Date of Award
College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, English and Literary Arts
Creative writing, Poetry
I Was Not Born, springs from my critical work as a scholar of both modernist poetry and contemporary poetics. One focus of my PhD is early modernist female writers, such as Mina Loy, Gertrude Stein, and Marianne Moore. My dissertation returns to these women, as well as to more contemporary experimental poets such as Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, and Lyn Hejinian. I Was Not Bornis grounded in dialogue with these particular poets to explore the domestic sphere as a site of partnership and the complexities of shared emotional space. As my writing has transitioned from the disembodied to bodied, I’ve become interested in the space and resonances around the body and the sonic sentience it can invoke. Submerged in an individual history, these pieces explore concerns with feminism, trust, confrontation, and faith. I intend a persistent, rhythmic, nuanced investigation of relationships central to both poetics and the physically manifested life.
I Was Not Bornuses the domestic as a site to explore how we can develop contexts for and live within atheistic faiths. “Of Recovery” and “A Year to the Day” are samples of this personally revealing investigation. I’ve composed long pieces that also engage philosophical concepts central to such thinkers as Levinas, Blanchot, Butler, and Cixous and recontextualize them through the experience of a (former) suicidal partner and in relation to atheism. This is my lived, postmodern domestic sphere. How responsible are we for someone else when that person negatively affects our own mental health? Levinas writes, “[Responsibility for another] is, however, not an alienation, because the other in the same is my substitution for the other through responsibility, for which I am summoned as someone irreplaceable. I exist through the other and for the other but without this being alienation: I am inspired.” Responsibility and faith in this “inspiration” are complicated when subjected to actual experience, when the reader witnesses how accountability can potentially eradicate the other regardless of irreplaceablility. How does depression complicate our relationship to both spoken and body language? And then, how does this infuse and infect our faith in communication? This manuscript considers how to create a faith in the lights, sounds, and emotions that inhabit a new, solitary domestic space. This hybrid text—a combination of prose, lyric essays, quotations, and recorded transcripts—explores how we can continue to develop faith in language and corporeal gestures regardless of the potential deceptions they might also contain. While this manuscript does examine the dangers inherent in language, it also proposes language as generative and transformative.
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Julia Alexandra Cohen
Received from author
Cohen, Julia Alexandra, "I Was Not Born" (2013). Restricted Access ETDs. 26.