Monday, February 04, 2008

Snow White

As some of you know, I've been a little obsessed with Snow White for some years now. In my undergraduate degree I took a few classes that helped to build this obsession, when combined with my already brightly burning love of all things fairy tale and magic. Why Snow White, when there are so many other stories? Because I also love Luce Irigaray, and her theories on sexual difference. Now, what could these two disparate things have in common? That is easy. Mirrors. Mirrors. And more mirrors.

In Snow White, the mirror is central. It is the mirror that drives that blasted wicked stepmother into drastic action against her stepdaughter. Why? The mirror reflected her, and told her that the girl was more beautiful than she. That this beauty made the daughter more valued, and more valuable. That took away her own importance because she could not measure up.

Right. You all know the story.

So what does Irigaray have to do with this? Mirrors.

For Irigaray, the flat mirror - the standard mirror - that we all have in our homes, reflects a specifically masculine viewpoint. When the stepmother looks at herself and is discontent, it is because she does not measure up to the ideal set out for her by the masculine authority. She turns against the girls because she is driven to madness by her inability to function in the man's world.

But there is a specifically feminine mirror - the speculum. A curved mirror. A mirror that can look inside and out, and can bring a wider view into reflection. A mirror that reflects the multidimensional womanhood.

So that got me thinking. I wrote a thesis on the subject. It didn't quite grasp everything. I wasn't ready for it. I've still been thinking about it. Six years later I'm still bemused by the idea.

So a couple of years ago I started to write a story. A retelling of Snow White that could delve into the questions I had about these two women, and about this oh so important third main character, the mirror. A story that could explore why they do what they do, and that would come to a somewhat more satisfying conclusion.

A couple years later, I'm still working on it, I haven't figured it out. But now I'm taking a course on writing that I think is maybe helping me. A course that is at least giving me some of the tools to express what I'm trying to express, and is forcing me to work on it with some diligence, because I need to bring work to class each week. And it is so exciting. I don't really want to do anything else. I think about it in bed, in the shower, in quiet moments at the reference desk, while I'm driving, cooking, cleaning, always. I still don't really know how to say what I'm trying to say. I still don't really know what I'm trying to say. I still haven't found the answers. But to finally be pushing myself on this path is such an unbelievable release. I can't wait everyday to see what I'll type next. It is so freeing.


faerie-writer said...

That sounds like a *really* good novel idea! :D

ru said...

a course on writing? i must admit, i am a little jealous. i was doing my weekly haiku for haiku project. but the guy who was facilitating the whole thing has cancelled it, because he got a new job, and he doesn't think he will have time to do it. so i am a little bit in mourning now, i think.

MadJenny said...

Thanks faerie-writer! Whether or not it proves to be a well written novel, I'm having a lot of fun with it. And that's the main thing, right!

ru - didn't I tell you I was taking the course? I'm a total dark horse aren't I! It is at Humber, taught by Richard Scarsbrook - who wrote "Cheeseburger Subversive" and "Featherless Bipeds". It is so much fun. There are only seven of us in the class and we workshop people's writing every week. Scary but fun.
Too bad about your haiku! You should still write a weekly haiku and feature it on the dabbler! You write awesome haiku!

False Prophet said...

I took a creative writing course before grad school, but it was almost triple the size of yours and seemed to focus more on getting published than improving one's prose. Not that it sucked, I think I just wasn't in the right mindset at the time.

Have you read the Fables comics yet? I have the first two volumes and its take on fairy tales--with Snow White as a central character--is quite interesting.

MadJenny said...

This course is specifically for writing for children and teens, so that is probably why it is smaller.
I took a creative writing class at high school con. ed. a couple years ago that was way too big too.

I haven't read those comics yet, but since I'm on my freedom to read non-Canadian, non-YA, non-new books month, I should try to get my hands on them.

ru said...

fables is really good. there is a new one out just now (came in on the new book cart last week) in the adult GN section called cairo that is getting compared to fables some. don't know if it has any snow white presence, though.