have been unsu ccessful in their attempts to create a new discourse within the cons traints of male-dominated la nguage and genres; because of this linguistic lockout, women have had diffi culty even finding a story (Heilbrun, 1988; Heilbrun 1999). The lack of womenÂ’s writing, then, becomes painfully obvious (Fletcher 1999). In order for women to successfully crea te this new discursive tradition, a decision on Â“how?Â” must be reached by all of the participants. In th is case, the unspoken consensus takes the form of the online di ary, or the online autobiography (Sorapure 2003): distinct chunks of information per page arranged in reverse chronological order. (Hourihan, Bausch, and Haughey 2002). By assessing the use or absence of li nearity and chronology, one can attempt to distinguish a womenÂ’s writing from that of a man in order to evaluate the success of the spontaneous linguistic subversion. DeVoss and Selfe (2001), for example, bring together the elements of feminism, autobiography, and onl ine writing in a work which asserts that a relationship does exist between the sex/gende r of an online writer, and the type of content s/he offers to the reading public on her/his Web site. The combination of genre
36 and medium Â– the diary and the Web, in th is case Â– permit the genesis of this new tradition. When a womanÂ’s signature is ascribed to an autobiography, traditional Western literary history has dubbed such a work as outsi de of the mainstream of the genre, and positioned it as writing from the margins, al most a work of subversion. Jeffries notes, Â“Traditional opinions on autobi ography usually have been gr ounded within the idea of the "I" of self-identity as reflective self-prese nce and discussed within the terms set by the Cartesian subject: a univers al, singular self linked with the thinking, rational subject of eternal human natureÂ” (http:/ /web.ukonline.co.uk). Historically Â– albeit not critically -, this type of writing has been linked to men, to maleness. Until the development of the Web and the new discursive tradition, wome n have found their autobiographical spaces have been wracked with tension, mostly re lating to the fractured relationship between speaking subject and narrative subject. Because many women have challenged (and continue to challenge) the universality of self-identity, women have been identified as "Other" to the rational, reasonable, male norm. These classifications bo th established and rein force a hierarchy of both power and binary oppositions. This positio ning results in the potential of a woman speaking subject as "other" being legitimized within the constraints of cultural practice while at the same time, Â“(fixing) a concepti on of autobiography as the feminine, natural self-portrait par excellence Â” (ibid). The creation of a diary Â– of any autobi ographical form, by definition Â– relies heavily on the use of the Â“I,Â” the subject position with which many women, according to Lacan feel most uncomfortable. Throughout history, women have danced around that
37 subject position, creating Â“off-cameraÂ” narrator s who subtly guide the action and control the story, but are not main characters, not Â“v isuallyÂ” central to the plot (Conway, 1998). However, when a woman author aggressi vely pursues the foregrounded Â“IÂ” subject position, she may find a greater emphasis on aut hority within her Self as the external authority (in this case, Logos) loses pow er (Belenky 1986; Bunkers 1990). This is perhaps because women have been denied th e empowered speaking position of Â“I,Â” as Self, for so long. However, it may also be argued that the long standing exclusion of women from the Symbolic Order has resulte d in women understa nding the fluid and fractures experiences of many speaking Selves, many Â“IÂ”s. Autobiography in the postmodern paradigm offers an "an emphasis on the subject as an agent in discourse, where the subject itself is understood as n ecessarily discursive" (Gilmore 1994) (3). Gilmore suggests that with in this framework autobiographical texts facilitate the production of cu ltural identities. She argues, further, that postmodern debates have destabilized the foundations of autobiography studies by calling into question concepts that have b een central to the tradition of autobiography, such as history and subjectivity. Attention to the relations among "ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, and differing forms of representation" Â– some of the many subject positions, these many Â“IÂ”s Â– also alters the paradigm (3). The online autobiography gives a woman the freedom to try out some or all of her voices, to publish ideas and opi nions solely for the pleasur e of recording and sharing experiences. The Internet offers women the space, the tools, and the medium for exploration into indi vidual and collective criture feminine Online autobiography can provide important insight for the writer and her writers; the format also serves to
38 exemplify the potential for feminine ecritur e. These women are comfortable sharing the "truth" of their lives with less fear of negativity from the audience and with more anonymity than any other historical or traditional medium for women-writing. The Web has the potential to be a safe environment for women. In this virtual reality, there is no construction of identity but rather a location or Â‘open space', as Plant (1996) calls it, to share e xperiences. On the Web, women have the opportunity to articulate bodies of knowledge based upon th eir own experiences and perceptions and, therefore, to subvert and redefi ne extant discourses into enti rely new bodies of discourse. The creation of autobiography leads to the creation of Â“women-s pace,Â” a merging of public and private spheres resulting in the cr eation of this entirely new spatial reality (Zalis 2003). This overview clearly substantiates the claim that this dissertation is a viable contribution to the academic conversation precise ly because it ties together several of the main areas of interest in a variety of di sciplines. This work successfully draws on the established critical traditions of gendered writing and autobiography, and borrows from the relatively new body of work being create d in cybercultural st udies. The findings are couched in recognized ideological st andpoints of postmodern feminism, and contextualized in the works of three canonical authors.
39 Chapter Three: En/gendering the Internet The Masculinization of the New Technology The Internet has completely revoluti onized communication (and communicating). One can trace the evolution of the tec hnology, beginning with th e invention of the telegraph, and followed by the development of the telephone, the radio, and finally, the computer. At once, the Internet offers wo rld-wide broadcasting capability, tools for disseminating information, and a medium fo r collaboration and interaction between individuals without regard for geographic location. The Internet Society (ISOC) (http://www.isoc.org/Internet /history/brief.shtml#Transi tion) and HobbesÂ’ Internet Timeline v.7.0 (http://www.zakon.org) offer Â“industr y standardÂ” histories of the Internet; a brief gloss of the timeline is necessary to understand the importance of this medium, is global impact, and the speed at which it continues to grow. The technological evolution began with ear ly research on packet switching (i.e. the digitization and transmittal of digital information) and the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network of the U.S. Department of Defense). In 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik. In response, the US formed ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, in 1958. From 1961 until 1968, a group of (male) American scientists, engineers and scholars includi ng Licklider, Kleinrock, Baran and Roberts (thought to be the Â“fathersÂ” of the Internet), developed a se ries of technological protocols which would later form the backbone of the modern-day World Wide Web.
40 In 1969, the Department of Defens e commissioned ARPANET to study networking; the Â“ownershipÂ” of the Internet was formally transferred in 1975 to the Defense Information Systems Agency, a branch of the United States military. The 1970s saw vast leaps in technology and the developm ent of tools and resources that are still used today. One such example is the Gutenbe rg Project, founded in 1971 by Mark Hart; this venture sought to archive and make elec tronically available copyright-free works, including books. The first text Hart used for the Project was the US Declaration of Independence. E-mail was developed in 1972, and on March 26, 1976 the Queen of England sent her first E-mail from the R oyal Signals and Radar Establishment in Malvern. Â“EmoticonsÂ” were not developed until April 12, 1979, when Kevin MacKenzie suggested adding some emotion back into the dr y text medium of email, such as Â“-)Â” for indicating a sentence was tongue-in-chee k. Though MacKenzie and his idea were Â“flamedÂ” by many uses at the time, emotic ons became widely used after Scott Fahlman suggested the use of Â“:-)Â” and Â“: -(Â“ in a CMU BBS on September 19, 1982. The 1980Â’s reflect the initial public accessibi lity and globalization of the formerly private, American academic/industrial medium. In 1981, BITNET (Because ItÂ’s Time NETwork) was developed as a cooperative netw ork at the City University of New York, its initial connection linking it to Yale University. The purpose of BITNET was to provide electronic mail and listserv servers to distribute information and handle file transfers. Europe made its first Â“public appearan ceÂ” online in 1983 with the development of EARN (European Academic and Research Ne twork), its version of BITNET. The WELL
41 (Whole Earth Â‘Lectronic Link) signed on in 1985, and Cleveland, Ohio opened up the first freenet service in 1986. ARPANET was dissolved in 1990, but techno logical advances on/for the Internet continued throughout the decade. That same year saw the appearance of The World, the first commercial provider of Internet dialup access. Jean Armour Po lly coined the term Â“surfing the InternetÂ” in 1992. Shortly therea fter, in 1993, both the White House and the United Nations had presences on the Web. Th e first online shopping appeared in 1994; the first cyber radio station was broadcas t from Las Vegas, Nevada. CompuServe, Prodigy, and America Online began providing In ternet access to consumers in 1995. Just three years later, the numb er of Web pages was estimat ed to be between 275 and 320 million. Of course, nothing so powerful and nece ssary would remain free forever. In 2003, larger US Internet retailers begin collecting taxes on all purchases. Some US states began taxing Internet bandwidth. The European Union began requiring all Internet companies to collect value added tax (VAT) on di gital downloads as of July 1, 2003. Despite its seeming Â“across-the-boardÂ” po licies (e.g. taxation, childrenÂ’s online safety), the Internet is highly decentr alized. Indeed, the basic design philosophy underlying the Internet (particularly since the dissolution of ARPAN ET) has been to push management decisions to as decentralized a le vel as possible. Therefore, one can imagine the Internet as a number of communicating users with infrastructure in the middle facilitating that communication. If this is the case, then management authority rests mostly (but not exclusively) with the users rather than the infrastructure, which may be analogized to a collection of pipes that carry information to and from users. The global
42 nature of the medium essentially removes th e potential for a single governing authority to gain the consensus necessary to impose policy, although a variety of transnational organizations are seeking to address issues of Internet governa nce globally (Thornbaugh and Lin 32). Even during online and Â“real lifeÂ” debates over privacy, secur ity, and copyright laws, current research continues to expand the horizons of the infrastructure along several dimensions, such as scale, performance, a nd higher-level functi onality. As the current rapid expansion of the Internet is fueled by the realization of its capability to promote information sharing, users must understand that, in a postmodern reflexivity, the first role of the network in information sharing was providing information about its own design and operation through Requests For Comment (R FC), which were brief memos, a fast, informal way to distribute and share ideas with other network researchers). This unique method for evolving new capabilities in/via the ne twork remains critical to future Internet development. Such uncontained growth has presented its own set of particular challenges. On this medium, both visual and auditory, one E-commerce industry has emerged as the undisputed leader: pornography. Accord ing to Thornburgh and Lin, the online pornography industry generates an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue; the authors predict that this will rise to between $5 and $7 billion by 2007 (72). Researchers at the Online Computer Library Center Â“sugge sted that globally there are around 74,000 commercial sites; US industry group UAS/IFA offers an Â‘educated guessÂ’ that there are around 200,000 sitesÂ” (http://www.caslon.com.au). The motivator is, of course, money:
43 MacMillan notes that pornography was the firs t Â“business sectorÂ” to show a profit from developing an online presence (h ttp://www.washingtonpost.com). How Women Engage the Internet The irony is inescapable: the Internet, home to millions of pornographic images, the currency of woman-as-object, has become a virtual home to millions of women, a vast boundary-less cosmos in wh ich real-life women are them/s elves in this cyberplane with the products of words, thoughts, and id eas. According to Nielsen NetRatings (via NUA, the largest Web site dedicated to Intern et trend analysis de mographic statistics), American women over 21 spend Â“spend longe r online each week than teenagers Â… mothers spend an average of 16 hours and 52 minutes online per week, approximately four hours and 35 minutes more than American teenagersÂ” (http:// www.nua.ie). In fact, Â“the number of at-home female Internet users in the US increased more rapidly than the number of male users in 2001 Â… Women now account for 52 percent of home Internet users, or 55 million people, up from 50.4 millio n last year. There are 49.8 million male home users, up from 48.2 m illion in December 2000.Â” (htt p://www.nua.ie). Currently, women make up the majority of Web surfers: Â“Women now account for 52 percent of home Internet users, or 55 million people, up from 50.4 million last year. There are 49.8 million male home users, up from 48. 2 million in December 2000Â” (ibid). What, then, are these women doing online? It would seem as if the Internet is dominated by three radically dispar ate pastimes: pornography, genealogy, and shopping/e-commerce (as a side note, Weisbard notes that Â“Cyber Dialogue's January 2000 in-depth interview with 1,000 Internet users and 1,000 nonusers found that nearly
44 70 % of women who seek product information online still end up going offline to make purchases.Â”). Surely this majority group is not confined to one of th ese three ventures. Apparently, women are not content to sit idly in front of the keyboard, passively clicking through series of screens, reading or buying what appears in front of them. Alternately, women are not content to be repr esented on the screen, captured as-object by a camera, uploaded to the Web, fodder fo r voyeurs. Women are engaging in acts of creation: they are helping to construct individual identities as well as a common discursive tradition vi a the World Wide Web. One of the first to recognize the poten tial of the computer as a means of expression was Turkle, for whom the Internet "has become a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life" (180). Â“Identity is socially mediated,Â” write Miller and Mather, Â“and much of that mediation is through language. It follows that as new social processes and new ways of using language emerge, it may be possible to develop new aspects of identity. It has been suggested . that th e developing communication technologies of the last twenty years have had profound im plication for our sense of self.Â” How are these women constructing or de veloping identity within this new medium? Love writes, (M)any are unaware of the substantial body of creative work that women have been producing for the web. The work belies the notion of a Â‘gender divideÂ’ in the digital world: it aggressively employs cutting-edge media technologies and insistently explores concepts and them es that range widely over women's concerns and experiences. In siders in the world of elect ronic literature have long
45 recognized that women were among the ea rliest adopters of online technologies for expressive, artistic, and literar y purposes (http://alpha.furman.edu). Women are carving out deep niches on pers onal Web sites, or Â“homepagesÂ”. Once primarily the domain of the a dolescent male, this vehicle is rapidly becoming the penand-paper of women Internet users. The Nascence of the Online Diary It is possible to point to the single catalys t that actually spurred this proliferation of womenÂ’s diaries. In 1995, Robert Toups published Â“Babes on the Web,Â” a catalog of then-current homepages of women. This catal og featured photographs of each woman author. Toups rated each photograp h on a scale of one to four solely on the basis of the aesthetic appeal that each image held for hi m. As Toups explains: Â“Â’Along with being a capitalist pig, I am a proud male chauvinist pi g. As such, I have gathered all the World Wide Web sites of women I could find. Instead of rating them on quality of design, I am grading them on a four Toupsie scale accord ing to their personal pictures. My rating system is totally subjective to my personal tastes and whimsÂ’Â” (Kibby 40). Clearly, Toups was prepared for contr oversy. His page included the following caveat: Â“'If this page is offensive to you, then go to the National Organisation for Women (NOW) home page and cry to them. Maybe they will organise a cyber protest against my page or maybe you will find something else to bitch about. Either way, I won't care.'Â” Following that suggestion, Toups provided a link to the NOW homepage (ibid). Toups' project immediately generated Â“vo calÂ” online debate and counter-attack. A number of anti-Â‘Babes on the WebÂ’ pages appeared; several wome n posted pictures of
46 Toups, and invited visitors to rate his attract iveness and potential for meeting a Â‘babeÂ’ for himself. In an ironic twist, women publishing today may actually owe Toups a debt of gratitude. Without Toups, it is arguable that ma ny of these voices w ould still be relegated to paper and pen, and these groundbreaking Web authors would not have been able to make themselves known so vocally, allowing womenÂ’s Web publishing to have become so diverse and divergent. Thanks to the fee lings Toups engendered in his women readers, these reaction-ist pioneers forged the way for an insurgent wave of womenÂ’s Web publishing. Current homepages are reachi ng well beyond what casual observers would think of Â“traditionalÂ” subjects for women. The breadth of subject matter, however, is much greater than what the casual Web surfer might expect to encounter. Every day, women build identities in pos tmodern technological contexts. DeVoss notes that Â“feminist theorists and historians of the philosophy of technology have often painted a bleak picture of marginalization a nd restricted accessÂ” (34). Happily, as women create, produce, and mark, th is landscape bursts with poten tial and possibility. Perhaps the genre in which women have again, entirely differentiated themselves from their male counterparts is in autobiography: diarying or creating online chronicles of the self. Online diaries and journals have been ar ound almost as long as the World Wide Web, as evidenced in the postings of Justin Hall and Carolyn Burke, who offered a mixture of personal information and commentary online by late 1994 (Ozawa http://www.diarist.net/guide/blogj ournal.shtml). In fact, Burk e is credited with launching the first Â“officialÂ” online diary on January 3, 1995 (Sorapure 2). Weblogs did not emerge
47 with any impact until 1998 (although so me say NCSA [National Center for Supercomputing Applications ] link pages dating back to 1993 Â“countÂ” as the first) (ibid). Â“Deb,Â” another diarist on the World Wi de Web, and a contemporary of BurkeÂ’s, introduces herself on http:// www.diaryhistoryproject.com: I first got online some time in early 1995 Â… I was more than a little amazed at what the actual Internet offered. Â… A fe w months later, the novelty had worn off and I started looking for ot her chicks online. When I found them, it was such a mind blowing experience to see that th ere were women out there putting their lives online, women who had been doing this longer than I had actually known there was such a thing as the World Wide Web. Although the World Wide Web is by no mean s without its restrictions, it is a powerful resource to those with the means to access it. Thousands of Western women chronicle their lives on the Web and corres pond with one another via diary lists or "burbs" (organized around comm on interests), "prompts" (offer ed as inspiration for diary entries), Webrings (a group of websites linke d together by topic or interest), and other electronic forums that promote co mmunication among diarists globally. The Internet offers three basic approach es to journaling: diaries, blogs, and Â“combination interfaces.Â” The online diary re flects its real-world counterpart: it is arranged in reverse chronological order, most current post first, with one visible screen comprising a single entry. The term "weblog" or "blog" describes a form of diary or journal writing that features Web pages on wh ich short, frequent, ch ronologically ordered entries are posted. This proj ect will focus primarily on pur e online diaries, although the dividing line between diaries and blogs is becoming increasingly unclear.
48 An introduction to the two genres from Diarist.net describes the differences between the two: Â“In short Â… a traditional weblog is focused outside the author and his or her site. A web journal, conversely, looks inward focused on the author's thoughts, experiences, and opinions. Some s ites, of course, do both.Â” (Ozawa http://www.diarist.net). Two main differences exist between di aries and blogs, one structural, one in content. Each entry in an online diary typica lly occupies its own page, the most current entry displayed to the public. The author arch ives past entries, and makes them available to readers through hyperlinks. A blog displa ys several entries on a single scrollable screen, archived at the aut horÂ’s discretion (e.g. weekly, monthly, topic, etc.). While a diary is largely personal, re flecting on the thoughts and f eelings of the writer, a blog, Â“Â’Â…(sometimes called a blog or a newspage or a filter) is a webpage where a weblogger 'logs' all the other webpages [sic] she finds interesting Â… Â‘ Originally, weblogs were basically richer (and often automated) lists of links. Â‘Click here to see an article on human cloning, here's what I think about clonin g, click here to pos t what you think about cloningÂ’Â” (ibid). For purposes of this project, I am going to rely on the strong historical and literary traditions associating diary-writing with wome n and a Â“womenÂ’s genre.Â” There is nothing inherently woman-specific about the genre, nor is there an essentia listÂ’s guarantee that every woman will feel comfortable writing in that arena. Over time, however, the diary format has proven to be one of the most comfortable and accessible for women, both in the private space and the public sphere.
49 Just as there has long been a relationship of women with/to di aries, blogs, too, are slowly becoming gendered. Guernsey notes th at although people who track blogs try to avoid making sweeping generalizations, some pa tterns have emerged that are simply too significant to ignore. Women bl oggers tend to follow in the st ylistic footsteps of their diarist sisters, focusing inward, and generating entries of a personal nature that resemble those in diaries. Â“If that is the case,Â” Guer nsey continues, Â“the Mars-Venus divide has made its way into Blogville. Women want to talk about their persona l lives. Men want to talk about anything but. So far the people w ho have received the most publicity (often courtesy of male journalists) appear to be the latterÂ” (1). The Â“sites that do bothÂ” combine features of diaries and blogs. LiveJournal.com is an excellent example of a site that offers both the potential for personal content and the structural arrangement of a blog. More and mo re, the genres of Â“diaryÂ” and Â“blogÂ” are demonstrating convergent compatibility; like so many other aspects of postmodernism, the line between the categories has become blurred. All of these online journalers experiment independently with formats that they design themselves and publish on sites that several companies host free of charge. These diaries, where Â“people spout their thoughts fo r all to read, are fairly evenly divided between men and women, but subject matter is vastly different; men's Â… generally comment on news and politics and women's tend to be more inwardly focusedÂ” (Guernsey 1). Women writers are finally able to enga ge in newly women-specific literary endeavors in, on, and through cyberspace withou t the Â“canonical, careerist or corporate imperatives which frame academic and publishing institutionsÂ” (Carrolli,
50 http://home.pacific.net.au). Historically, women who participate in public places and spaces have been accused of Â“disruptingÂ” these spaces with their Showalterian Â“wildnessÂ” of women participa ting. The Â“mindless corporealityÂ” of women is long said to have devalued cultural end eavors, including intellectual and artistic practices. This criticism has been founded on the rationalist binaries of mind/body or public/private, binaries in which women are traditionally 'othered' (ibid). The Internet, then, becomes the means by which another form of feminism can take shape, a brand of feminism that cannot be challenged by binaries in this binary-less space. This brand of feminism Â– cyberf eminism Â– like any burgeoning movement, requires its own linguistic foundation. Herein lies the significance of e-criture feminine the discursive tradition being developed by the participants in this new womenÂ’s discursive tradition. Further examination wi ll demonstrate what these maverick women are appropriating for themselves and for the development of this language: the autobiography, via the online diary.
51 Chapter Four: Autobiography Women Chronicle (Throughout) History Writes Heilbrun, Autobiography is not the story of a life; it is the recreation or the discovery of one. In writing of experience, we discover what it was, and in the writing create the pattern we seem to have lived. Ofte n, of course, autobiography is merely a collection of well-rehearsed anecdotes; but, intelligently written, it is the revelation, to the reader and the writer, of the writer's conception of the life he or she has lived. Simply put, autobiography is a reckoning. (Education xvii). Traditional autobiography has been conceptualized as the bringing of the self into focus and the presenting of that se lf publicly through writing (Charnes http://home.comcast.net). In his essay "Conditions and Limits of Autobiography" Gusdorf describes autobiography as that which "requires a ma n (sic) to take a distance with regard to himself (sic) in order to recons titute himself (sic) in the focus of his (sic) special unity and identity acro ss time" (35). Autobiography also relies on a conception of "'reconstituting' the ego agai nst the bulwark against disint egration" (Benstock 15). The "self" is typically seen as a firmly singular en tity, which pulls together the story of a life through an objective, focused, will. The woman-as-chronicler is not a new phenomenon. Women have written autobiographies since the Roma n period; diaries, autobiogra phies, letters, protests,
52 stories, and poems by British women, for example, are traceable as far back as the Middle Ages (Jelinek 1). Medieval women wrot e about childbirth, about housework, about relationships with men, about friendships with other women. They wrote reflectively about themselves as girls, and they wrote about themselves in the present and future. They wrote about themselves as wives, moth ers, abandoned souls, lovers, workers, and outcasts. They also wrote about themselves as writers and about the discrimination they faced, as well as the pain and courage with which they faced it (ibid). In both America and England, the form flourished among wome n (both white and non-wh ite) beginning as early as the 1600s. Most early American diaries were kept by men. Many Colonial diaries took the form of almanacs and logs covering men's experience in public life. In many cases, historians say, these diaries were written specifically to be read. The majority of women in these colonial times had neither the leisure nor the literacy to contribute to th e body of work. American womenÂ’s autobiographies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centu ries exist were written by white teenage girls and wellto-do white women who kept diaries and j ournals, womenÂ’s accounts of the mostly religious and spiritual Puritan tradition. For th e most part, the documents from that period are straightforward religious and secular accounts of domestic life and travel. Anne Dudley Bradstreet (1612-72), the first recognized U.S. woman writer, included autobiography in her domestic poe try, and was honored for her 1650 poetic work Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America In the 1700Â’s, Abigail Bailey of New Hampshire wrote of her "wicked" husband's "v ile intentions" toward their daughter; Mary Holyoke of Massachusetts reco rded giving birth to twelve children, and burying nine of
53 them; Elizabeth Fuller wrote of household wor k. "I spun three skeins ," was all she wrote one day. Some of the entries may seem trivial at first glance, but as a corpus of literature, the pieces are brimming with important inform ation, and provide a view of the time that is missing from the accounts penned by men of th e era (McKay http://college.hmco.com). The first unique autobiographical form in America was developed by white women who were captured and later released by Native Americans. These distinctive self-stories of the period we re almost exclusively religious narratives. Mary Rolandson's 1682 work, A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rolandson, a Minister's Wife in New England is regarded as the Â“most celebratedÂ” of these narratives (McKay http://college.hmco.com). Puritan autobiography continued thr oughout the nineteenth century, while increases in literacy permitted women to expand the boundaries of the domestic autobiography with stories of unhappy chil dhoods and marriages; of experiences in prisons, mental institutions, or convents; a nd of women who assumed disguises in search of adventure, escape, or to enter militar y service. A large number of popular women novelists flourished during this American renaissance (1820-c irca 1850) ((McKay http://college.hmco.com). In the 1830Â’s, as the centers of produc tion moved from farm to factory, the spheres of men and women became even more divided. Men were deemed responsible for the public realm (i.e. anything outside th e home), and women became mistress of the intimate, private, family domain. Culley suggest s that the diaries of women at this time became more introspective, a record of an inner life. As more women were educated, they increasingly chronicled their thoughts (17).
54 In the second half of the nineteenth century, American pioneer women Â“went westÂ” as missionaries, or accompanied their families in search of better economic conditions. These women wrote journals, lett ers, and other form s of narrative that addressed women's isolation, fears of childbe aring, and other privations. Toward the end of the century, improvements in women's soci al, political, and economic conditions led to the emergence of (again, mostly white and middle-class) reform-minded and feminist women. This population boasted the suffragis ts, who focused their written work on serious descriptions of women's lives a nd careers. Notable women from this group included Frances Elizabeth Willard, temperance movement activist; Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman to graduate from a U.S. medi cal school; and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a major intellectual figure of the women's mo vement in that era (Culley 18). For almost two hundred years, slaves a nd nonslaves alike struggled to liberate themselves from their literal and figurativ e chains. Writing about the self became a weapon in that collective resi stance. By the end of the ei ghteenth century, two new forms of writing had emerged: the black spiritual narrative and the slave narrative. Spiritual narrators claimed selfhood through access to the love and forgiveness of a blackappropriated Christian God. Slave narrators, aiming their words toward Northern white sympathizers, used personal experiences in di rect, immediate voices to develop the most persuasive antislavery literature of the century. The slave narrative became the predominant genre in early black writing as we ll as the second of the two unique forms of U.S. autobiography (ibid). The written quests of women slave narrators articulated the twin wrongs of racial and gender oppression. The most renowned of these is Harriet Jacobs's 1861 story,
55 Incidents in the Li fe of a Slave Girl published under the pseu donym Linda Brent. Jacobs, the first black slave woman to write against the sexual tyranny of sl avery, wrote of earlychildhood circumstances that shielded her from the horrors of slavery, of her coming-toawareness of her condition, and her determinatio n to be free. After hiding for seven years in a crawlspace under the roof of her gra ndmother's house, she escaped a lascivious master and concluded her story with a supe rb feminist analysis of the meaning of freedom for black women (Culley 18). As in America, women writers in Engla nd faced the same stonewalling from the patriarchal literary world. Here, too, the male experience was considered normative, and womenÂ’s voices were marginalized, made peri pheral to the dominant male framework. WomenÂ’s autobiographies commonly were cons idered insignificant, idiosyncratic, or tedious. Because of this j udgment, womenÂ’s autobiographi es were relegated to the Â“simpleÂ” form of the unpublished diary. Patr iarchal society vocalized a very strong resistance to valuing (and the value of) womenÂ’s experien ce. Male autobiographies found a place of privilege and, in fact became a respected art form and literary genre, while autobiographies by women were rejected, a marginalization resulting from this fundamental distrust and resist ance to womenÂ’s public voice. Suddenly, literate, educated women of the Reformation and Renaissance found themselves within a new, albeit limited, world of discourse. Women writers with privileged social status were more likely to write autobi ographies in literal language. Others without privileged status often wrote in figurative lan guage. This new territory of freedom and opportunity for individual expressi on was, in its own way, highly structured, and revolved around certain prescr ibed scripts: the unmarried virgin, the wife, the nun, or
56 the queen. Most women autobiographers wrote le tters, diaries, and journals and remained true to domestic narratives, staying out of public discourse. Those women autobiographers who were bold enough to ente r the world of public discourse moved into it from disadvantaged social positions. Their autobiographies often became heretic narratives. (Smith 43) The seventeenth century is an importa nt period for the hi story of womenÂ’s autobiography in England, as it marks both th e emergence of privat e diary-writing as a widespread phenomenon, and the beginni ng of a shift from straightforward res gestae (a list of accomplishments or triumphs) biogra phy towards more intimate and Â“personalÂ” conceptions of the self. Diaries of this period occupied a transitional place in literary history: they bridged the impersonal, techni cal records of the sixteenth century and the more expressive confessional forms of the eighteenth. These sevent eenth century diaries open themselves for examination; one can observe the gradual emergence of personality and interiority in a once straightforwardly functional form, a pro cess often overlooked by those who forget that the te rm Â“diaryÂ” once referred to any form of daily record, not merely the self-revelatory model of the present day (Glaser 193). Most women writing before 1800 did not s ee this writing as an aspect or an expression of this uniquely womanÂ’s experience, as writing was simply not an acceptable activity for women. As Showalter notes, women were certainly interested in the writings of other women, and women writers often kne w and praised each otherÂ’s works. But all these women were dependent upon men: me n were the critics, the publishers, the professors, and the sources of financial s upport. Men had the power to praise womenÂ’s works, to bring them to public attention, or to ridicule them, to doom them, too often, to
57 obscurity (Jelinek 36). From about 1750 Eng lish women began to make inroads into the literary marketplace, but writing did not beco me a recognizable profession for women until the 1840Â’s (ibid). Victorian women's autobiography emerged at a historical moment when the field of Â“life writingÂ” was particularly rich. Spir itual autobiography was developing interesting variations in the heroic memoirs of pioneering missionary women, and was producing probing intellectual analyses of Nonconformists, Anglicans, agnostics, and other religious thinkers (Peterson 16). The chroniques scandaleuses of the eighteenth century were giving way to the respectable artist's life of the Victorian woman. The domestic memoir, a Victorian variation on the family histories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, flourished in a culture that celebrated the j oys of home, family, and private life. Perhaps most important, Victorian women writers were experimenting with all these forms in various combinations and permutations. The de sire to know the details of other women's lives Â– and to use them for one's own pur poses Â– underlies much Victorian women's autobiography, even as it helps to explai n the continuing interest in their accounts (Peterson 19). In 1869, Mill argued that wo men would have a hard struggle to overcome the influence of the male literary tradition. Â“If wo menÂ’s literature is destined to have a different collective character from that of men, much longer time is necessary than has yet elapsed before it can emancipate itself from the influence of accepted models, and guide itself by its own impulsesÂ” (196). Mill has proven presci ent in that women have in fact been able to define and to develop a li terary tradition, not on the basis of traditional forms and themes, but on the basis of what gave shape to their lives, working as diarists.
58 Contemporary Autobiographics Heilbrun notes that the diary format was historically appropriate to women in a manÂ’s literary marketplace, as that genre gave women the power "to take their place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one's part matter" (18). Women generally wrote about experiences rare ly explored by men, and these topics were presented in voices that were different from the voices presen t in the literature of men. This difference exists even now. Today, the study of womenÂ’s autobiog raphy, diary, and self-representational narrative has emerged as an important field of critical inquiry. Thes e self-representational narratives, scholars suggest, are now and have always been reactions to a time-honored history of exclusionary politics, a social wh irlpool that has created cultural, literary, and historical vacuums all demanding (and resul ting in) the current pr oliferation of both autobiography and autobiographics. Gilmore e xplains these as those changing elements of the contradictory discourses and practices of truth and identity which represent the subject of autobiography" (13). These autobiographies, or self-represe ntational narratives, of contemporary women clearly articulate the painful position of having no "place," no room of one's own. Women's autobiographical writing also illust rates that having to actively create these Â“roomsÂ” means also having to construct a space within the isolating paradigmatic narrative and cultural forms, while at the sa me time exploding these paradigms in order to make room for new speaking subjects from marginalized groups. The autobiographies under examination in this project Â– thos e written by Western women with financial and tec hnical access to computers and Internet Â– generally follow a
59 much different outline than do those written by their male counterparts. While menÂ’s autobiographies in general are usually pr ogressive, linear narratives, women often describe their lives in a non-chronological pattern consisting of episodic and anecdotal accounts (Jelinek 13). WomenÂ’s autobiographi es, therefore, tend not to follow the traditional (read: male) style of writing history. Women recorded their lives as they saw fit, not as language or grammar dictated. Â“Women's story lines are multiple, intermingled, ambivalent as to valence, and recursive,Â” write Gergen and Gergen. Â“Women's stories usually weave together themes of achievement Â… themes of family obliga tions, personal development, love lives, children's welfare, and friendship. (T)he tone or movement of women's stories are never unidirectional, focused, or contained. Th e men's storiesÂ… exhibit the cardinal characteristics of Â… autobiographyÂ” (196). In short, womenÂ’s forms are different from those of men. (196). Heilbrun asserts that four different ways of writing are available for a woman to write about her life: a woman writing a bout her own life (autobiography); a woman writing her own life as a st ory (fiction); an author writing about a womanÂ’s life (biography); to tell, in womenÂ’s history, th e destiny of a womanÂ’s life before she has lived it. The diary format is arguably the most personal, the most revelatory, and the most passionate of these four genres. On her own site, Holmes suggests that: (d)iary writing Â… is a little like weaving: the warp is the daily happening of our lives, the weft the words chosen to tell the story, the shuttle the pen or voice which brings the pattern, the web, into being. Just as feminist critics have
60 recognised the importance of weaving and tapestry as a form of women's speech and storytelling, an activity suitably fe minine but one through which they might reveal what otherwise remains silent, so diary writing has begun to be recognised as an important form of writing for women. The diary can be a place of resistance or defiance, of accommodation or rappro chement. A place where women can tell stories which would otherwise not be h eard, or where they can lay claim to writing (http://www.nla.gov.au). Showalter contends that the Â“femaleÂ” literary tradition comes from the stillevolving relationships between women writers and their societ y. The development of this tradition is similar to the triphasic development of any literary subculture: 1) imitation of the prevailing modes of the dom inant tradition, and in ternalization of its standards of art and its views on social roles; 2) protest ag ainst these standards and values, and advocacy of minority rights and values; 3) self-discover y, a turning inward freed from some of the dependency of opposition, a search for identity. ShowalterÂ’s terminology for these phases in womenÂ’s literary subculture is: 1) Femini ne phaseÂ—the period from the appearance of the male pseudonym in the 1840Â’s to the deat h of George Eliot in 1880; 2) Feminist phaseÂ—1880 to 1920, or the winning of the vote by American women; 3) Female phaseÂ—1920 to the present, but entering a new stage of self-awareness about 1960 (1213). I argue that this threepronged approach is analogous to three necessary components of the new tradition: space, style, and medium.
61 Chapter Five: Theoretical Foundations The depth and breadth of material fo cusing on the concept of women-writing echoes ore reflects the ideal of multiple voices; no two critics or theorists have identical views on what, exactly, defines criture feminine What everyone does seem to agree on is the importance of criture feminine as it relates to the role of women's voices. Senft explains, "Feminists are in a bind, finding that it is nearly impossible to write of the truth of a feminine body, when we are all in violen t disagreement about what a 'body' truly is" (http://www.echonyc.com). Women-writi ng is the second "reaction," the second "experience," the first being immediate, Â“real life.Â” These reactions and experiences must be translated from the primary into texts. This project does not assume that any tw o women are alike, nor does this project intend to suggest that there is an entity that can be described as a Â“realÂ” or Â“genuineÂ” woman. However, one of the aims of this work is to concretize the idea that there is, in fact, a visible and accessible new form of discourse which is proving to be almost exclusively the purview of wome n writers. This kind of wome n-writing is not a divisive movement or discordant act, seeking to separate women fr om men, or women's writings from those of men; rather, women-writi ng is simply an acknowledgement of the differences and a development of a new disc ourse, neither derivativ e nor appropriated. Cixous sees "in women's writing the potential to circumvent and reformulate existing
62 structures through the inclusion of other e xperience" (Sellers 29) Women's writing can potentially reformulate structures by basi ng those structures on all experiences. Virginia Woolf Woolf articulates what it meant Â– means! Â– to be a woman wr iter: Â“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only hours, nobody can say. But to s acrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to so me Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring rod up his sleev e, is the most abject treacheryÂ” (110). Women hide from the Headmaster and successfully establish this literary tradition, despite being hindered by the formal constraints of language. Logos Â– language Â– is an integral part of Web communication. Kibby notes that poststructuralis t theory has long argued that language is a dete rmining factor in the construc tion of self and identity. Woolf argues that women should enjoy the same basic necessity as their male counterparts: a space, a room of her own, a sanctuary to which the woman writer can escape. This space can be literal Â– a room in a home Â– or figurative Â– time in which she can focus on her creative efforts. Harding sugge sts that Â“Woolf operates out of a negative space. She seeks a room for women that is bo th a public and a social space in a world where women have no place. This negative sp ace, this non-place, becomes her site of social critiqueÂ” and the site of the reappropriation and redefinition of her own Â“IÂ”. I argue that today, the WWW is indeed that vast and shapeless space, an imm easurable series of creations, a scientific and mathematical implausibility.
63 At its core, the Internet is a system of communication; the World Wide Web merely a backbone, a conduit for disseminati ng information via an infinite combination of puzzling computer language, images encode d in binary, and media translated into realtime interactivity. Women, then, are activ ely creating spaces, rooms of their own, through the Â‘constructionÂ’ (Â“building,Â” in the pa rlance of Web development) of individual homepages. Some use templates (a la Diar yland.com or LiveJournal.com), some forge ahead with independent designs of their own choosing. Regard less of the vehicle, women who publish on the Web engage in the clai ming and development of unique writing space. Feminists illustrate how Western language s, in all their features, are maleengendered, male-constituted, and male-dom inated. Discourse is "phallogocentric" because it is centered and organized throughout by implicit recourse to the phallus both as its supposed ground (or logos ) and as its prime signifier and power source; and not only in its vocabulary and syntax. This is true also for its rigorous rules of logic, its proclivity for fixed classifica tions and oppositions, a nd its criteria for what is supposed to be valid evidence and objective knowledge. On a homepage, language is the primary tool for the construction of a public identity. The Web, then, becomes the right space for appropriating and manipulating language into an entirely womenÂ’s discourse: it is a freeform universe that is carved out only by each pioneer who stakes a claim by cr eating a homepage. As Heilbrun notes: Â“(a) woman herself may tell (her life), in what she chooses to call an autobiography; . or the woman may write her own life in advance of living it, unconsciously, and without recognizing or naming the processÂ” (12). This dissertation argues that, in fact, this new
64 online tradition is allowing individual women to become organic autobiographers, creating living memoirs in/on an organic, flui d space. In fact, the premise of this work can be tied to each of HeilbrunÂ’s ideas of autobiography. Certainly, the women who journal and diary online are creat ing the strictest, most literal definition of autobiography; additionally, women who publish online can en gage in the formulation of thoughts and idea, a free reflexive exchange between Self and Self, creating (wri ting!) herself as she keys in her words. Rachel Blau DuPlessis DuPlessisÂ’s Â“Working NotesÂ” contains some of her basic premises: Â“Drawing distinctions. Things on the side things in the center, blurri ng distinctions. Allusions to cross genre, or messing up (Ashley, quilts). Genr es that create themselves as imperfect. To write into silence. Poetry too pretty ; creating Â‘beautyÂ’? [sic] Creating chora. Beginning-middle-end, ha.Â” "To break the sentence," writes DuPlessis, Â“rejects not grammar especially, but rhythm, pace, flow, expression: the structur ing of the female voice by the male voice, female tone and manner by male expectations, female writing by male emphasis, female writing by existing conventions of genderÂ—in short, any way in which dominant structures shape muted onesÂ” ( Writing 32). Her feeling that women need to both Â“break the sequenceÂ” and Â“break the sentenceÂ” is pivotal to the concept of co mmunicating in a voice th at is uniquely ofwomen. She demands a refutation of ch ronology, itself a notion derived by and, ostensibly for, the patriarchy. The WWW, then, becomes both a canvas for and a
65 reflection of these writing ideals. Not only doe s Â“grammatologyÂ” simply not exist in this realm, the WWW itself is unformed, a broken sentence, lacking in sequence. Where are the boundaries of the Internet? Where are the ru les, the regulations that govern not only the way in which this entity forms itself, but also the content that may be included? Like the universe itself, the Internet is shapel ess, shifting, and uncontrolled, moving at the speed of realtime, eliminating pause and cont emplation. According to Lepanis, Â“this new domain of non linearity is Â… breaking down all kinds of boundary spaces of subject disciplines, mediums of representation, time and sp aceÂ” (http://www.acal.edu.au). DuPlessis cries for women to understand Â“t hat the closures and precisions of any tale are purchased at the e xpense of the muted, even uns poken narrative, which writing beyond the ending will releaseÂ” ( Writing 46). The idea of writing beyond the ending, then, also substantiates the claim that the WWW is the ideal medium for the development of this new feminine discourse; rather than wo men being forced to restrict themselves to finite subjects Â– and, by extension, finite hard media Â– DuPlessis argues that women need to thwart borders and boundaries, to exist in a space without defined parameters. This dissertation argues that women can adopt the InternetÂ’s lack of style conventions in order to create completely individual, who lly unique forms of written and visual autobiographical communication. As DuPlessis asserts, women need to be able to step outside the rigorous boundaries of traditiona l patriarchal discourse. The Internet (and again, its diaries and journals) becomes the id eal nonspace for just this sort of liberation. And it is from the beginning of language that women are kept on the fringes of the most boundaried space of all: the Symbolic Or der. Upon entering this linguistic system, the woman initiate immediately has a paradoxi cal subject position imposed upon her. She
66 is symbolically castrated; she lacks She can "be" the phallus, can experience the phallus, but she cannot "have" the phallus. She is not completely integrated into the Symbolic Order. However, this lack is also an opening that can be filled up with joy, with what Cixous calls jouissance Thus, the woman initiate must create fo r herself her own subject position; DuPlessis would have her deliberately push out of the Symbolic Order and consciously reject the parameters established by the pa triarchal linguistic pa radigm. Boundaries and borders are a consequence of assigning meani ng to symbols, creating a fixed symbology; the thwarting of borders and rejection of boundaries parall els the idea of women as themselves open, receptive, a positive spin on the concept of lack Hlen Cixous Cixous, like Woolf, argues that above all, women need to write. She enhances this assertion by suggesting that womenÂ’s writi ng (and, by extension, women-writing) is connected to their minds, and their minds ar e connected to their bodies. The consequence of this syllogism is that women must write to reclaim their bodies from which they have been so violently detached as a result of language and the Symbolic Order. Sessum is a blogger (as opposed to a diarist) who actually refers to Cixous on her site. She speculates what Cixous herself might write about blogs, and, by extension, about diaries: Â“I think that the relationships between people are either completely po intless and meaningless, or creative, passionate and thus demand effort, r eal work through which they create things. In this way, they complete thought processes and become the light."
67 The French feminist tradition Â– of which Cixous is a leading force Â– has always charged its followers to overhaul and revolu tionize language and ways of thinking in an effort to actively resist phallogocentrism, th e privileging of the masculine (the phallus) in understanding meaning or social relations. As Cixous notes, Â“Â…writing is precisely the very possibility of change, the space that can serve as a springboard for subversive thought, the precursory movement of a transformation of soci al and cultural structuresÂ” ( Rootprints 249) For the French feminists, women ar e voiceless, and women are silent, having long been completely repressed and s tifled by male language. The goal of women, according to these feminists, is to challenge male language, male constructs, male representations: Â“If woman has always f unctioned Â‘withinÂ’ the discourse of man, a signifier that has always re ferred back to the opposite si gnifier which annihilates its specific energy and diminishes or stifles its ve ry different sounds, it is time for her to dislocate this Â‘withinÂ’, to explode it, turn it around, and seize it; to make it hers, containing it, taking it in her own mouth, biting that tongue w ith her very own teeth to invent for herself a langu age to get inside of ( Rootprints 257). Some criticize Cixous for bei ng essentialist, of relating mental attributes to biology. Critics claim that she "reduces women to an essence ... and thus negates the possibility of the very change which she seeks to promote" (Shiach 17). One of her fundamental arguments, in fact, is that women's knowledge as different from men's because of their position in cultur e and their capacity for motherhood. Of her contemporaries (including Irigaray and Kristeva), Cixous is perhaps the most positive about the possibi lities for the Pre-Oedipal or Imaginary phase, which is where she ultimately situates criture feminine She strongly rejects the notion of a
68 feminine Imaginary which is non-signifying or outside of language. Rather, Cixous asserts that the feminine is a way of signifying that calls into question or disrupts the Law of the Father. Because the pre-Oedipal is a phase that occurs prio r to the creation of oppositional binaries, the categories of Â“maleÂ” a nd Â“femaleÂ” have yet to be imposed. This is also the period associated most strongly with the body of the mother. In this way, Dunn argues, Â“Cixous' notion of feminine writing can be both feminine and non-essentialist (although this latter asse rtion is a matter of considerable debate amongst Cixous' critics)Â” (http://prelectur .stanford.edu). Despite the critical emphasis on CixousÂ’ essentialism, her ideas are nonetheless germane to this project. Certainly, points in her analogies may be contested. As such, I have chosen to use the core points of many of her ideas in the expos ition and explication of e-criture feminine Additionally, because of Cixous Â’ reliance on womenÂ’s biology to her arguments, the term Â“femaleÂ” must be used extensively in any di scussion of her work. In this examination of CixousÂ’ ideologies, Â“femaleÂ” will again refer to those with a specific set of physical, observable characterist ics; female becomes a quality that is not necessarily judged by ability to procreate. Women, claims Cixous, are sli ppery, fluid, much more so than men. As such, she believes that in order to escape the discourse of mastery, i.e., to escape the shackles of limiting, restrictive language, women must write the body since language gives meaning to and organizes the material practices of the corporally sexed body. Freeing language from its constraints, its form and formul ae, means liberation for the body, the physical form. To write from one's body is to flee the socially constructed boundaries of linguistic reality, "to escape hierarchical bonds and ther eby come closer to what Cixous calls
69 jouissance a Â“virtually metaphysical fulfillment of desire that goes far beyond [mere] satisfaction... [It is a] fusi on of the erotic, the mystical, and the political" (Â“MistressÂ” xvii). Cixous follows Lacan's psychoanalytic para digm, which argues that a child must separate from its mother's body (the Real) in order to enter into the Symbolic. Lacan argues that during the pre-Oedipal stage, a child moves from Imaginary to Symbolic Order. In the Mirror Stage, writes Lacan, a child learns to differentiate between me and not me (1-7). The child experiences "an oral di sgust, a refusal of the mother who is experienced as abject so that the child might expel itself from the mother-child dyad and become a subject" (Ross 149). The father, gi ver of law and language, inducts the child into a circuit of power; the child becomes phallus for the mother, even as the child views the mother as Other. The "normal" (read: boy) child begins an Oedipal rejection of the mother: castration fears, the pe rception of the mother as having lack (of phallus). The "lacking" child (read: girl) is also supposed to perceive the mother, and, consequently, herself, as missing something. For those who Â“lack,Â” the phallus is elusive, always a looming presence that can never be Â“gotten.Â” Cixous continues the line of reasoning, grounding her assertions in Lacan's naming the center of the Symbolic as the Phallus, highlighting the patriarchal, phallogocentric nature of the language system. She notes that children of each sex are initiated into the Symbolic Orde r, into language as structure, in different ways, and later occupy very different types of subject positions within the Symbolic Order. As a result of this unfulfilled phallus-quest, coupled with the rejection of the father-Logos, Cixous
70 argues that the womanÂ’s body in general becomes unrepresentable in language; it is what cannot be spoken or written in the ph allogocentric Symbolic order. Here, Cixous leaps from the maternal body to the womanÂ’s body in general, from the female body to female sexuality, saying that female sexuality, female sexual pleasure, is unrepresentable within th e phallogocentric Symbolic or der. It is therefore up to women, then, to represent themselves by writing the body This is why, in The Laugh of the Medusa Cixous uses the metaphor of "white ink," of writing in breast milk; she wants to convey that idea of a reunion with the maternal body, an unalienated relation to female bodies in general (Â“MedusaÂ” 312). Cixous offers descriptions of this writi ng in concrete terms, but does not offer guidance as to what it shoul d Â“look like,Â” since using a me taphorical or simile-istic mirror is the (mis)perception of the self in LacanÂ’s Mirror Stage, the very moment at which children are launched into the Symbolic order. Cixous is careful to talk about writing in new ways, in ways that distinguish female writing from existing forms of verbal (spoken and written) discourse, so as to completely dissociate female writing from any kind of extant linguistic mode/s. Her criture feminine Â“is milk, it's a song, something with rhythm and pulse, but no wo rds, something connected with bodies and with bodies' beats and movements, but not with representational languageÂ” (Klages http://www.colorado.edu). This dissertation ar gues that this new medium Â– the online diary Â– does provide women with that very freedom, the Â“white inkÂ” (and red ink and teal ink and so on!) to write themselves in entirely new ways. When a woman writes herself on/to the WW W, she is, to a great degree, free to develop a homepage in any style she likes There are no guidelines, parameters, or
71 restrictions. She can include art or animation, music or pi ctures. She can use a black background, a teal background, a red background. Most exciting, she can write herself in any color ink she chooses. There is no structur e to her art; there is no instruction to her design. Although she is limited by the Symbolic Or der, even present online, she is free to subvert it without fear of penalty or reprisal. The idea of a womenÂ’s online e-criture is able to be well-subs tantiated by drawing on resources in feminisms, womenÂ’s autobiog raphy and diary writing, and of course, the ideologies of critics Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous. Here is where this dissertation, again, demonstrates its relevance to current academic conversations in literary criticism, social theory, and gender studies: this work draws together epistemological work from a variety of disciplines, each one able to link to th e next, each one providing support and credence to the other. Grounded in postmodern fe minism, this argument relies heavily upon accepted critical premises, documented litera ry traditions, and primary sources. The primary critical material Â– by Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous Â– does fit within the parameters of postmodern feminism, and serves as the strongest justification/s for the new online e-criture.
72 Chapter Six: A Virtual Room of OneÂ’s Own Although she is thought of as a Â“feministÂ” or a Â“feminist writer,Â” Woolf did not explicitly write for women in all races, economic classes, sexual orientations, and nationalities. Rather, her focus was on white, British, middle-class women of presumably heterosexual orientation (or at least in Â“traditionalÂ” male/female domestic situations [read: marriages]). Additionally, her focus wa s on equal rights in general, but only for these specific types of women to have the right to produce written work. However, it can be argued that her general pr emises of fiduciary independe nce, privacy, and Â“professional equityÂ” in the writersÂ’ mark etplace lay the groundwork for the feminisms of today, particularly the second wave of feminism, embodying the soci al and financial tenets of separatism (radical feminism), socialism (Marxism), and liberalism. Although her chronological periodization marks her as Moder n, she does prefigure several of the tenets of postmodernism, and can be called an early postmodernist: her focus on process rather than product; her interest in the public and private faces of (gender) power; her rejection of the myth that artists are isolated geni uses who transcend the earthly realm through their creativity. Woolf's metaphorical "room" dr aws attention to itself as a modernist spatial trope that later enabled the revision efforts of A nglo-American feminists (particularly literary theorists and social anthropol ogists) to articulate what Showalter has called "[t]he problematic of women's space" Â– a notion whic h calls attention to both the ideology of
73 representation, includ ing aesthetic practices, and also to the secondary status of women in society. Castricano notes that the concept of "women's space," especially in feminist literary theory, Â“led feminists to posit both a gendered subject inhabi ting that terrain, as well as a mode of inner space, a subject position, as it were.Â” In her essay "Professions for Women," Woolf recounts her experience with Coventry Patmore's "Angel in the House. The "Angel," society's ideal woman, is concerned primarily with others, identifies herself only as a wife/mother, and remains conventional in her actions, c onscious of the standards fo r women. Woolf suggests that this Â“AngelÂ” guides women writers Â– unless these women consciously and intentionally liberate themselves. So that a woman writer might exercise creative thought and vocalize in that Â“voice that speaks fresh and st rong,Â” Woolf holds that the woman writer must have two things: financial independence (or, at least, freedom from financial obligation) and a place to which she can escape, close the door, and have her own time Â– this mythical room of her own Since this dissertation is concerned with womanÂ’s space, it will not be necessary to focus on WoolfÂ’ s call for women to have financial freedom. Rather, the focus will be on this woman-space, the idea of privacy, and the concept of self-imposed restriction from sex-based social mores. Physic al privacy, of course, comes in the form of the Â“room of her own,Â” a space in which she is free to transform and transcribe herself from body to book. On the World Wide Web, women publishe rs have this very freedom. With the room of oneÂ’s own, the logic says, the woman author would not be forced to work so covertly, nor would she be forced to hide hers elf behind a thin veneer of fictionalization.
74 The privacy would afford her the time and sp ace to tell one or all of her many Â“truths,Â” just as a homepage on the World Wide Web affords todayÂ’s women publishers the luxury of that critical space. Woolf was fascinated with wo rkings of memory alone, as well as its relationship to the construction of a personal sense of selfhood. Selfhood, for Woolf, develops from an amalgam of Â“factÂ” and Â“fic tion,Â” Â“actualityÂ” and a personal Â– albeit Cartesian! Â– sense of Â“truth.Â” Her Â“self-representational' or Â“autobiographicalÂ” texts then become the therapeutic means of Self'-discovery, a way to purge oneself of past demons (and demons in/of the past), to Â“repairÂ” the past, and to create a significant pers onal present and a sense of personal Â“truth.Â” Because the Web is a boundless space, each woman has the opportunity to carve out for herself the amount of Â“roomÂ” (or ba ndwidth) she needs, regulated only by her imagination. She can sprawl herself over and around, an amorphous, fluidity, sectioning off the space with words and images, linking pages together as she deems appropriate. The entire enterprise is subject to her whim ; she can choose to add or remove content at will, she can choose to rearrange documents, she can choose to pull the whole thing down and start afresh. Most importantl y, she dictates all of the cont ent the site contains. She is completely on her own, the very manifestation of that solipsistic epistemology so favored by Woolf herself. This kind of unfettere d cyber-construction make s the woman publisher especially powerful; now that she has her spa ce, she truly is free to create, to make her words, her space, and her Self or Selves. Early in A Room of OneÂ’s Own Woolf seizes on a critical point: Â“"Why are women . so much more interesting to men than me n are to women?" she asks.
75 Arguably, this same observation may be ma de today. Women seem to write to one another, for one another, reve aling the minutiae of daily ex istence with as much passion as men describe motorcycles, sports teams, and attractive women. Â“I was thinking the other night,Â” Woolf wrote to her friend, Ethel Smyth, Â‘that thereÂ’s never been a womanÂ’s autobiography... nothing to compare with Rousseau.Â” These words were written in December 1940, a m onth after Virginia Woolf made her last entry in her own autobiographica l retelling of her childhood in A Sketch of the Past One must be skeptical about her choice of Rouss eau's autobiography as the benchmark for all diaries against which Woolf herself sets a history of womenÂ’ s self-representation, particularly when one considers that wo menÂ’s historical experiences make their autobiographical works different from those produced by men (Dimitroulia, http://www.art.man.ac.uk/english/manuscript/b ackiss/content/woolf.html). Since men and women have been differently situated in re lation to the conventions and traditional forms of autobiography, male and female self-repr esentations are unlikely to conform to a single model. Having fought in her life and work against patronizing male paradigms and status quos, Woolf clearly both recognizes and explicitly acknowledges the marginalization that women had experienced in society and in its development of a literary canon. It is from this position that in A Room of OneÂ’s Own Woolf directs her ange r at the systematic effacement of women, the organizing princi ple behind the exclusion of women from the sources of knowledge and cons equently from the position of Â“speaking subject.Â” WoolfÂ’s critique of the patriarchal machine and its discriminatory gender arrangements operates at two levels: in terms of content, in her th emes and ideas, but most importantly in her
76 rhetorical practice of deconstr uctive reversals that challenge a whole history of privileged modes of discourse (Dimitrou lia http://www.art.man.ac.uk). A Room of OneÂ’s Own based on a series of academic lectures delivered at Newnham and Girton Colleges (Cambridge Univ ersity) in 1928, begins with the question of its own title: Â“But, you may say, we as ked you to speak about women and fiction what has that got to do with a room of oneÂ’s own?Â”(3). This questi on and its significant physical positioning at the beginning of the work succeeds in undermining the authority of the lecturer and alludes to WoolfÂ’s own refusal to speak from a position of power. Furthermore, the statement Â“deconstructs the lecture as a form... and invents human intercourse on a model of female discourse as a conversation among equalsÂ” (Marcus, 145-6). Immediately, the reader notes that W oolf herself is present Â– she has adopted that critical Â“speaking subjectÂ” pos ition. At the very onset of th is academic lecture Â– the very height of Woolfian patriarchal authority! Â– Woolf breaks its form/ality by referring directly to herself as Â“I.Â” The diary is an excellent genre select ion for the woman online publisher. As Woolf notes of the corpus of womenÂ’s literat ure in the nineteenth century, Â“But why, I could not help asking, as I ran my eyes over them, were they, with very few exceptions, all novels?Â”(822). The novel becomes, for Wool f, a faade: Â“If one shuts oneÂ’s eyes and thinks of the novel as a whole, it would seem to be a creation owning a certain lookingglass likeness to life, though of course with simplifications and distortions innumerableÂ” (823). The reason for this, she contends, is th at these nineteenth century novelists were not permitted to write in private; they were fo rced to write quickly, furtively at desks in
77 living rooms or parlors, stealing time when they could, and always hiding the manuscript away from the prying eyes of the man of th e house, the children, or even the domestics. The diary format also fulfills another demand of WoolfÂ’s: the resistant, subversive charge for an Â“elaborate study of the psyc hology of women by a womanÂ” (825). Every woman who takes the time to develop a hom epage and bring her thoughts to life is writing yet another chapter, no matter how sma ll, in the largest, most comprehensive journal of Â“female psychology,Â” a Â“disciplineÂ” which, by it s very nature, can only be alluded to, never codified. Â“The book has somehow to be adapted to the body,Â” she writes, Â“and at a venture one would say that womenÂ’s books should be sh orter, more concentrated than those of men, and framed so that they do not need long hours of steady and uninterrupted work. For interruptions there will always beÂ” (825). The diary entry certainly satisfies the criteria of Â“shorter and concen tratedÂ”: it can be an exercise in brevity or an extended tumble of thoughts. The diary entry becomes the ideal form at for a woman conveying her selves through her Self Â– and vice versa. Strong women characters that function as di arists of a sort offer social and literary critique as they articulate WoolfÂ’s argument s. The narrator and her multiple Â“IÂ” speakingsubjects Â– Mary Beton, Mary Carmichael, Anonymous, ShakespeareÂ’s imagined Sister Â– write about their daily lives in the contex t of being women in their own historical moments. WoolfÂ’s use of "Mary" is itself a signifier for the common woman, a multiple, universalizing persona which suggests that a self is not an entity on its own right but exists only in relationship/s with others as a plural phenomenon which uses multiple voices to constitute meaning.
78 WoolfÂ’s autobiographical projects confront essentially male traditions of reading and writing, and stress language as Â‘a princi ple of separation and divisionÂ’ through which a womanÂ’s self or identity can begin to be constructed and decentered (Benstock, 29). Her practice of personal criticism is a pushi ng away of the objectiv e, androcentric, and unified scholarly discourse for a more embodied form of feminist theorization. A Room of OneÂ’s Own resists male assumptions and prescr iptions and leads Woolf into a fuller understanding of her sexual difference: Â“a woman writing thinks back through her motherÂ” ( Room 69). WoolfÂ’s argument is weakened only in tw o places: she reflects woman in relation to man, and she acknowledges the binary opposition between men and women. "And I began thinking of all those great men who Â… shown what can only be described as some need of and dependence upon certain persons of the opposite sex...What they got, it is obvious, was something that their own se x was unable to supply...to define it further...some renewal of creative power which is in the gift of only the opposite sex to bestowÂ” ( Room 72). This passage implies that women have al ways been the source of strength and inspiration for the writing man. In her atte mpt to contextualize women in the active creative process, Woolf inadvert ently succeeds in defining women in terms of men: the creative worth of a woman lies in her ability to help a man produce text. In doing so, Woolf has unfortunately restricted women as literary waitresses, serving literate men inspiration in perpetuity. "He would open the door...and find her...with a piece of embroidery on her knee,Â” writes Woolf, Â“Â…and the sight of her creating in a different medium from his own would
79 so quicken his creative power that insensibly his sterile mind would begin to plot again, and he would find the phrase or the scene wh ich was lacking when he put on his hat to visitÂ” ( Room 72). This passage also appears to demonstrate womanÂ’s enormously important role in the creation of fiction, her creative worth, but closer examination reveals that the Â“roleÂ” is completely passive. Woman exists merely to prod man to create; she has but to sit and embroider in order to whet the creative juices of the male author. She offers no advice, no suggestio ns, no critiques. She merely is Woolf also pays homage to ColeridgeÂ’s demand for an Â“androgynous mind,Â” a section in which she acknowledges the binary opposition of men/women, and encourages her listeners to attempt to negate the dial ectic by equally using the Â“maleÂ” and Â‘femaleÂ” halves of the brain. This in sistence comes shortly after sh e argues in favor of a style specific to women: Â“It would be a thousand pities if women wr ote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, cons idering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we mana ge with one only? O ught not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities?Â” (73). Women must maintain the artistic integrity to "write as women write, not as men write" (74-75). Woolf does call for a womenÂ’s sentence (76-77), a necessary element of successful womenÂ’s writing, and something that DuPlessis fleshes out considerably in her critical work.
80 Chapter Seven: Dimensionality and Texture "Postmodern criticism,Â” writes Humm, Â“is marked most of all by self-reflexivity by the interweaving of autobiog raphy and theory. Rachel Blau DuPlessis is a spectacular exponent of this postmodern technique. In her essays DuPlessis makes daring combinations of her poetry and extracts fr om her daily diary together with literary criticism, history and psychoanalysis" ( 162). Immediately, DuPlessis emerges as a postmodern feminist. Aside from her visibl e involvement and explicit alignment with feminisms (e.g., her works entitled, among others The Feminist Memoir Project: Voices of WomenÂ’s Liberation and The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist Practice ), her writerly ideologies mark her as a postmodern femini st. Her assertion of a new linguistic for women; her insistence that women actively subvert dominant paradigms Â– i.e., reject Grand Narratives Â–; her emphasis of process-ove r-product: all of thes e are central tenets of postmodernism. DuPlessisÂ’ writings create space for ot her women writers by mapping the margins of the ideologically patriarchal literary "t radition,Â” and exploring how a "she" might find and write into/around/above ( palimpsest ) those spaces. In postmodern fashion, she complicates notions of enclosed identity and th e language that is used to describe it by exploring the problems with using a language formed by Â— and continually re-forming Â— hierarchical binaries. She argues, quite convincingly in Â“Other howÂ” for another kind of textual space through which and one to which a plethora of Â‘polygynousÂ’ practices
81 teem as a plausible practice of womenÂ’s writing ( Guitar 31). In fact, The Pink Guitar illustrates the very ways in which gender roles and inter/relations are embedded within socially and linguistically codi fied signifiers, and how femi nists writing practice/s must disrupt these Â“standardsÂ” on multiple levels, in multiple ways. In order to negotiate these cultural, social, and linguistic paradigms that attempt to define and confine women within limiting iden tities and roles, the n, women must create autobiographies. These self-representationa l narratives symbolize a fluidity of subjectivity and the complex nature of the self's deand reconstruction within/against/despite social and symbolic (O)rders. DuPlessis asserts that "any social convention is like a 'script,' which suggest s sequences of action and response, the meaning we give these, and ways of or ganizing experience by choices, emphases, priorities. The term offers to social analysis what 'ideology' offers to cultural analysis: 'a generic term for the processes by which meaning is produced, challenged, reproduced, transformed'" ( Writing 2). Both women and feminists who partic ipate in the entrepreneurship of autobiography are also part icipating in a simultaneous, parallel act of cultural deconstruction so that reconstr uction of the self may take pl ace. In any textual context, there is an inherent relian ce on verbal construct. Thus, as women deand reconstruct themselves and their Selves through self-repr esentational narrative, reforming and reforming linguistic, social, and cultural signifi ers of women's identities, these acts become subversions of significance. Through the very acts of re-presenting and representing women as subjects and speaking subjects women's autobiographi es resist external
82 authoritative versions of themselves even as they allow their authors access to selfrepresentation, to authorship, to authority and to agency. The two phrases perhaps best associat ed with DuPlessis are Â“breaking the sentenceÂ” and Â“breaking the sequence.Â” Breakin g the sentence, she explains, Â“is a way of rupturing language and tradition sufficiently to invite a female slant, emphasis, or approachÂ” ( Writing 32). Just as breaking the sentence involves an active process on the writerÂ’s part, so does breaking the sequence en tail rigorous effort: Â“Br eaking the sequence,Â” writes DuPlessis, Â“is a rupture of habits in narrative order, that expected story told when Â‘love was the only interpreterÂ’ of womenÂ’s textual livesÂ” ( Writing 34). While menÂ’s diaries generally center on a chronicle of events, of day-to-day happenings, all of which focus on a single goal, most womenÂ’s journals appear to be layered, each entry a complex network of thought s, feelings, ideas and events which all move in, out, and around one another themati cally, contextually, and, above all, Â“Selfishly.Â” These two narrative techniques, notes DuPlessis, Â“take basic elements of female identity Â… and realign their componentsÂ” ( Writing 35). Diary-writing, a truly Â“traditionalÂ” womenÂ’s ge nre, becomes a flag of pride on the gender battlefield when a woman takes DuPlessisÂ’ lite rary style suggestions and writes strictly in her own style, demonstrating characteristic s associated strongly with womenÂ’s writing. Arguably, just as each diary entry becomes part of that corpus of Â“womenÂ’s psychology,Â” written online by and for women, so does each di ary entry help to create a single entity called Â“woman,Â” as Â“multiple individual, Â“ or Â“group protagonist,Â” to borrow terms from DuPlessis. If this assertion holds true, then the logical extension is as follows, taken
83 directly from DuPlessis: Â“t he choral [or communal] prot agonist makes the group, not the individual, the central characterÂ” ( Writing 163). Each womanÂ’s writing, then, becomes a voice in the polyphony, a different color of woman-ink in the formulation of the e-criture feminine The multiple voice becomes a narrativ e center itself, strongly decrying the notion that Â‘Love, Combat, or DangerÂ” (all Â… requiring men) might well remain necessary for interesting literatureÂ” ( Writing 181). `"It was not only the gender group, women, but several ideas redefini ng that 'group' that gave particular joy and interest to my writing career, writes DuPlessis: What I found galvanic, beyond immediate female bonding felt intensely, and still very palpable to me, (was) the idea of ge nder as a critical and compelling element of culture. Â… I have felt that feminist re-vision would necessitate the multiple, forceful, and polyvocal invention of a co mpletely new culture, and the critical destabilizing of the old. Such a critique of cultural representations and institutions would open all assumptions about image, myth, narrative, character, form, language, syntax, topoi and would destabi lize the use that culture has made of female figures, and other parallel figure s. . (Literature Resource Center). The Â“collective womanÂ” works diligently to be heard, individual by individual. DuPlessis notes that Â“the use of a collec tive protagonist may imply that problems or issues that we see as indivi dually based are in fact soci al in cause and in cureÂ” ( Writing 179). So, then, do thousands, hundreds of thous ands of women writing online begin to crate their own Â“mistress narrative,Â” exposing no t problems, but possibi lities, intents, and, above all, hope. DuPlessis argues that there is an appeal to the voice of each individual woman, which speaks of itself as subject as non-hierarchic, breaking hierarchical
84 structures, making an even display of el ements over the surface with no climatic movement. Each woman, a single cell in this onlin e organism, uses the diary medium in exactly the way DuPlessis suggests: defiantly, strongly rejecting narrative conventions of linearity and chronology. She successfully br eaks both the sentence and the sequence. This dissertation seeks to parse and demons trate visible ways in which women achieve this shattering of convention. It is true that diaries are posted with a time-stamp, visible or not; what is not a given is that the diary chronicles specific even ts in time. In this act alone, the sequence is broken. And certainly in larger context, the di ary allows the woman au thor to Â“critique Â… narrative, restructuring its orders and priorities precisely by at tention to specific issues of female identity and its characteristic oscillationsÂ” ( Writing x). Breaking the sentence means, in a literal sense, throwing off the shackles of standard sentence structure, of prosaic restraint: "To break the sentence," writes DuPlessis, Â“rejects not grammar especiall y, but rhythm, pace, flow, expression: the structuring of the female voice by the male voice, female tone and manner by male expectations, female writing by male emphasi s, female writing by existing conventions of genderÂ—in short, any way in which domi nant structures shape muted ones.Â” ( Writing 32). In order to truly break the sentence, the woman writer must extricate herself from stylistic and structural conve ntion, and foster her own entir ely new voice. She must do so fearlessly, deliberately, and she must do so with the knowledge that making such a linguistic stand will have one of two effects: either she will be lauded as a champion of
85 women, exemplifying bold and courageous expressionism, or she will be shunned, ridiculed, made more of a pariah because of her decision to be herS elf. DuPlessis believes there is a contradiction "between the desire to please, making woma n an object, and the desire to reveal, making her a subject." Her poi nt is substantiated; this contradiction is resolved by the use of the diary "as (both) form and process" ( Writing 280). In order to break the sentence, the woman author needs to accept and internalize her status as Other, and allow that knowledge to inform her prose: the womanÂ’s sentence is not a biological imperative, then, but a Â“cu ltural fearlessness Â… a dissent from, a selfconscious marking of, dominant statement Â… ( it is a) writing unafr aid of gender as an issue, undeferential of male judgment Â… Â“ ( Writing 33). Without the acceptance of her marginalization, DuPlessis asse rts, a womanÂ’s sentence will be unable to be formed. Breaking the sequence, too, demands an overt rejection of the traditional narrative form. DuPlessis writes that it not enough for a woman to rearrange standard linear storytelling; the woman writer is compelled to take her work Â“from the present into the future, (so) social or character developmen t can no longer be felt as complete or our space as readers perceive (to be) untrammeledÂ” ( Writing 178). Diary writing, then, accomplishes this; by focusing on the abstract Â“worldÂ” of emotions and themes rather than the calendar-strict timelines of events, the woman diary-writer al lows her characters (herself, her friends, her partner/ s) to exist on the pages (or th e screen!) in a constant state of flux, a steady forward movement without e nd, and certainly, with abrupt and random starting points, a priori existence. Within the diary, too, the sequence is broke n. At its very basic level, the diary format does not require the use of FreytagÂ’s pyramid for dramatic structure, standard
86 grammar, or any of the elements of any traditional narrative format. When the author demands control over her own literary des tiny, subverting dominant narrative paradigms for ones of her own choosing, certainly she has Â“sever(ed) dominant authority and ideology.Â” The online autobiography, in addition to not forcing restrictions on content, also imposes no restrictions on form, structure, or navigation. The read er might start on one entry Â– not necessarily the first, if s/he navigates from a ba r of archived entries! and could conceivably Â“jumpÂ” to an entirely different page via hyperlinks. The online autobiography with its promise of open-endedness offers flui dity, a lack of linearity, a lack of structured Â“go here now.Â” The diary begins in medias res and ends (or does not end!), with question marks, in fact hearkening back to WoolfÂ’s A Room of OneÂ’s Own which itself begins with a question, the first word of which is Â“But.Â” As DuPlessis notes, the use of the nonbeginning and non-ending Â“rais(es) the issue of the future (in) another tactic for writing beyond the endingÂ” (178). The future here is implied; it is a Â‘barbaric yawp,Â’ a timid whisper, a desperate scream. Whatever th e style of the voice, the woman publisher on the Internet has joined with her sister publis hers in a very choir of Selves, straining individually and collectively to pull the Â“subtex ts and repressed discour sesÂ” into the light of the LED, these boundaryless women in bound aryless space, smashing standards and conventions, the composers of achingly beauti ful music set to the clicking keys of a hundred thousand keyboards, creating and uncrea ting Â– itself a paradox ical creative act, the act of creating deconstruction Â– as each author chooses for herself.
87 Chapter Eight: An Infinite Number of Inks Jakob Nielsen is a pioneer of Web usabil ity and a leader in the discipline of human factors, Â“that field i nvolving research into human ps ychological, social, physical, and biological characteristics, maintaining the information obtained from that research, and working to apply that information with respect to the design, operation or use of products or systems for optimizing human performance, health, safety, and or habitabilityÂ” (http://www.cdc.gov) Nielsen argues in favor of and against certain design principles which can Â“make or breakÂ” a Web s ite. However, these philosophies defy what is the basic idea of homepage design: Â“anything goes.Â” Despite the preponderance of Web design guides available in /on a variety of media, there simply is no set Â‘wayÂ’ to make a homepage. A user can implement any number of color combinations, font styles and sizes, number and type of graphics, animations, audio, wallpaper, backgrounds, li nks, and the list goes on. If one reads outside of the essentialist/biol ogical implications of the follo wing, and accepts the idea as an allegory for opportunity, it is therefore possible, metaphorically and literally, to write in white ink as Cixous suggests: Â“There is always within [every woman] a little of that good motherÂ’s milk. She writes in white i nk.Â” The concept of custom design, of individual, independent creation is itself an act of writing, of inscribing oneself in this new medium.
88 Cixous has long been a proponent of life-wr iting. She demands writing that resists categorization; such is the onl y writing that can adequately (if not accurately) reflect the ever-unfolding, ever-evolving na ture of living. In fact, Cixous herself delves specifically into her life and that of her family in her work Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing In Â“Albums and legends,Â” the final section of th e text, Cixous attempts to unearth the roots of her own writerly desires within the scope of her family genealogy. The image of the Â“roomÂ” is present in CixousÂ’ work, perhaps as a conscious homage to Woolf. In Â“Medusa,Â” Cixous writes of Cixous speaks of the feminine repression resulting from phallo(go)centric st ructures inherent in the discourse of Western culture. The repression, for Cixous, takes the metaphorical form of a dark, unexplored room, representative of womenÂ’ s language and sexuality, two areas women fear to explore as a result of both male warnings and domina nce. Cixous explains that if women will question their fears, if they w ill turn on a light, women will discover that there is nothing to be frightened or intimidat ed by. Finally, women will realize that all of these fears and alleged Â“shortcomingsÂ” are no t essential or inherent, but have been developed and based on images, standards, a nd binaries created by men and reinforced by language. Women, says Cixous, must understand that the obstacles they perceive as obstructions to their advancement can, in f act, be conquered. However, to overcome these obstacles, women must allow themselves to speak with and through their bodies (Â“MedusaÂ” 315). Although her work is inspired by the ps ychoanalytic precepts of Lacan, Cixous herself demonstrates many of the attributes of postmodernism; in fact, her 1975 essay Â“The Laugh of the MedusaÂ” argu ably marks a turning point for Cixous at which she
89 began to identify herself with the postmodern movement. This rejection of the Symbolic Order, particularly marks Cixous as a postm odern feminist (Tong 193). CixousÂ’ feminist leanings are evident in her rejection of pha llo(go)centrism, her rejection of male sexual superiority over women, her rejection of the male-as-authority. Cixous argues that the structure of language itself is phallogocen tric, with stable meaning anchored and guaranteed by the phallus. Therefore, anyone who uses language must take up a position as 'male' within this struct ure, a paradigm that excludes womenÂ’s bodies. Cixous calls for a deconstruction of the phallogocentric syst em and argues for new approaches to the relationship between womenÂ’s bodies and langua ge. Specifically, in order to escape the discourse of mastery, Cixous believes women must begin to 'write the body.' To write with/one's body is a way to overcome the hi erarchical bonds that repress and imprison women, and to allow these women to discover their own voice/s. In Â“Medusa,Â” Cixous uses a combination of psychoanalysis and deconstruction to criticize the very nature of writing. According to Cixous, wr iting by men is filled with binary oppositions, but a woman's writing should be scribbling, jottings-down, interrupted by life's demands. She asserts that the conscious, deliberate development of this kind of writing will change the rules th at currently govern language and ultimately the thinking processes an d the structure of so ciety (Â“MedusaÂ” 316). CixousÂ’ criture feminine itself a discursive theory, is impossible to theorize. This practice of "writing from and of the body" is "feminine" in two senses. Not only is this type of writing is potentially available to both sexes, but also the new relations between the subject and "other can be negotiated once the "feminine" subject position refuses fear and assimilation of the other's difference. This way of writing cannot claim
90 unmediated access to the body; the physical body is figured metaphorically and antinaturalistically to create fictions of the self. Cixous, fascinated with LacanÂ’s suggesti on that a relationship exists between gender and language or gender and writing, o ffers a twofold purpose for Â“MedusaÂ”: Â“to break up and destroy, and to foresee and projec t.Â” She wants to destroy (or perhaps just deconstruct) the phallogocentric system Lacan describes, and to offer her own strategies for Â“a new kind of relation between fema le bodies and languageÂ” (Â“MedusaÂ” 309). Deeply rooted in the psychoanalytic theori es of Freud and Lacan, Cixous strives to explain her new formulations in the language of these fore thinkers, appropriating and shattering their own termi nology (e.g. coining the portm anteau Â“phallogocentricÂ”). In addition to psychoanalysis, Cixous owes a great debt to semiotic theory, since she relies heavily on the concepts of the sign, the signifier, and the signified. A sign, according to de Saussure, is merely a colle ction of letters, a jumble of pictorial representations of sounds. He argues that sin ce Â“the linguistic sign is arbitrary,Â” things and concepts themselves are inherently meani ngless. Thus, the manifestation of the thing or the concept Â– apple, banjo, happiness, pur ple Â– becomes a sign onl y after the thing has been invested with meaning. De Saussure defined the sign as the by-product of the signifier and the signified The 'signifier' ( signifiant ) is the form which the sign takes; the 'signified' ( signifi ) is the concept it represents. I must also address the notion of woman as Â“excess,Â” as the binary opposite of man. Language of the Symbolic Order attempts to contain and restrict women because womenÂ’s lack is so terrifying. Women are Â“excessÂ” because women are simply unable to be contained within the Symbolic Order. This inability to contain, then, brings with it the
91 power for potential subversion and resistance, for inscribing in womenÂ’s Â“own wordsÂ” Â– the experiences of writing-as-women, the criture feminine When Cixous asserts that "woman must write herself," and that "woman must write woman," she means both that women must write themselves, tell their own stories and that Â“Â’womanÂ’ as signifier must have a (new ) way to be connected to the signifier Â‘I,Â’ to write the signifier of selfhood/subjecthood o ffered within the Sym bolic orderÂ” (Klages http://www.colorado.edu). The directive to Â“write the bodyÂ” points toward one of the major themes of CixousÂ’ writing: that the e ssence, strength, intelligence, and beauty of woman is inseparable from her body, allowing the c oncept of women-as-l ack/ing to be so successfully destructiv e and repressive. For Cixous, the body and the text are companion vehicles for reflection and reflex ivity. It is from this perspec tive that Cixous discusses the ability of women and multiplicities. CixousÂ’ complex notion of the multiple identity of woman is grounded in the suggestion that woman, because of her womb, in every aspect of her physical and mental selves, has the potential to be herself as well as another. This status is illustrated in the ways in which a woman can choose to give: A woman can choose to give life to give love, to get love which gives life to he r. However, a womanÂ’s giving is not an ablation a loss of any kind. A womanÂ’s giving is always a re-creating of herself Â– and another who is not her: the "other." A woman also has the ability to "know" the "other," because she can and, for some, does hold the "other" inside of her. Fi rst, woman holds the potential for creating life in the ovum contained w ithin her. Second, she can hold the developing fetus within
92 her she is herself and "other" at the same time. As Cixous puts it, "There is hidden and always ready in woman the source; the locus for the other. Â… (the child that she was, that she is, that she makes, remakes, undoes, ther e at the point where, the same, she others herself)" (Â“MedusaÂ” 313 ). Because woman can know herself and the Â“otherÂ” simultaneously, she is also capable of multiplicities of meaning. Therefore, Cixous does not believe that there is, or will be, a single womenÂ’s discourse. Rather she says, "there will be thousands of different kinds of feminine words" (Â“MedusaÂ” 317). This multiplicity of language will not separate women from the general disc ourse, but will add multiple occasions and situations for women to partic ipate while retaining an ability to utilize what Cixous calls "the code for general communication" (ibid). Perhaps CixousÂ’ most compelling argument is her assertion that a woman must move away from established forms of language in order to truly wr ite herself; how can one truly express herself in a language not he r own? Â“[W]riting,Â” she cries, Â“is precisely the very possibility of change the space that can serve as a springboard for subversive thought, the precursory movement of a transformation of soci al and cultural structuresÂ” (Â“MedusaÂ” 311). Equally striking is CixousÂ’ assertion that Â“(womenÂ’s writing) will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system; it does, and will take place in areas other than those subordinated to philos ophico-theoretical domination. It will be conceived of only by subjects who are breakers of automatisms, by peripheral figures that no authority can ever subjugate.Â” Again CixousÂ’ prefiguring of the new technological medium is startling. Where be tter than the In ternet, itself a medium with only periphery,
93 with no authority figures, for a woman to reve al herself? Where better than in a medium which has no rules, no governance? Where bette r than in a medium that allows a woman to both define herself from her body even as she distances hersel f from her sexualized, commodifed being? Instead of forgetting or deferring the body in an engagement with technology, Tenhaff calls for a radical reconstruction of technology saying that it is well within the scope of women Â“to develop images and trope s that are body-based in a way that open up an affirmative space for the feminine in elec tronic media practicesÂ” (219). Here, again, one is reminded of HarawayÂ’s cyborg. The t hought of womenÂ’s Â“excessÂ” successfully merged with controlled technol ogy is terrifying to those who occupy the Symbolic Order. While Â“a manÂ” must separate and rise above nature and artifice to become lord and master of all he surveys, women can use langua ge to reframe this separation (i.e. LacanÂ’s split from the mother and entrance into the Symbolic Order) and be with/in rather than alone as Self. Women have so much potential for movement, thanks to this fluidity, this slipperiness; women can move between, within, and through, while men can only struggle to ascend. Women can, and perhaps should, remember the body, speak through the body, in defining and redefini ng their social identity. It is, of course, possible for women to re-define themselves outside of traditional categories, particularly using the space of computer mediated communication. Kristeva, a postmodernist in the school of French feminism and a contemporary of CixousÂ’, identifies a language that pushe s the boundaries of syntax and logic and argues that they are actually Â“poetic language.Â” She identifi es this Â“poetic languageÂ” as being inherently female because of its c onnection with the semiotic, with signs and
94 symbols. This concept of the semiotic relies heavily on the idea of the pool of polyvocal chaos, the multivoiced alinguistic system of communication that existed before humans learned to speak. This iteration of Â“theÂ” se miotic is a collection of utterances and tonalities that have no referents, sc ores and scores of unbridled images. Only LacanÂ’s preverbal child can be fully embedded in the semiotic. From preverbality, however, each infant enters the Symbolic, in which verbalizations use syntax, logic, categories. Poetic language refers to the semiotic; it attempts to (re)capture those rhythms, that preverbal st ate. Kristeva states that the semiotic is "[i]ndifferent to language, enigmatic and feminine, this space underlying the written is rhythmic, unfettered, irreducible to its intelligible verb al translation; it is musical, anterior to judgment, but restrained by a single guarantee: syntax." (Â“PoeticÂ” 29) According to Kristeva, this semiotic is inherently feminine: "many women . complain that they experience language as something secondary, cold, foreign to their lives. To their passion. To their suffering. To their desire. As if language were a foreign body. And when they say this we are often given the impression that what they question is language as a logical exercise" (Â“QuestionÂ” 131). Women need to express themselves in a nonlinear way that will explode the structures of symbolic. However, the means of re-writing self that are currently available are simply tools (signs), tools being used by those already named 'women', always already belonging to the category 'women'. A woman thinking th rough/with her body, speaking, performing her self through her bod y, confronts a set of social m eanings already assigned to the feminine and to the body. As Tenhaff notes, the thrill of leaving behind the body may not
95 be a challenge for women, for whom the sexed body has not uniformly offered security or protection. In Â“Medusa,Â” Cixous states that Â“ . there has not yet been any writing that inscribes femininity; . nearly the enti re history of writing is confounded with the history of reason" (311). CixousÂ’ criture feminine is neither linear nor objectified. It is historicized and multiple, holding within it th e matrix of the many selves of the womenwriter, her body. It "will be c onceived of only . peripheral figures that no authority can ever subjugate" (312). Cixous postulates a writing from the body that pushes past boundaries of syntax and patriarchal content. Bu t this writing, she says, has been rarely committed to paper. This is why the home page becomes such a critical medium for womenÂ’s selfexpression. Cixous demands a paradoxical writing from the body, even as the body is left behind, de-commodified. On the Internet, this paradox is achievable, even necessary for the creation of autobiography. It is within these very personal virtua l spaces that such changes are being made daily. Women are claiming cyberspace, a nd are expropriating th eir own individual stories. They are writing themselves. The tria d of beliefs expressed by Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous, each derivative from her predece ssor, come together in an incredible coalescence of ideology, one which manages to both predict and inform the blossoming movement of women writing themselves on the Internet.
96 Chapter Nine: The Theory in Progress The bulk of this dissertation has focused on finding support for the emerging online discursive tradition, and putting forth the critical and ideological premises that support such a formation. Without critical anal ysis of actual texts, however, the idea of ecriture feminine exists only in a scholarly vacuum. Only with proof of practical application of these ideologies, de liberate or not, can the idea of e-criture feminine be presented as viable, a living phenomenon. I offer several illustrations of diary entries that fulfill the tenets of style, space, and medium. However, these entries by no mean s constitute the only available proof or confirmation of my suppositions; rather, the entries I selected are to serve as excellent representations of the concepts outlined in this work. I w ould encourage readers to pursue further diary reading, and allow these indepe ndent readings to further reinforce the soundness of the assertions I have made. In order to demonstrate the validity of my claims and show a nexus of the ideologies advocated in this dissertation, I n eeded to select at ra ndom and read through a representative collect ion of current, ongoing diaries of se lf-identified woman writers. To that end, I relied quite heavily on Diar yland.com, arguably the most popular (and populated!) purely diary site on th e Internet (LiveJournal.com boasts the most users, but it is not a pure diary site, since it co mbines blogging into its format).
97 According to e-mailed communicati on between Â“SammyÂ” (Bowen), the owner/administrator of Diaryla nd.com, and myself, st atistics show that the site has had a user base of up to 1.36 million users. As of March 2003, Diaryland.com has 850,000 registered users, with 400,000 of them consider ed Â“active postersÂ” (http://dijest.com). Since selecting a gender is a requirem ent for establishing an account with Diaryland.com, Â“SammyÂ” was al so able to provide me with a demographic breakdown by gender: 70% of Diaryland.com users are female 30% are male (Bowen). These statistics far exceed the results provided in a r ecent white paper by Perseus Development Corporation, a survey that substantiates th e gender breakdown with its own demographic research. The Perseus survey analyzed the estimated 4.12 million sites that have been created on blog-hosting services, such as Bl og-City, BlogSpot, Diar yland, LiveJournal, Pitas, TypePad, Weblogger and Xanga (http://cy beratlas.Internet.com). According to the Perseus study, located at http://www.perseu s.com/blogsurvey/thebloggingiceberg.html, the breakdown of blog-builder s by gender is as follows: Note that because there is no way of va lidating someoneÂ’s selected gender, these numbers must be viewed with some degree of skepticism, but can be, for the most part, taken to represent simply a majority population self-identified as women Fluidity of gender construction does allow for alternate pe rformances of gender; therefore, it is reasonable to accept the statistical Â“tru thÂ” of a majority population of women.
98 In my selection of diarists, my primary crit erion was, of course, that the author be self-identified as a woman. I opted against using age as a determining factor. Rather, I allowed the arbitrary selecti on of diaries to include comp lementary arbitrary ages. As such, I found myself reading diaries by young gi rls, teenagers, adult women, and, in one case, a grandmother. The gender of the di ary authors was determined by usernames, graphical representations (if present), and th e content of the entries (e.g., reference to Â“my husbandÂ” resulted in a Â“womanÂ” gender cla ssification). I determined the age of each author by specific information provided by the au thors (e.g., in profiles) or inferred from the content of the diary entr ies (e.g., reference to attend ing high school resulted in a Â“teenÂ” age classification). The diaries I read were written by women from all over the world, ranging in age from 13 or 14 to 27 and well beyond, as ascert ained many times by context (as in that of the case of the woman who does not reveal her age but offers anecdotes about her children and grandchildren). Several of the diar ists did not identify an age, but it might be possible to assess individual ages based on context clues provide d in the content. Carallyne, for example, whose age is not specif ied in her profile, writes in an entry dated January 25, 2004 (all non-standard English th e authorÂ’s): Â“i want a man.. you know. [can you call a 20 year old a man an yway? i don't know, but i rather not say i want a "boy".] In a later entry, this one dated Februa ry 04, 2004 (all non-standard English the authorÂ’s): Â“soooo if anyone wants to know wh at i do at college... i watch bad reality tv shows, eat junk food, hang out with friends, and sleep crazy hours. but i would like to believe that i do some work also. last night i slept one single solitary hour because i wrote
99 a 9 page paper for a senior level psych cla ss.Â” These cues, among others, can provide an age context for the writer, despite her not having offered the information directly. As indicated in the Methodology section, I selected thirty (30) diaries by selfidentified women authors at random from Di aryland.comÂ’s alphabetical search feature (steps for selection outlined in chapter two; user names and URLs attached in Appendix One). I read these diaries, entry by entry, and tried to tease out the certain similarities I had theorized existed among them. For each category Â– space, style, and medium Â– I selected five (5) diaries which I felt best exemplified the ideals espoused by the attendant theorist (Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous). Certainly, I could have made a case fo r every diary as reflecting the ideology of each critic, but I decided that a showcase of the most striking diaries would be the best approach. From each diary, then, I chose t hose entries that, again, best reflected the critical ideals. I would encourage the reader to peruse other diaries at her leisure; in addition to reading these diaries for pleasur e, reading them in the context of this developing discursive tradition lends the colle ction an air of academic dignity and a sense of importance that otherwise might have sadly gone unnoticed. Because of the intensely personal nature of each of these diaries, I felt it was important to include quotations from these di arists in this dissertation. Not only do these quotations help to substantiate the thesis I am proposing in th is work, but they also offer insight as to the depth and bread th of material that these diar ists share with their readers. Compelling as these diaries are, I am sure that the inclusion of these quotations will only underscore the legitimacy of this new online discursive tradition.
100 I examined the general user interface ( GUI) of each page; I also read at least twenty-five entries archived in each diary. Th e goal of this process was to critically assess both the design and the c ontent of these diaries as refl ecting the ideals of womenÂ’s online writing posited by this dissertation, exam ined through the lenses of space, style, and medium. Space Â“How private is my diary?Â” reads one of the inquiries on the Diaryland.com Frequently Asked Questions page (http://dia ryland.com). Â“If you don't list your diary in the member's (sic) area,Â” r eads the answer, Â“then only pe ople who know your username can get to it. To be extra safe though, you can add password protection to it, and then only give passwords to get in to your friends, so only they'll be able to read it!Â” WoolfÂ’s Â“roomÂ’ is nowhere better metaphor ically evidenced than in the online diary. Not only is this format a (theoretically) private space in which a woman can create her autobiography and engage her different selv es, but the diary also affords its author autonomy of access. An author can open the de sign space or template of her diary at any time. She is not constrained by anything other than those circumstances that prevent her from writing as a function of her daily lif e. As Woolf herself argues throughout the treatise, the writer of Â“incandescent geniusÂ” rises be yond his or her petty gripes and attains a heightened, objective relationship with reality; the subject is the world, not the writer's self. Here, in these diaries, women wr iters manage to engage both world and self, creating the paradox of the Co leridgean Â“androgynous mind,Â” a ll the while doing so in a women-format and, ultimately, in a women-voice.
101 Woolf herself likened the diary has to a Â“deep old desk or capacious hold-all.Â” This comparison points to the expansiveness of this autobiographical form, one that readily embraces other autobiographical form s: the photo album, letters, the travelogue. The repurposing of the diary to/on the Web ha s irreversibly collapsed the notion of the personal diary as private and cl osed (WoolfÂ’s deep old desk), even as the expansiveness of the diary retains its offline integrity. Most online diarists compartmentalize their sites into various sections (Ab out Me, Friends, Links, Pictur es), thereby allowing the autobiographical self to spread out discontinuously acr oss a broad narratological landscape (Â“The Online DiaryÂ…,Â” http://www.genus.lu.se). Because material circumstances limited women's lives and achievements, posits Woof, there had been few great women in hist ory. Thanks to the lack of education made available to women, and the fact that women were then not permitted to be responsible for fiscal matters, these women necessarily le d lives that were less publicly significant than those of men. Woolf argues that until th ese material limitations can be overcome, women will continue to demonstrate less public achievement than will men. This materialist thesis implicitly contests the then-common essentialist notions that women's inferior social status was but a natural out come of biological in feriority. While most people now accept the materialist position, in Wo olf s time, such arguments still had to be put forward with conviction and force. According to Woolf, essentialism is by no means a factor in the successful development of the creative mind. Rather, she argues, creativity depends on certain concrete factors, the absence of which ha s hindered women writers over the centuries. The room guarantees freedom of space, bot h literal and metaphorical, in which the
102 woman can work. A lock on the door allows the woman to control her solitude and her company. Alwayslolita, a twentysomething diarist, had, at some point, taken advantage of the privacy aspect of Diaryland.com to cl ose off her diary. She writes on January 12, 2004: okay i'm back now. i don't even remember the last thing i wrote. there's one entry that is still up that is causing me to k eep my diary locked. i might find it before i finish typing this up. in which case you' ll be looking at my newly opened diary. i'm just going to start at the beginning and work my way down. i'm pretty sure that it's sometime in may of 2001. i'm almost positive of it. then i think i've captured them all. if not. oh well. i'm tired of caring what he thinks of me. tho i do care. fuck fuck fuck fuck. The authors on Diaryland.com have complete control over when they write Â– and complete control over the time at which the entry Â“goes live.Â” The writer is responsible for posting the entry to the server, making the work instantly readable to the public. She is free to create the entry at any time she likes, and has the freedom to close the room for any given amount of time before determining what to do with the entry. British diary writer Groovy-jo, for example, is able to let her readers know exciting news when it happens (all non-standard Englis h the authorÂ’s): Â“good god .. its just a very quick on [sic] .. i got a phone call just as i wa s leaving for manchester saying i could move that day if i wanted ... ARGH!! CLEARLY I COULDNT so im having to move fRIDAY afternoon .. panic on!Â” she writes in an entry dated Fe bruary 26, 2004. She then informs her readers
103 that she will be offline for a while, citing Â“obvious reasons,Â” and asks her readers to email her for further contact information. Twenty-three year old Fairybytch displays a banner on each screen of her diary that reads, Â“member of the bi-sexual diar yring.Â” She is also a proud member of the Â“Tattooed BettysÂ” Web ring, the Adam Sandler Fans Web ring, and the Faeries Web ring. Without even reading her diary, the casual surfer who happens upon her site is already privy to several telling bits of informati on about this young woman. Her diary, of course, is her space to share, and it is within her en tries that one is offered even more telling glimpses into her life and character. She writes about men on February 11, 2004, and her young insights reveal a pride in th e strength of her own gender: okay so has anyone else noticed that men are usually so big and tough and macho...they make you feel safe and warm a nd they love this job. until they get sick....men become babies when they ge t sick. it's so funny to see what they become when they get sick....then it's th e women who have to care for them and make them fee safe and warm and cater to all there needs which we do anyways but it's a bigger job when they ar e not feeling good. my goodness guys!!! This is by far not the most personal entr y she writes. On January 22, 2004, she opens up to her readers thusly: Â“so i have been dati ng the same guy for like 7 months. i love him sooo much. such a cutie. i suppose i will be le tting people read this so let me ask.... he wants a three some and i have no objections i don't think...what do you all think?Â” This titillating entry has no preface and only one follow-up, written on January 26, 2004: Â“plus i just joined a bi and lesbian group so hopefu lly i will meet someone nice in my area and matt and i can fufill some our fantasies and make a great new friend and companion.Â”
104 Following that entry, the concept of the threesome hangs in the ether, unaddressed; it is as if Fairybytch uses this entry as Â“baitÂ” to attract readers. She is clearly not merely mulling over the idea of a threesome, but is actively soli citing the opinions of others. This deliberate and provo cative teaser certainly illust rates the power of the online diary as the metaphorical Â“roomÂ” of the authorÂ’s own: this is quite literally an invitation to her readers to step inside the room, to engage with the author on her most personal terms. One part of that statement must be underscored: on the authorÂ’s terms The author controls the two-way communi cation here. She opens the dialogue, and she decides to whom she responds, to whom she does not res pond, and, of course, if she ever addresses the matter again with her readers. In A Room of OneÂ’s Own Woolf urges her readers to live and write on their own terms, to achieve the creative and personal independence so critical to writerly individuation. This entry by Fairybytch brings these tenets to light and concretizes them in an easily gras pable (and entertai ning!) fashion. Â“Ok,Â” writes diarist Eggsaucted, Â“so Â… I am pretty much addicted to diaryland Â…Â” Occasionally what these diarists reveal is worthy of soap-opera scripts, so convoluted in scope and tangled in plot that the reader is not only invited in, but compelled to stay. After a few entries, Eggsaucted reveals th at the man with whom she is involved is married: Â“Ok it is totally pathetic that we have to go to these extremes to see each other. But we're in love and for now we have to sneak around to see each other. Someday (hopefully sooner rather than la ter) that won't be the case. I guess that's what I get for falling for a married man. I never meant for or expected it to happen. It just did. And for the last 7 weeks I haven't been happier,Â” she writes on January 04, 2002.
105 Although Eggsaucted mentions the wife ( Â“evil KarenÂ”) several times, it is not until several weeks later that Eggsaucted fina lly stops focusing on the wonderful love she and Kevin have, and lets her readers know how much the situ ation bothers her: Â“Maybe, I had a terrific night with Kevin last night, but I find it totall y depressing that every night we have together ends with him going home to his wife,Â” she writes on January 22, 2002. The tone of the whole entry is melancholy and wistful; it is obvious to the reader that she is very much attached to Â“Kevin,Â” and want s nothing more than to be with him on a fulltime, public basis. What makes the situation that much more complicated for Eggsaucted is that she becomes pregnant with KevinÂ’s child. Although she never makes a specific announcement about the baby, she introduces her readers to the Â“impending arrivalÂ” on February 17, 2003, when she writes about hearing the fetal heartbeat for the first time. As a result of the pregnancy, Kevin even tually does leave his wife, but does not immediately move in with the (other) moth er of his child. Although Eggsaucted gushes about how happy she is with KevinÂ’s decision to leave his first family, she is incredibly calm Â– almost cavalier! Â– about the relationshi p developing between she and the ex-wife. KevinÂ’s ex-wife Karen makes contact on more than one occasion, and EggsauctedÂ’s reaction comes across to her reader s as rather laissez-faire: Karen now knows about me and the baby. She's moved on from calling me a whore and such to trying to make me feel guilty. Which won't work. She's now sent me a total of 3 emails. The last tw o told me nothing I didn't already know but I think they were meant to scare me, a nd make me feel guilty. One was mostly propaganda trying to show me what a great wife she is and how hard it is to take
106 care of Kevin's needs. The other message was all about her kids and all the problems they have and I think it was meant to scare me. Â… But I keep day dreaming about my responses, both nice and evil. The need to ascribe to WoolfÂ’s insistence on privacy is clearly evidenced in these exceedingly personal diaries. Although accessibl e by any reader with Internet access at any time, Eggsaucted and her sister-diarists re ly on the veil of anonymity as the bunker of seclusion. The complicated paradox of these pr ivate disclosures in such a public space do not at all refute WoolfÂ’s ideals; rather, the woman is imbued with even more control than she might have with a traditional pen-and-paper diary. The online diarist has the ability to hide herself behind aliases and nicknames in addition to having the power to turn on and off the Â“lockÂ” as she wishes. She creates he r own room with every entry, determining the level of privacy and content intimacy as her mood dictates, while the pen-and-paper diarist is locked into the conventions of the physical form, and must rely on hiding places, locks, and the honesty of others to keep her secrets. But these diarists do not only discuss re lationships, sex lives, and observations about men. Often, they choose to allow thei r readers into the most uniquely womenaspects of their lives, specifi cally fertility and womenÂ’s health issues. Drewbears, mother of Noah, Andrew, and Micah, is very open about her physic al health. Starting at 270 pounds, she welcomed her audience into her weight loss journey; at her heaviest, Drewbears revealed that she suffered fr om a variety of physical and emotional difficulties, and, out of fear and frustrat ion, decided to change her eating habits. Subsequent entries include brief descript ions of her daily menus, exercise, and measurements. This kind of da y-to-day life-tracking holds to what is traditionally thought
107 of as a more masculine format the journaling of facts and figures. Clearly, it became habit for Drewbears to jot down these chronol ogies and charts; they are by no means the primary focus of her work. A reader could easily bypass such dry f acts and figures in favor of the more emotional aspects of DrewbearsÂ’ writing. Li ke many diarists, Drew bears used the online forum as a space in which she exposed deeply personal facets of her private life. In one particularly touching entry on February 05, 2003, she shares with her readers a recent diagnosis of polycystic ovaria n syndrome (PCOS). She invites her readers to learn more about the condition, and offers medical inform ation even as she works through the deeply painful emotional ramifications: Well after I went back to see [the obstetr ician] 4 weeks later I was down 14lbs she didn't even notice or comment. She informed me that I have PCOS. Basically she said that she wouldn't helps us get pregnant for at least a year and a half. At first I was really upset. But now that the weight is coming off. I wanna get down anyway. If I can get down to my goal we will see what we wanna do from there. We had thought about trying to get preggo again in like aug or sept. We will see. On March 22, 2003, Drewbears announces her pregnancy to her readers by posting a picture of a positive home pregnancy test. Her excitement is evident in the title of the entry: Â“BIG NEWS.................Â”, which is followed simply by the photographic image of the positive home pregnancy test. She does not need words to convey her emotions. Her readers, she assumes, know how she feels. It is moments like these Â– revelatory, open, honest, and deeply private Â– that emphasize the space aspect of the online autobiogra phy. In these diaries, the authors
108 must feel some measure of security in o ffering themselves up with such vulnerability. The authors must realize that th ey are not writing in a vacuum ; these are not the diaries of childhood, small hardbound books with fragile lock s, covered with stickers and hidden beneath a mattress or under papers in a draw er. These are open spaces, inherently public by their very medium. The paradox of this public private space is as follows: the author has the power within that space to reveal Â– or not reveal! Â– that which is most pressing on her mind. The Â“room of her own,Â” then, is ultimately a combination of her Web space and her own mind. Style Â“Alter Your DiaryÂ” is the fi rst option available to users in the Members Area. The first two subcategories are Â“Add An EntryÂ” and Â“Edit/Delete an Entry.Â” Clearly, the ability to tweak Â– to alter Â–takes precedence over all of the other available options. The freedom to make these changes is an integral part of the design proce ss on this particular site, and arguably, one of the three most critical pieces to the development of e-criture feminine Â“AlteringÂ” has as much to do with wr iting style as with visual or graphical elements. Just as one can Â“alterÂ” art, one can Â“alterÂ” language. In e-criture feminine woman are charged with exploring new lands capes of expression, developing new modes of language, or altering the ones that alrea dy exist (i.e., the Sym bolic Order). The question of "female aesthetic" is crucial to the examination of wome n's autobiography. In her article "For the Etruscans," DuPle ssis describes women's language as an undeciphered code, a secret language, or a conste llation of secret languages, with Â“ .
109 emotional texture, a structural expression of mutuality . te xt as a form of intimacy, of personal contact, whether conversations with the reader or with the self. Letters, journals, voices are sources for this element . The female aesthetic will produce artworks that incorporate contradiction and nonlinear movement into the h eart of the text" (275, 278). In that same article, DuPlessis pays homa ge to Woolf as she concretizes the idea of the diary: "loose knit and yet not slovenl y, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hol d-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through" (qtd. in Â“Etruscans,Â” 279). Hyperlinking or hypertextuality is a hallmark of postmodernism and of e-criture feminine easily analogized to this digital Â“mass of odds and endsÂ” described by Woolf. Since the first example of Web publication, th e concept of hypertext has challenged the once two-dimensional structure of "writing." The World Wide Web is itself a series of interlinked and interlocking media: Web page s, message boards, chat rooms, e-mails, pop-up ads, and so on, paralleling what Lippard calls "a certain antilogical, antilinear approach also common to many women's wor k. . fragments, networks, everything about everything" (81). This new medium can be linked with feminist writings of the 1970's and 1980's, in order to make the argument that Â“claims of writing are inextricably twined with received notions of gender, and coded as active, passive, penetrating and receptive (Kendrick h ttp://www.rhizomes.net.). Th eorists of hypertext rarely acknowledge the connections among bodies, gend er and writing, preferring instead to disembody the writing process, reifying inst ead the "mind," and a philosophical history that glorifies masculine cognition. Hypertex t inherently defies these masculine,
110 phallogocentric tenets, rejects th e binaries and the dualities, op ening itself and the author up for free-flowing, organic creation. Each of the following Web-spaces offers its own distinct take on Â“writing,Â” on e-criture feminine, which can broadly be defined as Â“the creation of the written word.Â” AznchickieÂ’s diary features a very simp le layout. She has no images on her main entry pages, but she offers several links at the bottom of each entry: Â“CommentsÂ” (curiously, she alternates the spelling of the word by including various numbers in place of the letter Â“OÂ”); a countdown until her 20th birthday (which itself links to a Wishlist, a series of gift items, each again with it s own link); Â“FOTKi GA LLERY,Â” an organized gallery of images on the Fotki.com Web site; and Â“MAKE A DONATION,Â” a link out to PayPal.com where ostensibly readers can contri bute money to the writer (this is not an unusual phenomenon; many diary writers solici t donations and remind their readers that even online diaries come w ith operating budgets. Readers ma y feel compelled to thank the author for the hours of entertainment with a monetary gift). These links offer the reader a different kind of entree to the life of the diarist. Not only is the reader treated to a first-person account of the diaris tÂ’s life, but s/he is also now able to learn more about the diarist through these alte rnate sources. In the threedimensional world of hypertextuality, these ex tratextual materials succeed in Â“fleshing outÂ” the different sides of the diarist, a nd offering the reader an equally well-rounded look at the writer herself. Smith argues that women have dual impulse s of being appropriately silent in a patriarchal society and speaking or writing wi th their own voices. While traditionally the challenge of observing silence while still embracing the public arena results in public
111 censure, the woman who remains silent "denies her desire for a voice of her ownÂ” (7-8). According to Joyce, hypertext resolves this crisis of voice: hypert ext is a medium more conducive to feminist discourse than printed te xt, because it allows multiple versions of a story to develop and be told simultaneously. Ju st as feminism has divergent meanings for women who grew up in different generations and in different areas of the world, these collaborative hypertext projects allow a variety of feminist thoughts and perspectives to coexist in one pi ece (Barron http://www.poprocks.com). The use of hypertextuality as Aznchickie ha s interpreted it allows the author to have both a private voice (her own first-person accounts of her life) and a public voice (linking out to objective, third-pa rty sites). AznchickieÂ’s list of links does not include lists to friendsÂ’ pages or personal diaries; even the Â“commentsÂ” section is arguably not an objective, third-party link since it appears within the confines of her own diary site. This appropriation of the coding technique def eats the paradox Smith outlines between the desire for voice and the conse quence of public censure. Additionally, hypertextu ality also satisfies the idea of the three-dimensional Â“crazy quiltÂ” that is so much a part of both womenÂ’s life-wri ting and contemporary criticism about the discipline. Again, the con cepts of public and private spaces are at the fore: the Â“layeringÂ” of thoughts and ideas in this way certainly allows the author the option to expose or hide as much of herself as she wishes, but the approach also affords the reader the opportunity to keep her/his readings as s uperficial or in-depth as s/he likes. The reader can take away with her the stri ctly subjective first-person account, comprised of immediate interface (graphics and layout) and text, or s/he can choose to look deeper
112 into the crazy quilt, examining not only the ite m as a whole, but also each square that comprises it. Because the Internet can be thought of a three-dimensional space (particularly in terms of hypertext), it is not unreasonable to analogize characte ristics of its construction and assets to equivalent aspects in the material world; in this case, the diary is, of course, likened to the scrapbook. According to Charnes, personal memento scrapbooks are imbued with the immediate presence of the individual who created them, a presence that simply cannot be recreated by/with mass pr oduction (Charnes http://home.comcast.net). The reader (of the diary or the scrapbook) is treated to emotional snapshots of relationships, to an individuated perspec tive on any number of issues. Are these representations (individually or collectivel y) Â“theÂ” "truth"? Because postmodernism so vehemently rejects the idea of the Grand Narrative, and inst ead argues for the idea/s of many truths of existence, one may safely say that yes, these diaries are representative many Â“truths.Â” Although idealized or superficia l, the entries still reveal information about the author The three-dimensionality of the Internet allows the combination of interand extratextual material to tr ansgress spatial boundari es (Huff 130), both in terms of the architecture of the Internet and in terms of the spaces in which women and men write. WomenÂ’s writing comes from a place Outside of the Symbolic, a "wild zone" that lies outside the dominant culture's boundaries in a "spatial, experimental, and metaphysical 'no-man's land'" (Smith 9). Perhaps the language of this "wild zone" is different from its tamer neighbor. It is in this wild zone that boundaries are cro ssed, lines are blurred, connections are forged and dismantled at wi ll. Hypertextuality pr ovides women with a
113 way to navigate two simultaneous wild zones: the uncharted, infinite space of the Internet and the amorphous linguistic cosmos that women are concomitantly exploring and creating. The process of using hypertext in Web pages Â– including diar ies Â– offers women more chances to explore e-criture feminine this time in a spatial sense. The computer is a natural vehicle for communication, which has al ways been an essential piece of feminine experience. Having made it through the word -processing stage and learning computing skills, women are "thrilled with the potentia l of the computer for human communication" (Spender 175). Plant argues that women should feel comfortable in cyberspace precisely because the medium is more available to Â“w oman's wayÂ” of working, thinking, and communicating than to Â“man'sÂ” (Spender 229). The diary of Blackskirted is peppered with hyperlinks to other sites and sources, as well as to older archived entries. Almost every entry includes these physical allusions to intraor extratextual material. In these examples of the female aesthetic, Blackskirted seems to offer her readers more than the tr aditional autobiography, even as she actually enhances her autobiography with informati on that provides her readers with further information about her character, her likes and dislikes. Rather than adhere to the flat, two-dimensional traditional diary form, Black skirted, like many of her online colleagues, prefers to thwart the concept of the linear di ary in favor of the mo re chaotic spatiallyoriented hypertext diary. On May 15, 2004, Blackskirted reveals, Â“All I ever do on this forum is bitch and complain. What a fucking waste.Â” This, the reader quickly learns, is entirely untrue. Because of the extratextual material, Black skirtedÂ’s diary is full of interesting and
114 informative resources, whether the reader choos es to examine them contextually, as part of the diary and as revelatory of the author, or simply as standa lone links to external sites. In a particularly interesting twist, Blackskirt ed spends a great deal of time in her diary reflecting on the writing proce ss Â– not as a diarist, but as a graduate student completing a thesis. Â“Is writing supposed to hurt?Â” she asks on April 19, 2004. Â“Is it supposed to be a physically painful process getting a paper put together? I'm in a bit of a crisis mode. Panic. Nausea. All sorts of crappy emotions/f eelings. My thesis goes out to the committee on Wednesday. I need to make it through tonight and tomorro w.Â” What graduate student has not, at one point in her/hi s career, had these very same feelings? And by extension, what woman writer has not experienced the frustrati on of trying to create written work in a Symbolic Order from which she is continually and deliberately excluded? It is fitting that Blackskirted, a diarist w ho relies so heavily on hypertextuality, is so very frustrated with her academic work. In that forum, she is constrained not only by the phallogocentrism of pure langu age, but she is also cons cripted into the masculine world of the Academy, marginalized both so cially and linguistically. In her diary, Blackskirted is free to express herself in wh atever means are available to her in the medium. On the Web, women writers are able, at least for the moment, Â“to convene their literary practices in and through cyberspace wi thout the canonical, careerist or corporate imperatives which frame academic and publishing institutions,Â” writes Carolli. By no means does hypertext nullify or invalidate th e purity of the diary form; rather, the inclusion of extratextual materi al underscores the authorÂ’s au tobiographical intent even as it permits the reader to be more actively enga ged in the text itself Hypertext allows the
115 writer to completely reject linearity a nd switch quickly between times and places, something experimental authors have b een trying to do for quite a while. In a hypertext document (fictional or ot herwise), many simultaneous stories can be written with a variety of characters (again, fictional or otherwise) so that the end product can imitate the complexity of real life (Barron http://www.poprocks.com). In fact, Barron notes, women have created more than half of all hypertext fiction books currently available. Women, traditionally viewed as techno-phobes, are embracing what may appear to be an obscure, technologically complex method of writing (ibid). Hypertext is a fluid way to write (and read!), offeri ng neither beginning nor end. The reader might start on a di ary entry, and venture onto any number of paths determined by hyperlinks on that first page Â– and subs equent pages thereafter. When a diarist includes hypertext in an entr y, she can deliberately design li nks to circle her reader around and around, returning to that same entry, or she can bring the reader completely away from her diary to a site or sites of her own choosing. Women no longer have to feel compelled to write "as it always has been," but can now write in whatever way/s way they choose. In addition to physical design elements on the page, the spatial addition of hypertext offers these writers a number of creative outlets because of its lack of 'margins.' Acco rding to Weight, hypertext is a space where "feminine writing can go furthe r in its exploration of the me anings of gaps and spaces...it allows for refiguring the conventions of form at and style that are so embedded within print media" (http:// www.english.udel.edu). Hypertext is not the only way in which women can make use of DuPlessisÂ’ imperative for women to alter the language. Perhaps the most obvious and globally used
116 technique is simply the destruction of grammatical and spelling mores. Much feminist linguistic theory is founded in and opposed to LacanÂ’s Symbolic. According to his threepronged theories of the Real, the Symbolic a nd the Imaginary, the Real is the place of the mother and death, the Symbolic becomes th e domain of law founded on the Name-of-theFather, and the Imaginary exists as the eff ect of the Symbolic in consciousness and imagination. The Symbolic Order Â– in this case, the condition of language Â– is fundamentally masculine and patriarchal; it speaks the Im aginary language of men and is organized according to the law of the Symbolic Or der. Anything outside the domain of the Symbolic Order Â– including women, who inhabit the realm of the Real Â– effectively must be translated into the terms of the Symbolic; in other words, its Other-as-symbolized is really the same as itself (i.e., the signifier is the same as its signified and vice versa). If this translation does not happen, then the Other (like death, or the feminine, again both in the Real) is made so radically different th at no symbolic means exist for it to be communicated. Perhaps the grandest way of altering is th e complete subversion of the idea of the Â“master narrative forms.Â” DuPlessis observes, "All forms of dominant narrative . are tropes for the sex-gender system as a whole" ( Writing 43). This can be accomplished not only by finding new and creative ways of st ructuring writing (e.g., hypertext) or by reinventing linguistic structur e, but also by thwarting the established conventions of a Â“standardÂ” genre: in this case, autobiography/diary. As noted earlier in this pr oject, the diary begins in medias res Rarely do diarists begin to write on a day of cultural significan ce, a memorable holiday or a public special
117 occasion. More often than not, these diarie s are either begun on a day of personal importance (e.g., birthday, annive rsary), or on a day that becomes significant precisely because it is the day on which the diarist has begun her writing. Sometimes these diaries are precipitated by an important event in the diaristÂ’s life; sometimes a friend convinces the diarist to write. And sometimes the diarist just begins In every case, however, and on every date, the underlying motivation is the same: this woman wants to write June 04, 2003 is the date of the first post from Grubbygirl. She ti tles her first entry Â“The beginnings of a boring journal,Â” but st ill, compelled by the need to create, she answers the call to write. Â“O kay, here we go,Â” she begins. Â“I get such a kick out of reading Katie's diary (and I live with her, mind you), that I decided to do one. It'll probably last a week, but I figured since I ju st took this hellish five day train ride, I actually have something mildly interesting to talk about.Â” Inspired by another woman writer, Grubbygirl decides that she, too, ha s something to say. Despite her initial negativity or shyness about the project Â– Â“itÂ’ ll probably last a weekÂ” Â– she has been posting regularly for over a year. The idea of starting to start of some kind of chronologi cal enjambment, certainly fits with DuPlessisÂ’ idea of Â“breaking th e sequence.Â” In her own poetry volume Drafts DuPlessis reconsiders her earlie r drafts through a procedure sh e aptly refers to as Â“the fold.Â” She employs a series of repetitions of lines and phrases throughout individual drafts, creating rhizomes of discour se, ideas, and of course, text. While the drafts of Drafts are arranged in chronol ogical order, they diffuse outward from a vanished center, reflexivel y spiraling forward and back between and among their own various parts. DuPlessisÂ’ own admitted inability to recover her own
118 history according to traditional (i.e., Symbo lic forms of chronology Â– past, present, future) guides her readers into a fruitful space that functions Â“not as a single event or epiphany but as a fugue-state with many possibl e locations of meaning in which appears, DuPlessis suggests: Â‘nothing and everything plaster-faced dolls, plastic tops from margarine tubs, tin tea trunkÂ’Â” (ibid). The Â“centerÂ” of these diaries, the starting po int, is completely arbitrary: lost or misplaced in the chronology of the Symbolic Order. It is from these arbitrary starting points that these diarists begin to create their multidimensional autobiographical scrapbooks, layered with artifacts, each w ith its own meaning or significance. The sequence begins having been broken. On January 05, 2001, Alicesbaby began posti ng at Diaryland.com. Although this was her first online diary, she quickly reve als that she has journaled before: Â“And how long do I make my diary entries? If they're a nything like my written diaries have been in the past, it could take a looong time to type!Â” Despite her familiarity with the idea of autobiography, Alicesbaby star ts off slowly before she finds her writing stride. In this incarnation, she was sheepdip; she changed her identity when she became pregnant in February 2004, and then changed Â– altered Â– the subject and look of her diary to reflect her pregnancy. In this first entry, Alicesbaby/sheepdip, like many of her writerly colleagues, comes across to her reader s as stilted, almost unc omfortable with the idea of journaling: Â“Wow!Â” she writes. Â“So he re I am! I can't believe I've got an online
119 diary since a few months ago I was so technologically stunted! This is great!! I half don't know what to say now....Â” She spends a great deal of the entry figuring out what to write, planning the path of her autobiography: I guess I write about what I've done and how I feel. Or whatever Â… I'm kind of bored but into a routine of nothingness now. I appreciate the small things and good days, even though I still feel awful. I'm generally less depressed at the moment. Should I write stu ff like this here? How do I choose what to write and what not? Hmmmm. As she does note in that first entry, she understands the value of writing: Â“I guess I'll probably use this a lot at first, but I hope I keep writing. Writing feelings and stuff is always helpful.Â” Her initial discomfort quickly wears off as she continues making entries, and she begins to find her comfort level Â– a nd her unique voice. The tone of the posts shifts from very self-conscious and awkwar d to informal and relaxed. Significantly, her style, too, begins to evol ve: Alicesbaby loses the inhibitions imposed upon her by the linguistic parameters of the Symbolic Order. As DuPlessis asserts, Alicesbaby/sheepdip rejects the grammatical and mechanical sta ndards of traditional written language, and begins to write for/from herself. Many of her entries focus on re lationships (with her husband, with her deity), and to that end, sh e allows herself to be swept up in the emotionality of her entries, and not to be concerned about/with proper English. Cutipeie1983 combines the elements of scrapbooking and linguistic play in her diary. The interface of her diary features a picture that she pe riodically changes to suit her mood. She offers her reader a variety of extr atextual links, and does include intratextual links throughout her diary. A great numb er of her entries actually focus on her
120 frustrations as a writer; for example, on June 15, she writes: Â“Siree inspired me to actually get back into writing the other day over the phone, and that is what I have been doing for the last couple of days. Usually the fi rst paragraphs and/or the plot of the story is the hardest, but once you've got that, the rest is fairly easy. So people...give me a story idea!!Â” The idea of wanting to write, of desiring the expression of Self is a constant force in many of these diaries; the underlying motiv ation for the creation of the written word, as will be discussed in the following sect ion on Cixous, is the desire for voice and fulfillment, the urge to create that which is of the Self and independent of the Self. The scrapbooking format that so many of thes e diaries take Â– including Cutiepie1983Â’s Â– allows these authors to e xperience the genesis of an entirely personal creation. Even when writing seems difficult or Â“unn ecessary,Â” these diarists are compelled to write, to create. Cutiepie1983 entitles her May 06, 2004 entry Â“Sorry Excuse for an Update.Â” The body of the entry focuses on her feeling bored in one of her classes, not, according to the author, a typical subject matter for her diary. In an essay about the essay, DuPlessis writes of the restlessness in writing no t in, or for, a genre, but at Â“a moment of writing before the genre,Â” at an Â“impacted po int prior to the flying off of matter into planets, fragments into texts, and over all [with] a sense of volatile incipienceÂ”(1996, 23). Cutiepie1983Â’s frustration with herself as writer, with her Â“inadequateÂ” subject matter, certainly echoes the restlessness of which DuPlessis speaks. There may be nothing to say, nothing to write, bu t it is the job of the woma n writer to defy convention Â– to break the genre, as it were Â– and write what she needs to write. As a diarist, these conventions are much restrained, since the su bjectivity of the diary lends itself to an infinite number of interpretations. The creative anxiety, the impulse to do however, is
121 echoed in DuPlessisÂ’ idea of Â“writing before the genre,Â” of writing before the mind has the chance to consciously enter the Symbolic and deliberate the propriety of the language and the voice. Only recently have scrapbooks been acknowledged as a legitimate literary form, particularly in the context of Â“womenÂ’s genres.Â” Although wo men have long kept scrapbooks, it is with the contemporary expl osion of the literary canon that these scrapbooks have begun to take their places am ong more traditional literary forms. The very word Â“scrapbooksÂ” diminishes th e significance of the treasures that are these multi-layered records of life experiences. Scrapbooks come in many forms: collections of obituaries, articles, autographs dried leaves and flow ers, bits of cloth, genealogical data, stickers, st encils, yellowing photographs. These testaments to the lives of so many forgotten women lie in houses all ov er the world: in attics, in basements, in cartons pushed to the backs of cabinets, and are part of a traditi on of life-writing that Melvin dubbed "Self Works" (1). Every scrapbook is revelatory, not only for its record of a person's preoccupations, but on a deeper level, each of these scrapbooks offers an intimate glimpse about the person who would patiently create these books. Because of the inherent personal natu re of the form, every scrapbook is, by definition, autobiographical. However, the ki nd of scrapbook that seems most significant to the examination of history is the pe rsonal memento scrapbook. This is the scrapbook that contains ephemeral mementos of a wo man's life: letters, photographs, clippings, invitations, locks of hair, dance cards. These fragments are "saved because of their relationship to an experience" (Garvey 56). They are pasted in and each page arranged to
122 hold its record of an event or a day or a year. As Buckler notes, "the personal memento scrapbook is a locus where text and artifact meet" (149). These visual texts use their own kind of linguistic system: artifacts as nouns, sentiment as verbs (Motz 75; Buckler and L eeper 1). This language is personal and decentered, a language entirely unrestrained by diction and syntax that women use to creatively express their lives. For so long, so many of these historical documents have been ignored, neither decoded nor translated, l eaving the lives of their creators buried and mute. Scrapbooks are sources of both linguisti c and artifactual information, and the decoding of these artifacts results in a rich mine of information about the scrapbookerÂ’s life. In the Symbolic Order (and by extension, in any culture that is driven by and built on a foundation of language) where women are the Other, the Object becomes of primary significance. Feminist historia ns have begun to use material culture for that reason, learning to "read" domestic objects to uncove r the details of women's lives (Johnson 2). Kavanagh suggests that in emphasizing doc umentary sources, historians have "constructed a middle-class view of the past, since not only the crea tion and retention of the documents, but also the development of th eir interpretation, has rested largely with the literate and intellectually privileged" (126). Women have often historically not been among those 'privileged.' Just as accepted diary forms do, these scrapbooks also defy the boundaries of the limits of traditional autobiography. When taken as a form of autobiography, writes Gilliam, Â“scrapbooks also transgress boundaries of language and artifact, low and high art, and concepts of the spat ial and the textual. The scrapbook as autobiography provides
123 us with a fuller understanding of women's lives.Â” As DuPlessis notes, extratextual material, far from being something to ignore, is a source of rich "e motional texture" of a woman's life ( Â“EtruscansÂ” 275). The creator of each scrapbook is Â“writing blank. And writing wily. For annotators do not take the process of textual making for gr anted; they intervene in the processes of signification, canonization, atte ntion-making. They point. They undermine. They bear shards of almost irrelevant informa tion. Clues," writes DuPlessis (ibid). What is an online diary if not a unique digital scrapbook? Hypertext links pages to pages, just as a Â“real worldÂ” album contains leaves that can be turned, skipped, added, and removed. Pictures abound in online diarie s, both in layouts and in Â“about MeÂ” or Â“friendsÂ” sections; Â“real worl dÂ” scrapbooks are full of images of the people, places, and things most important to the collector. Finally, extratextual material is present in online diaries; just as Â“real worldÂ” scrapbooks rely on non-verbal cues as means of communication, so do online diaries offer the sa me kind of visual introductions to their authors. From animated images and customi zed icons included in entries and layouts to music files that play on page-loading, these ex tratextual materials are no less valid to the autobiography than are the birth and death ce rtificates or dried corsages that fill the spaces between the pages of traditional scrapbooks. Medium The first question on the Diaryland.co m Frequently Asked Questions page (http://diaryland.com/faq.html) r eads, Â“What's up with this DiaryLand thing? Me no get it!Â” The answer immediately showcases the freed om the user has to create her own space:
124 Â“DiaryLand is a place where you can get a free, fun online diary that you can update through your web browser. You don't need to kn ow anything more than how to type and use the web (which you must be able to do si nce you're here!) to use it. If you do happen to know HTML and whatnot you can complete ly customize your diary and make it look however you want.Â” The Â“completely customizab leÂ” aspect of Diaryland.com allows the diarist to operate under CixousÂ’ premises of organically driven, gender-based creative chaos. A series of frames on the user pages of Diaryland.com focuses strictly on what is called, Â“ Your diaryÂ’s appearance .Â” This section is second only to Â“ Update your diary ,Â” which offers an indication of the hier archy of important site features to the diarist. Obviously, the foremost criterion is the ability to make quick and easy updates; secondly, however, the placement of the Â“ appearance Â” links seems to suggest that each diarist craves the ability to individualize her di ary even outside of the variety of templates offered by the administrators at Diaryland.com. Cixous discusses th e Â“appearanceÂ” of criture feminine This Â“appearanceÂ” is less a physical set of attributes than an aural ma nifestation since "looking like" Â“is at the heart of the misperception of self in the Mirror St age which launches people into the Symbolic orderÂ” (Klages http://www.colora do.edu). Cixous is very carefu l to talk about writing in new ways, in ways that distinguish criture feminine from existing forms of speech/writing. In so doing, Cixous creates an association between feminine writing and extant non-linguistic (senso ry) modes. For example, criture feminine is milk, is a song, something with rhythm and pulse, but no wo rds, something connected with bodies and with bodies' beats and movements, but not with representation al language (ibid).
125 The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that this c oncept of Â“feminist aestheticsÂ” does not label a variety of aesthe tics in the way that, for example, the terms Â“virtue theoryÂ” and Â“naturalized epistemologyÂ” qualify types of ethics and theories of knowledge. Rather, to refer to feminist aesthetics is to identify a set of perspectives that pursue certain questions about philosophical theories and thei r assumptions regarding art and aesthetic categories. Feminists who work in aesthetics inquire into the ways that gender influences the formation of ideas about art, artists, and aesth etic value. Feminist perspectives in aesthetics are also attuned to the cultural in fluences that exert power over subjectivity: the way that art both reflects and perpetuates the social formation of gender, sexuality, and identity (h ttp://plato.stanford.edu). Cixous has long argued that women mu st Â“write the body.Â” In order to successfully separate themselv es from phallogocentrism, wo men must write themselves independently of the Symbolc Order, thus re jecting and unseating the powerful Phallus. This is a difficult concept for many Wester ners to grasp, since thoughout the history of Western culture, women's bodies have almost exclusively viewed as objects on display. Women have rarely been permitted agency in art, but instead have been restricted to enacting Â— upon and through thei r bodies Â— the theatrical, musical, cinematic, and dance scenarios constructed by male artists (McClary 137-8). These online autobiographies do permit women to engage in women-specific pe rformance. CixousÂ’ claims support the idea that the performance of writing as well as the performance of creation can both be and should necessarily be gendered in order to give women the voice and/or presence they have so desperately craved for so long.
126 The two most striking findings are as fo llows: no two diaries Â“looked alike,Â” and in at least one entry, the diar ist would reach out to her read ers in an attempt to connect with her readers. These conclusions support CixousÂ’ two primary premises: first, that women must have writerly freedom, complete independence of the Symbolic Order (or any paradigmatic extension thereof, as in restrictive templates), and secondly, that women must reach out to one another, draw ing together in orde r to create a common discourse made up of any nu mber of different voices. Some of the diarists did implement the templates designed and made available by Diaryland.com, but most diarists opted to either use individua lly created templates, or to modify the extant templates to reflect pe rsonal style. Barbiebu ndyÂ’s diary pages both address the design aspect and provide means for dialogue: feature a permanent link called Â“Design.Â” This link leads to the diary of another user, Somberdesign, who makes a variety of templates available to Diaryland.c om users. This openness, this sense of community helps to underscore the highl y woman-centered aspect of the online autobiography; as solipsistic as the act of writing may be, the power of togetherness underlies even this most isolated act. While not directly related to design, th is phenomenon can still be connected to Cixous, who believes that wome n must work individually and collectively to thwart the "discourse of mastery" that was created by men and is the discourse of the academy that, like the scientific di scourse, excludes non-linear form s of expression (Â“Woman,Â” 1245). Though her theory of discourse coincides with Foucault's, Cixous concentrates on the oppression of women, calling for a new and powerful way of using language (Â“WomanÂ”
127 1227). When women develop and join (and vice versa) their own community of discourses, the discourse of mastery can be torn down. In an interesting approach to self-revelation, Cherrypunk uses many entries in her diary to display transcripts of online conversations, ostens ibly between herself and a friend. One might argue that a fundamental tenet of CixousÂ’ argument is that women need to write and rewrite in Â“white ink,Â” a kind of linguistic design that would showcase this new means of communication between /among themselves, a non-exclusionary system of discourse that allows for limitless exchanges. What Cherry-punk does, then, is to adopt th is ideal, consciousl y or not, and bring these conversations to the fore. She does so with a layered approach, again, taking liberties with traditional linguistic systems. Not only does Cherry-punk herself engage in these conversations (the literal level), but she also then tran scribes these conversations as part of the interaction and conve rsations that she has with her readers (the meta level). In fact, this approach certainl y ties in with the relations hip draws between fiction and reality. Cixous questions whether any sharp distinction can be drawn between these two states of being; after all, sh e claims, the subjectivity of r eading and interpretation is not limited to fiction, since such subjectivity infects any attempt at interpretation. When Cherry-punk uses the conversation as repr esentative of her reality, she succeeds in blurring that line between what is reality (lists of events, feelings, reactions), and what is fictional or interpretive (conversations about events, feelings reactions). Even though a discussion of hypertext is available in the discussion of DuPlessis and style, I would be remiss if I did not also mention the connection the concept has with CixousÂ’ own ideals. Using the definition of Â“ hypertextÂ” as Â“linking pages,Â” one can see
128 that the new additional spatiality and overall formlessness of the approach can easily be justified as part of a Cixo usian ideal. The fluidity of hypertext not only Â“worksÂ” as a freeing form for a writer, but it also invites a variety of styl es of writing, both on a single page, in a single diary, and/or on an entirely exterior series of links. Cixous says women "take pleasure in jumbling the order of space, in disorienting it, in changing around the furniture, dislocating things a nd values" a perfect description of the process performed by hypertext. Hypertext connects women-to-machines-tohumans, says Weight. He describes this connection as creating a hypertext that essentially redefines the "rules" of writing, and that the women taking part in the redefining process of hypertext are exploring new possibilities for criture feminine Why hypertext? This approach to coding perfectly suits criture feminine (and ecriture feminine) because it opens the door for women to use a new writing space to write their bodies. Some proponents of hypertext have gone as far as to suggest that hypertext's "form and structure reveal affinities with feminine writing...are men writing like women, on the Web?" (Weight http://www.english.udel.edu/). Because the majority of coders are male the raw data may suggest that men may currently be producing more hypertext than women. However, hypertext lends itself extraordinarily well to the style of writing wo men tend to create. Weight claims that "if hypertext writes of the body, then what each hypertext document expresses is a particular and complex body, one which is interconnected w ith all of the bodies it is connected to." Weight, as well as others, has suggested that this style of connect ed writing exemplifies
129 at least one of the qualities that defines criture feminine on a linguistic level (http://www.english.udel.edu/). DearedwinÂ’s diary is minimalist in its de sign, but the author does offer her readers a variety of hyperlinks throughout her entries. If she mentions a product, for example, she will provide a link to the product Web site. On June 02, 2004, she writes, Â“we have this long hall that connects the bedrooms to the k itchen and front room. in addition to asking for one of those craftm@tic adjustable beds Â—the ones you can make recline on either side for you and your partner's respective comfortÂ—i also asked for one of those st@ir chairs (but one that will carry me from my ro om down the long hall) for my birthday.Â” In addition to hyperlinks to product site s, some of DearedwinÂ’s entries refer readers to other location: Â“today is action p acked, so we're gearing up. there's a kentucky d*rby soiree (have you ever attended one? me neither) at these people's house. we're not sure if we're supposed to dress up. i imagine fancy hats. i should call someone. after that, shadowdress and her husband are having an open mic-type performance party,Â” she writes on January 05, 2004. Not surp risingly, the latter link take s the reader to the journal of someone with the user name Â“shadowdress. Â” What is intriguing, however, is the fact that the link found attached to the word Â“theseÂ” in the phr ase Â“these peopleÂ” takes the reader to an earlier entry in DearedwinÂ’s diary, this one dated September 11, 2003. This entry details a 1960Â’s theme party the author attended, the house in which the party was held, and of course, the people themselves. Th e use of the Â“internal linkingÂ” is extremely effective; not only does the technique keep the reader contained in th e authorÂ’s diary, but it also allows the reader to learn about th e subjects of the discussion (again, Â“these peopleÂ”) from the perspective of the author CixousÂ’ dictum that Â“woman must write
130 womanÂ” Â– tell her own story Â– is evidenced in this in ternal linking. Rather than moving out of her own voice, Dearedwin combines the freedom of hypertextuality with the imperative of keeping the ma terial in her own voice. The diaries are not limited to the theoreti cal ideal of design, but also to literal creative freedom, both linguisti cally and physically. This pa rticular diary also opened itself to an examination of the authorÂ’s use of language. Alth ough she uses Standard Written English (insofar as a grammarian might demand), she uses a number of original, playful spellings of words. She certainly ta kes the established language and makes it her own, creating her own written Â‘voi ce.Â’ In the entries I have already cited, there are visible examples of some of Dearedwi nÂ’s subtle spelling tweaks: re placing the letter Â“aÂ” with the Â“@Â” sign, for example, and substituting the aste risk for the letters Â“oÂ” and Â“e.Â” In these simple substitutions, Dearedwin challenges the Symbolic, deconstr ucting the signifier and causing doubt as to its signif ied. It is only thr ough context that the reader is able to interpret meaning, and it is only through knowing DearedwinÂ’s writer-voice that the reader is able to deduce meaning. This semi otic play is indicative of the feminine: achieved by play, demonstrated in the de liberate subversion of the phallogocentric language system and an introduction to parole At age 13 or 14, Dolphinz is perhaps th e youngest diarist in my selection. Her layouts, however, are surprisingly sophisticated. At the top of her diary is an anime-styled picture of a blonde teenaged girl, seated next to the large lower-case marquee, Â“this is where I can be myself Â”(this last written in sprawling sc ript). Not only doe s the right side of her diary contain a series of links to the standard pa ges (archives, host, friendsÂ’ diaries), but she also include s a scrolling mini message board and a place for realtime
131 postings from her readers. However, in a sh arp deviation from that design sophistication, her prose is almost entirely non-standard E nglish; in addition to numerous misspellings and grammatical errata, she also tends to write in the style of Â“Â’Net-speak,Â’ using abbreviations (Â“c-yaÂ” for Â“see you,Â” Â“ttfnÂ” for Â“ta ta for nowÂ”), number-for-word substitutions (Â“2Â” for Â“toÂ”), and alternate sp ellings (Â“wuzÂ” for Â“was,Â” Â“nÂ” for Â“andÂ”). The paradox of her slick layout and inelegant la nguage is an interesting phenomenon, one that allows again allows room for CixousÂ’ ideas. Because the design is so surprisingly developed for a young teenager, one can make the assumption that this diarist spent a great deal of time on th e look and feel of the project. This is, however, not to say that sh e does not spend equal time on her entries. Rather, one might argue that the sharp de sign complements the prose by introducing the writer in a visual, graphical sense before introducing the writer in a prose, linguistic sense. The reader is treated to two separate but dialogic Â“sketchesÂ” of what Dolphinz might be like, successfully seizing, as Cixous says, the opportunity to speak. The linguistic subversion, the defiance of the phallo gocentric language, th e bright picture of the wholesome young woman on the top of the pa ge: these all suggest DolphinzÂ’ attempt to assert herself as a young woman, as someone who wants, as her diaryÂ’s tag line say, to Â“be herselfÂ” as a woman. On February 06, 2003, Albinoqueen shares with her readers a Â“design dilemmaÂ” in which she finds herself: for my next diary layout I have two very definate ideas, and I cannot chose between them. Idea the First: a layout based on "Dragonheart", one of my favorite movies, that I have loved long and it has great lines and items for a layout. Idea
132 the Second: A fan layout of my newest actor-fancy: Kenneth Branagh(Prof. Lockheart from Harry Potter: CoS). And ye s, I have an obssession for actors with English accents. They're so...attractive. They just draw me in Â… So....guestbook, notes....people tell me which you thi nk would make a better layout? At the same time as she ponders her options, she opens herself to two-way communication, offering herself to her reader, using the language/tool s and potential of the Web to create dialogue. It is more than merely layout that allows one to see the relationship between online autobiography and CixousÂ’ ideologies. It is the combination of freedoms the Web affords these women wr iters. Not only are women writers given the different Â“inksÂ” (both metaphoric al and literal) with which to physically write down text, but they are also encouraged to interact a nd engage with one anot her on their own terms. This assertion successfully combines th e three concepts of womenÂ’s style, womenÂ’s space, and womenÂ’s medium in one single idea, best articulated by Cixous. Women, she postulates, will create thousands of different Â“feminine words.Â” The resulting multiplicity of language will not se parate women from the general discourse, but will add multiple occasions and situations for women to participate while retaining an ability to use what she calls "the code for general communication" (Â“WomanÂ” 1246).
133 Chapter 10: The End? What is this new discursive tradition, this e-criture feminine ? How can it be expressed in succinct la nguage? Is there a way of formalizing the tenets of the theory in such a way that it becomes accessible to read ers everywhere, an Â“instruction manual,Â” of sorts, to the woman autobiogr apher? The very act of Â“d efiningÂ” the theory would deconstruct its essence, an ideology predicated on the rejection of the established (O)rder. It is possible, however, to describe the theory, if not to define it, a subtle distinction that will allow for the concretization of its three very basic tenets. Â“The community of women can only come after the recognition of difference between women, and after the raising of some key questions of who is talking to whom, and why?Â” (McRobbie 205) Postmodernism as an (anti)theory sheds some positive light on feminism; it opens up the dialogue, and portrays the real problems with a single, feminist standpoint or place of critique. Because there is no single definition of feminism, the exploration of this new online discourse Â“allows for open debate and dispute about boundariesÂ” (McRobbie 204). According to Morse, virtual environments are "liminal spaces, sacred places of social and personal transformation... neither imag inary nor real, ...[they are] a subjunctive realm of externalized imaginat ion where events happen in ef fect but not [in actuality]" (180). As an abstract form or a "structure of what does not yet exis t," the online diary and its use of hypertext, images, comment boxes, and so on, could also be said to be both
134 virtual and liminal (235). Hypertext, a prim arily textual medium, and virtual reality, a primarily visual medium represented, in this case, by the Internet itself, are beginning to "blur together" (Bukatm an http://jefferson.village.virginia.e du). This blurring poses an implicit invitation to actively meld the two in order to create a pot entially revolutionary form for feminist criticism. "The hybrid or meeting of two media is a moment of truth and revelation from which a new form is bor n,Â” writes McLuhan, Â“...t he meeting of two media is a moment of freedom and releas e from the ordinary trance and numbness imposed by them on our senses" (63). The co mbination of the Internet and the online autobiography offers women a new language, a new way to express themselves and break free of the Â“ordinary trance,Â” the numbi ng paralysis of the Symbolic Order. This dissertation demonstrates the ways the Internet offers women a chance to participate in the paradox of writing the self and leavi ng the body. A combination of specific social and literary theories fully supports the idea that women can develop individual and collective writ ing styles on/in a medium wh ich is exquisitely suited to accommodating this exact development, a medium which in fact echoes the very tenets of this new writing style: privacy, individuali ty, and a lack of restraining conventions. Clearly, it is possible to draw together th e elements of genre, space, style, and medium as contextualized within established li terary and social theories, and thus create a series of specific, concrete conclusions about the efficacy and necessity of the Internet as the ideal medium for women writers. Each memb er of the triad of cu ltural critics I have named Â– Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous Â– offers women a part icular set of guidelines or suggestions for becoming a successful writ er, and it only on the single vehicle of the Internet and the online diary that these can be combined and manifested. Certainly the
135 structural and stylistic ideas offered by Ci xous and DuPlessis are easily converged in Â“hardÂ” media; the Internet, however, allows for WoolfÂ’s spatial component to be actively embraced to even those women who do not have physical rooms of their own. Fewer than forty years have passed since Woolf's A Room of One's Own was adopted as a manifesto by early feminist critics who sought to establish a legitimate "place" for women writers in the current domin ant literary tradition. This literary tradition had heretofore historically excluded women writers on th e basis that women were considered incapable of sustained, intellectual achievement (Castricano). In order to even dream of acceptance into this Â“boysÂ’ club,Â” Woolf argues that a woman must have two critical assets: first and foremost, she must have privacy, and secondly, she must have income and/or financial independence. The World Wide Web certainly provides places and spaces for women writers to write: the online diary. A cursory search on www.google.com for the phrase Â“online diary site ,Â” for example, yields approximately 3,240,000 Â“hits,Â” or matches. Clearly, the online diary site offers the kind of privacy, anonymity, and protection, and allows the woma n writer the virtual space, or room, that she needs to break in to a literary tradition. What Woolf did not anticipate, however, was the fact that technology would lead to the availability of space Â– and the subs equent development of a brand new literary tradition, independent of the dom inant literary paradigm that even now privileges the discourse of the patriarchy. This is part of the beauty of e-criture feminine : it relies not on disrupting the literary status quo, but instead focuses enti rely on unfolding and unfurling itself, producing and reproducing itself in a reflexive mimesis of the very process of women-writing, the development of laye rs and of re-appropriated language.
136 The trope of organic creation that one sees in the joining of WoolfÂ’s Â“roomÂ” with the online diary is not at all restricted to the spatial or structural requirements of e-criture feminine ; rather, the very nature of women-writing as described by DuPlessis dovetails right in with this overall di scursive idea. DuPlessisÂ’ li nguistic play welcomes women writers into an unshaped, form-less collective of writers, one that is permitted to diffuse rhizomically. This mirrors the parole itself, which is without traditional formal structure (Â“breaking the sequence,Â” Â“breaking the senten ceÂ”) and without traditional linear form (hypertexutality). Asks DuPlessis, Â“How mi ght that Woman function by virtue of her iconic Otherness? How can I (a woman) read my our their his her semiotic: What is a woman writer's negotiation with the se miotic to produce poetic language?Â” DuPlessis works this negotiation by adap ting KristevaÂ’s a ssertion of poetic language and form(lessness) as inherently se miotic Â– and thus inherently specific to women. The semiotic, the subconscious gr asp of meaning and the syntactical polyvocality that exist before the introduction into the Symbolic, is by definition amorphous, astructural, although not resistant. It is, in fact, en tirely pliable Â– like the use of hypertext, like th e deliberate use of parole This formless semiotic is reflected in the boundaryless medium of poetry, and, by exte nsion, the lack of adherence to the phallogocentric language and structure of the patriarchy (the broken sentence, the broken sequence). The semiotic, like the Internet, like the la nguage of the online diary, is a realm of intonations/sounds that have no referent, a mate rnal space of unbridled images. It is only in the preverbal state that one is truly immersed in this semi otic state before introduction into the Symbolic, the system of syntax, logic, binaries, categ ories. Kristeva states that
137 the semiotic is "[i]ndifferent to language, enigmatic and feminine, this space underlying the written is rhythmic, unfettered, irreducible to its intelligible verbal translation; it is musical, anterior to judgment, but rest rained by a single guarantee: syntax" ( Poetic 29). The online diary Â– the representation of e-criture feminine Â– allows women writers to engage in an immersion into the semiotic the most women-centered of linguistic nonsystems. Space and style join together to create a safe haven for private writerly creation and development, while CixousÂ’ instruction to Â“write the bodyÂ” provides women writers with the validation they need to realize that in order to truly write as/from themselves, they must reach inside and create. This gui dance encourages women writers to develop a uniquely feminine discourse that works around ( but not necessarily ag ainst) the Freudian and Lacanian representations of woman as the gender-which-lacks, a subject position which arose out of a focus on the phallus as the privileged symbol of biological, and therefore cultural, social, and intellectual superiority. "Woman must write herself;Â” asserts Cixous, Â“must write about women a nd bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies" (Â“MedusaÂ” 309). The essence, strength, intelligence, and b eauty of woman are inseparable from her body. This is why, argues Cixous, that the focus on the physical, the corporeal as "lacking" has been so successfully destructive and re pressive for women in societ y. For the women writer, the body and the text are companion vehicles, reflexive and open to multiplicities. These multiplicities evince themselves in the idea of individual diary creation. CixousÂ’ Â“white inkÂ” becomes a literal manifestat ion of originality; the white ink can be purple or green, it can rest on a blue bac kground, a yellow background, or a graphic of a
138 flower. For Cixous, the point is to create as a women write r, to participate as an individual in the great commun ity of women writers. And it is as part of this community of online diarists that again, the women writer is participating in the development of ecriture feminine. Cixous herself does not believe that there is now, or will ever be, a single discourse created by and shared among women, but that the multiplicity of voices will come together. This polyvocality Â– again, harkening back to the Semiotic Â– will not isolate women from the discursive status quo, but will add multiple occasions and situations for women to partic ipate while retaining an ability to utilize what Cixous calls "the code for general comm unication" (Â“MedusaÂ” 310). Here, e-criture feminine proves itself a worthy memb er of this community of discourses. As I have argued, e-criture feminine is by no means a single discourse, but an entire tradition, developing online via the online diary/autobiography. The concepts of style, space, and medium are brought together as tools or functionalities for use, but are not at all rules or sets of in structions as to how each wr iter Â“ought toÂ” create her work. The paradox of e-criture feminine however, is that by nature, although it exists and can be divined it cannot be defined By true womenÂ’s discursive necessity, there will be no certain point at which anyone can conclusively (a) describe an ecriture or e-criture feminine ; or (b) suggest that such a phenomenon ex ists at all. It is precisely the fluid, slippery nature of this writing that makes it so subversive. It is precisely because it cannot be defined, identified, and categorized that it is truly the voice of the Ot her. It is precisely because of its organic, indi vidual polyphonous nature that it w ill never be able to be put down in outline form and taught in the classroom.
139 Writing (and women-writing) is powerful; it is, as Cixous wr ites, "the very possibility of change." criture feminine is not writing that can be captured by dry theorizing; this writing resist s categorization; it th e "excess" that disr upts, circles around, climbs the sides of rational, linear traditional texts. As with CixousÂ’ criture feminine the electronic form of women-writing defies formal definition, since so much of defini ng comes from negation: describing something by what it is not Like its predecessor, e-criture feminine refuses to be defined as part of a binary opposition. Cixous argues that one can't define the practice of l'criture feminine ." Klages writes that to de fine something is to pin it down, to anchor it, to limit it, to put it in its place within a stable system or structure, and Cixous holds that says that l'criture feminine is too fluid to exist within the rigid boundari es of a hierarchized system; it will always exceed or escape a ny definition (http:// www.colorado.edu). Like criture feminine online feminine writing cannot be theorized, enclosed, coded, or understood. This does not mean that the phenomenon of criture feminine does not exist. Rather, notes Klages, it will always be greate r than the existing systems for classification and ordering of knowledge in phallogocentric western culture (http://www.colorado.edu). criture feminine cannot be defined, but it can be "c onceived of," (a quasi-biological phrase which works on literal and metaphoric levels) by subjects not subjugated to a central authority. Only those on the margins can these maverick writers, these subverters of phallogocentrism, "conceive of" feminine language; those outlaws will be women, and anyone else who can resist or be distanced from the structuring central Phallus of the phallogocentric Symbolic order.
140 Throughout this work, the same three c oncepts have continually emerged as primary to e-criture feminine : space, style, and medium. A combination of these three ideas allows women writers to successfully open themselves (and be open to) writing from/of themselves in a format that is al ready specific to wome n. Without any of the three components, e-criture in its entirety is not possibl e; it is only by simultaneously working in and through these ideas that wo men are able to pa rticipate in this development. Granted, a woman can write from herself in any way she wishes; this is part of CixousÂ’ feminine writing, or criture feminine The difference between ecriture and e-criture is the difference between solipsism and collectivism. While any woman is free to engage in life-writing from /of herself, the discourse that e-criture helps to encourage allows women to write individually and as part of a burgeoning group. Space, style, and medium come t ogether to form the foundation of e-criture feminine but what allows me to allege the deve lopment of a new disc ursive tradition is precisely that community aspect. While the id eological premises of Woolf, DuPlessis, and Cixous are certainly applicable to a si ngle woman, it is only when they are all adopted by a united body that one can legitim ately argue for the presence of a larger, broad-based reinterpretation of li nguistic and writerly mores. Autobiography, as personal as it is, provi des not only a glance at the life of a single individual, but when a series of like au tobiographies are examined in tandem, they offer a widened perspective of what mi ght be called a community or collective experience. This is by no means to suggest that two people in a like community are experientially identical; rather, an examina tion of a broad spectrum of individuals might give rise to certain exegetical assumptions (but not Â“givensÂ”). If a cr oss-section of diaries
141 from Colonial America were examined, for example, one would be given a sweeping insight as to the lifestyle and concerns of a group of people writing in a particular historical context. More information can be extrapolated from these diaries, however: a more specific examination of the diaries of women in Colonial America would certainly reveal the character and lives of individuals, but would also offer a view of the collective womenÂ’s experience during that time. Because contemporary women's autobiogr aphy comes up against the boundaries surrounding what has long been defined as Â“traditional s ubjectivityÂ” and the disappearance of the subject, as dictated by postmodernism, th ese narratives are insinuated into the middle of a duality created by traditional representation on one side, the refusal of postmodernism to represent any su bject on the other. Within this dialectic, a womanÂ’s autobiography attempts to represent a Self that lives in a state of flux, a Self that is fluid even as it retain s integration, a Self that exists as an individual but is always relational. WomenÂ’s self-representational writin gs thus successfully represent individual subjects who are in a consta nt state of be-ing and becomi ng, of fragmentation and reintegration, a subject who seeks in dividual integrity in relation. Those women who can access the World Wide Web have entre into one of the worldÂ’s most powerful media. The World Wi de Web is a haven for women writers who heretofore have had to settle for notebook pa per, pens, and typewriters. The World Wide Web gives voice to those who could not speak; it gives an audience to those who were forced to write alone, for no reader. It ma kes viable the possibilities for innumerable womenÂ’s writings, an unlimited number of wo men writing, and an in finite number of womenÂ’s writings. As women continue to develo p individual styles, each one joining in
142 the chorus, women together wi ll be engaging collectively in one of the most important acts of creation possible: the creation of women as Selves Â– and Selves who are fully, completely able to express themselves as women.
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163 Appendix 1: Diaries Used Alkerz87 (16) http://alkerz87.diaryland.com Aznchickie (18) http://aznchickie.diaryland.com Alarouge (26) http://alarouge.diaryland.com Alicesbaby (27) http: //alicesbaby.diaryland.com Alwayslolita (Â“twentysomethingÂ”) http://alwayslolita.diaryland.com Albinoqueen (Â“teenage girlÂ”) h ttp://albinoqueen.diaryland.com Adilee (no age given) http ://adilee.diaryland.com Blueyedmom (no age given Â– refers to Â“grandsonÂ” in diary) http://blueyedmom.diaryland.com Blackskirted (no age given) h ttp://blackskirted.diaryland.com Blueeyedmoo (23) http://blueeyedmoo.diaryland.com Barbiebundy (no age given) http://barbiebundy.diaryland.com Cheerldnbaby (no age given) h ttp://cheerldnbaby.diaryland.com Cutiepie1983 (20) http://cutiepie.diaryland.com Carallyne (no age given) h ttp://carallyne.diaryland.com Cindylou03 (Â“college studentÂ”) http://cindylou03.diaryland.com Cherry-punk (no age given) http://cherrypunk.diaryland.com Dolphinz (13 or 14) http://dolphinz.diaryland.com Drewbears (25) http://d rewbears.diaryland.com Dumbbunny (17) http://dumbbunny.diaryland.com Dannii (25) http://dannii.diaryland.com Dearedwin (no age given) h ttp://dearedwin.diaryland.com Eggsaucted (no age given) h ttp://eggsaucted.diaryland.com Emmiexx (20) http://emmiexx.diaryland.com Eve-louise (22) http://eve-louise.diaryland.com Faerieduckie (no age given) h ttp://faerieduckie.diaryland.com Fairybytch (23) http://fairybych.diaryland.com Groovy-jo (no age given) h ttp://groovyjo.diaryland.com Girle (Â“post-collegeÂ”) h ttp://girle.diaryland.com Grubbygirl (no age given) http ://grubbygirl.d iaryland.com Greentealeaf (21) http://greentealeaf.diaryland.com
About the Author Deborah Silverman Bowen is a doctoral candida te in the Department of English at the University of South Florida with an exp ected graduation date of December 2004. She holds a BachelorÂ’s degree in English from the University of South Florida, and a MasterÂ’s degree, also in Englis h, from New York University. Following a hiatus from school during whic h she wrote and produced video games and children's toys, this former Romantic/Victorian specialist has turned her attention to cultural studies. Ms. Bowen has been invol ved in, among others, the Popular Culture Association, the American Association of Be havioral and Social Sciences, and the KeatsShelley Society. Her current interests incl ude cyberculture, cyberfeminism, and the juncture between the two.