My latest post on the NetFlakes blog:
Listen to me talk about non-monogamy and gendered AI and dystopias where art and emotion are commodified:
I've been working on my very first Twine interactive story which will include some of my drawings, as well. The game is about medieval/early modern torture and the catechism on the surface, and something else underlying... but I'm going to try to keep a lid on it for now. Naturally, my Patreon patrons get the first look at everything I make, but you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter to see my drawings as I do them.
In which I call a small child an asshole.
Spoilers ahead. I'm a pagan witch and I'm doing my doctoral dissertation on nostalgia, gender, and the occult in American literature. Even though I'm a big scaredy cat when it comes to horror films, it's safe to say that I was curious about The Witch. When I read review after review lauding the film for the director's attention to historical detail, lack of cheap jump scares, and even a feminist message, I moved from curious to downright hyped. The movie came out on my birthday, and I took this as another good omen that I had found a new favourite.
What a disappointment.
The movie that I was hoping I'd see would be about a patriarchal Puritan family's psychological dissolution thanks to witch panic motivated by religious fervour, sexism, and desperation vs. the wilderness. I was hoping that the character of the witch was a figment of their imagination -- just like it had been 60-odd years after the movie takes place, in Salem. I was hoping that the foreboding and tense rising feeling of dread that every review told me to look forward to would be thanks to the idea that we, as viewers, aren't sure if the witch is a real threat, or if we should continue to be critical of the Puritan eagerness to blame women for all the ills of the world.
When the movie dashes all these hopes within the first 30 minutes by revealing the monster (isn't there a rule about that in horror...?), I even held out hope that there would be a reveal later that we were supposed to distrust what we saw as being through the panicked eyes of the family.
The Witch had a chance to say something interesting about the very real fear that gripped the New England colonies and the innocent people (mostly women) who suffered and died because of it. I've read many articles that cite the director saying that he wanted us to understand that for the Puritans, a witch was a viable threat. Wouldn't it have been more interesting from a place of historical accuracy, a place of questioning patriarchal violence (which would metaphorically help us question the same which remains today), and from, you know, just a scary point of view if the witch was revealed not to be a cheesy bride of Satan monster, but either a) a crone living in the woods and minding her own goddamn business but that the family condemns from fear (often the real victim of witch crazes) or b) not real at all? Why did the movie go to such lengths to show us that there is a real monster in the woods, then attempt feebly to make us worry that Thomasin would be condemned as a witch? Why did the movie decide to reveal the feminine as monstrous after all? And newsflash: Thomasin signing her life/soul over to a man/Satan so that she can become a fictional stereotype in the woods rather than starve to death is not a feminist ending. Sorry!
I was hoping for a movie that was about how horrifying witch hunts -- literal and figurative -- were, and continue to be. I was hoping for a movie that critiqued the idea of demonizing femininity as being monstrous and unnatural. I got a movie that toes those lines in all the predictable and most boring ways and worse yet, is being championed as some feminist horror masterpiece. Put it this way: when you make a movie that Cotton Mather would have been cheering about, screaming "I told you so!!" -- you've probably failed.
I wrote about the Southern Gothic elements in Bloodline.
My newest podcast is on my newest favourite movie.
This is the 1000-word piece about a Barbie cartoon you've been waiting for!
I wrote about my new favourite documentary.
I wrote and illustrated a fictional non-fiction etiquette guide for entertaining zombies in the post-apocalypse for the zine press Pamphlets for the Apocalypse, and you can buy your very own right here.
"It is a well-known fact about the undead that the idea of 'home' is near and dear to their still hearts. The undead must visit their former house before they can exist peacefully as undead -- banishing it from what's left of their consciousness -- but that doesn't mean that they can't enjoy exquisitely planned and executed candlelight suppers with entertainments."
In Dining With The Undead, author Caroline Diezyn takes the guess work out of entertaining some of the most difficult hosts--the Undead. While the world around us may have changed, Diezyn shows us how humanity's prevailing sense of manners and propriety can indeed survive any apocalypse. Raise a glass (or bottle) to toast yourself; with this handy book of etiquette, you're sure to be entertaining post-apocalyptically in style.
Here's a peek at one of the accompanying illustrations:
TEST YOUR MIGHT with part two of our Mortal Kombat podcast.
GET OVER HERE and listen to me wax nostalgic about my favourite video game franchise (part 1 of 2!).
My proposal to the International Congress on Medieval Studies at the University of West Michigan was accepted. The proposal comes from the same paper as the one I'll be presenting in England in June, but this conference paper is more skewed to poetry than art. Here's the proposal I sent:
“To tell the todus theropon with tung were ful tere:”
Transi Tombs, Toads, and Luxuria in Medieval Alliterative Poetry by Caroline Diezyn
Until the last years of the fourteenth century, medieval tomb imagery reflected a hope for salvation, with calm-faced figures representing a confidence in God’s mercy. Then, a strikingly different type of monument appeared in Northern Europe: the transi tomb. Gruesome emaciated corpses with exposed organs, skeletal frames with skin and tattered clothing drawn across the bones, and decaying bodies covered with snakes and toads were all incarnations of the new type of sepulchral memento mori. Kathleen Cohen writes that the transi tomb is not merely another iteration of a memento mori; the transi tomb also played a role in the expression of hope for the salvation of the soul of the deceased (181). I intend to argue that there is a link between this representation of the dead in transi tombs and descriptions of the dead in Northern English alliterative poetry – but not just in the male depictions of ghosts in poems like The Three Dead Kings. Guenevere’s mother in The Anturs of Arther is crawling with toads – just like the first known transi tomb in Europe, and unlike any others until the mid-fourteenth century. I intend to argue that The Anturs of Arther represents the specifically female counterpart to the male transi tomb representation – that of Luxuria. Transi tomb imagery and epitaphs that condemn a luxurious lifestyle specifically depict toads, changing the message from a simple memento mori to a commentary on Luxuria, the iconographic symbol of a woman devoured by toads and snakes as punishment for her sin. Guenevere’s mother, a ghastly animated corpse described in the same way as the transi tomb corpses, disavows covetousness. Her depiction and disavowal cast her character in a specifically feminine sinful way when we consider the symbolic significance of the toads devouring her as representing Luxuria.
Cohen, Kathleen. Metamorphosis of a Death Symbol: The Transi Tomb in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Oakland: University of California Press, Print.
I received another question from the student who I'm corresponding with regarding editing and writing jobs:
Is it true that like a writer, editors should not quit their day jobs for a very long time (low, inconsistent pay)?
Here's my answer:
This is question is a Really Big One. I’m also really sad that it needs to be asked, but I totally understand why you’re asking it! I’ve felt the same way many times since I began my undergrad in 2006. I’m going to try to answer in a way that remains genuine but that doesn’t sound too pessimistic.
The short answer is probably that yes, you gotta pay the bills. The long answer begins: yes, you gotta pay the bills, but whatever you devote the most time to in your life should be what you really want to do. Most people, except the very fortunate, need to continue in some job they don’t love in order to make ends meet until they can hopefully move onto something more fulfilling. The problem with this, especially for our generation and especially for creative projects, is that creativity is so often devalued in our society as not being lucrative enough, that often people will never break free of the mindset that they can’t possibly make a living doing what they love.
I’m not an idiot, or even an idealist, and I understand that not everyone’s circumstances are such that they can devote themselves to work that they find meaningful instead of work that keeps them alive. Capitalism works by making it necessary that people need to continue doing work they hate to survive.
That said, and while acknowledging my own bias and privilege, I have seen how a focus on my creative pursuits as Legitimate Career Options has helped me to not only ameliorate those skills and become more successful, but has also made me a happier person. I’ve been really lucky in that I have often found employment that has at least tangentially fulfilled some aspect of my creative interests, but I’ve also been in situations where I’ve worked jobs I absolutely hated, where I was treated badly, making minimum wage, with no creative or intellectual stimulation whatsoever. I worked these jobs because I had to. I was in a terrible financial situation where I was reliant on a partner who resented having to support me. I hated that whole situation, and it made me hate myself. My point to this overshare is that there are those who say that they can work at their “day jobs” and then work on their own fulfilling creative work on the side. In my experience, I was so incredibly beaten down by how much I hated my job that it sucked all creativity out of me, anyway. Instead of spending the evenings and weekends on my own fun work, I spent it dreading going back to my day job, and became very depressed.
So what’s the alternative? I shared your question with a friend of mine whose response more succinctly sums mine up: “Make it your day job. Well, your day jobs. Three of your six day jobs.” That’s basically how I’ve operated. While I need multiple gigs to stay afloat, and I’m really busy as a result, I’m way happier than 9-5 Mon-Fri in retail would ever make me. The only insight I can offer here is something you’ve mentioned before: the value of building a portfolio (or CV). I’m not saying the work you find will be fulfilling. I’ve written way too many smarmily flattering words about jewelry boxes and bikinis for search engine optimization that I know that nobody will ever actually read. But they’re all part of a portfolio of writing, that show me practicing my skills. Of course, these types of gigs can be inconsistent, but the pay typically isn’t “low” – not nearly as low as soul-crushing retail where men sexually harassed me on the regular. Friends of mine who are creative writers work at career counseling companies editing cover letters, or at newspapers writing copy for ads, as their “day job,” while they shop their writing around and work on their own projects. These “entry-level” writing & editing jobs require skills and degrees and experience, but they can be stepping stones as they help you hone these skills, get new experience, and make connections in the field.
I’m also not saying that this method is a sure-fire path to success. If I wasn’t a PhD student full-time, I’d have to be hustling a lot harder trying to find jobs to pay the bills (which is, by the way, another reason why I recommended considering grad programs that offer entrance scholarships rather than ones you have to pay for). In a way, the PhD is my “day job” – but it’s something that specifically ties into writing and editing. And as long as (you’re lucky enough that) your “day job” is in service of your passion jobs and eventual dream job, I think you can hit that medium between “happy” and “fed” (maybe even both!?).
I hope this answer provided some insight without coming across as narrow-minded or naïve. I really do have faith in creative careers and the people who seek them out. And I believe that the only way we can change the system that precipitates your ubiquitous question is by relentlessly and courageously turning the jobs we actually want into our “day jobs.”
Last week, I attended an English department meeting on behalf of the Graduate English Society about incorporating "teaching creativity" into courses. You can see the live tweets from the department account here. Near the end of the meeting, a professor I had in my fourth year of undergrad warned of the danger of turning "creativity" into a buzzword, and reminded us that research papers are creative endeavours, too.
I agree entirely. I let the room know that once I realized that my research papers could and should be written creatively, my writing improved immensely (and so did my grades). The only way that I was able to recognize this was by reading scholarship by established academics -- e.g., published journal articles.
Very few courses in my undergrad career had journal articles on the syllabuses. Though papers in my second and third year required "secondary sources," it wasn't until my fourth-year seminar -- the one taught by the aforementioned prof -- that I was assigned entire journal articles to read for class.
I remember trying to read these for homework and the language and structure seeming impenetrable. My reading skills, even in the last year of an honours specialization degree in English, were not at the level required to parse an academic article easily. (Part-way through my Master's, I remembered this initial reaction as I asked myself if the articles I was reading now were just overall easier, or if my reading level had improved. I assume that it was the latter -- hopefully!)
But aside from elevating my reading comprehension, these articles showed me that academic writing could be eloquent and full of personality, while still being concise and insightful. Once I realized that I could have fun and flex my creativity while I write these papers, I understood how to make my argument more nuanced and my writing more engaging.
As a teaching assistant in the English department, I spend a lot of time going over writing skills in my tutorials. This helps me in the end, because it makes the papers I ultimately have to grade better. But it's also knowledge that I find exciting to impart, now that I've grasped it for myself. We throw a lot of words like "controversial" around when trying to motivate students to develop better thesis statements, but students don't often grasp what we really mean by this. And I think the reason for this is that they, like me, don't realize how they can get creative with their essays.
We ask students to write good essays, but seldom give them a model to follow. It'd be ridiculous for a creative writing class to not stress the importance of reading fiction in order to ameliorate the students' own writing. I think it's equally important for students in literature classes to have models to follow. One option, aside from academic journals which I've already described can be daunting for fourth-year students, let alone first-years, would be for professors to encourage students to read the papers published by the Arts and Humanities Student Council. As a former editor-in-chief of the AHSC, I know how much work goes into these fantastic publications every year. They have a pedagogical use in class, because each paper had to have received an "A" grade to be considered for publication, and then they get blind-vetted by a team of professors. As the person who hand-picked these essays, I can attest to the edge the more "creative" ones had over the other highly-graded submissions. I use these publications when I teach essay writing to my students to show them what an excellent paper can look like. This is often the first time they've read a literature essay. They're often very impressed by their peers' writing, and newly motivated because they finally understand what it is we're trying to get them to do -- structurally, yes, but creatively more so.
It's my opinion, based on my own experience and the good return on investment I've seen with my own students, that stressing creativity in essay-writing is an effective way to improve the quality of the writing, grades, and overall attitude toward English literature as a discipline. Let's remember this when we plan to make our lessons or syllabuses more creative, too.
We're not one-at-a-timing it, here! We're mass-communicatin'!
In January, I have my written and oral primary field qualifying exams. You can see my custom list below.
Name: Caroline Diezyn
Date of Exam: January 2015
Exam Area: American Literature
My Area(s) of Interest (Describe in one or two sentences): My interests include temporality, gender, science fiction, and the occult in American literature.
Primary Field Qualifying Exam Personalized Reading List
Department of English
- General Reading List (acquired electronically from Leanne). Copy and Paste the general reading list here and STRIKETHROUGH any items that you will not be reading.
American Literature I: origins-1865
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, The Relaccion (1542)
[anon.], History of the Miraculous Apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe (1531)
Samuel de Champlain Voyages of Samuel de Champlain (1604-1618)
Jerome Lalemant “The Relation of 1647,” from Jesuit Relations
Thomas Hariot A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1588)
John Smith General Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624)
James Revel “The Poor, Unhappy Transported Felon” (~1650)
Thomas Morton New English Canaan (1637)
William Bradford Of Plymouth Plantation (1647)
John Winthrop “Modell of Christian Charity” (1629-30)
Journal of John Winthrop
“John Winthrop’s Christian Experience”
“A Defence of an Order of Court” (1637)
A Short Story (1642)
“Speech to the General Court”(1645)
Roger Williams “The Bloody Tenent of Persecution” (1644)
Key into the Languages of America (1643)
“The Hireling Ministries None of Christ’s” (1652)
John Cotton “Sixteene Questions of Necessary and Serious Consequence” (1635)
The Way of Congregational Churches Clear’d (1648)
Christ the Fountaine of Life (1651)
Thomas Shepard Autobiography (1646)
Anne Bradstreet The Tenth Muse (1650)
“The Author to Her Book” (1678)
“Some Lines Written on the Burning of My House”(1666)
“To My Dear and Loving Husband” (1678)
Wigglesworth, Michael Diary (1657)
Day of Doom (1662)
Edward Taylor Preparatory Meditations (1670s)
“Upon a Spider Catching a Fly”
Mary Rowlandson The Sovereignty and Goodness of God (1682)
Mather, Cotton Wonders of the Invisible World (1692)
Magnalia Christi Americana (1702)
[various] Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Crisis (1692)
Knight, Sarah Kemble The Private Journey
Byrd, William The Secret Diary
History of the Dividing Line
Edwards, Jonathan “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”
“Divine and Supernatural Light”
Treatise of Religious Affections
Chauncy, Charles Seasonable Thoughts on the Late Revivals
Grainger, James The Sugar Cane
Franklin, Benjamin The Way to Wealth
Crèvecoeur, Hector Letters from an American Farmer
Woolman, John “Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes”
Freneau, Philip “The Rising Glory of America”
“The Indian Burying Ground”
“The Wild Honey Suckle”
Wheatley, Phillis Poems Occasional and Moral
Paine, Thomas Common Sense
Jefferson, Thomas Notes on the State of Virginia
“Declaration of Independence”
Madison, Jay, Hamilton The Federalist Papers
Brown, William Hill The Power of Sympathy
Brown, Charles Brockden Wieland
Foster, Hannah The Coquette
Rowson, Susannah Charlotte Temple
Equiano, Olaudah The Interesting Life
Irving, Washington “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
“Rip van Winkle”
Cooper, James Fenimore Last of the Mohicans
Sedgwick, Catherine Hope Leslie
Bryant, William Cullen “Thanatopsis”
Ralph Waldo Emerson Nature
“Divinity School Address”
Walker, David Appeal
Fuller, Margaret Women in the Nineteenth Century
Poe, Edgar Allan “Fall of the House of Usher”
“The Tell-Tale Heart”
“The Man of the Crowd”
“The Purloined Letter”
“Murders in the Rue Morgue”
Douglass, Frederick Narrative
“The Heroic Slave”
Brown, William Wells Narrative
Hawthorne, Nathaniel (At least 2 of) Scarlet Letter
House of Seven Gables
“My Kinsmen, Major Molineux”
“Young Goodman Brown”
“Rappaccini’s Daughter” Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth “Evangeline”
Stowe, Harriet Beecher Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Melville, Herman Moby-Dick
(At least 2 of) Pierre
“Bartleby, the Scrivener”
“The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids”
Jacobs, Harriet Incidents in the Life of a Slave-Girl
Wilson, Harriet Our Nig
Delany, Martin Blake, or the Huts of America
Davis, Rebecca Harding Life in the Iron Mills
Pierce, Ambrose “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
Harris, Joel Chandler “The Wonderful Tar Baby Story”
“Mr. Rabbit Grossly Deceives Mr. Fox”
Howells, William Dean Hazard of New Fortunes
Chestnutt, Charles The Marrow of Tradition
Harper, Frances Iola Leroy
Please note that I have removed any authors that appear on the post-1865 list from the pre-1865 list to make it easier to parse
American Literature II: 1865-contemporary
Mark Twain Huckleberry Finn and one other novel Puddinhead Wilson, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Henry James two of The American, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, The Ambassadors, Daisy Miller (from the pre-1865 list and I’d like to include it), “The Turn of the Screw”
William Dean Howells, A Hazard of New Fortunes or the Rise of Silas Lapham
Joel Chandler Harris
Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs
Kate Chopin The Awakening
Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper” or Herland
Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery
W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
Stephen Crane Maggie or The Red Badge of Courage
The Native Tradition Cochise et al
Harold Frederic The Damnation of Theron Ware
Ambrose Bierce “An Inhabitant of Carcosa,” The Devil’s Dictionary
- Harding Davis “Life in the Iron Mills”
Charles Chesnutt The Marrow of Tradition
Frank Norris McTeague
Walt Whitman “Spontaneous Me,” “Song of Myself,” “This Compost,” Calamus
Emily Dickinson “I taste a liquor never brewed,” “I’m Nobody! Who are you?,” “I like a look of Agony,” “The Soul selects her own society,” “The Brain – is wider than the Sky,” “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant,” “I dwell in Possibility”
Henry Adams The Education of Henry Adams
Theodore Dreiser Sister Carrie or An American Tragedy
Edith Wharton House of Mirth or the Age of Innocence
Gertrude Stein Tender Buttons
Willa Cather My Antonia
Sherwood Anderson Winesburg, Ohio
Sinclair Lewis Main Street or Babbitt
Jack London The Call of the Wild
- Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby or Tender Is the Night
Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises, “Hills like White Elephants”
William Faulkner two of The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom,
Absalom, Light in August, Go Down, Moses, “A Rose for Emily”
John Dos Passos
Henry Roth Call It Sleep
John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men
Nathanael West Miss Lonelyhearts or The Day of the Locust
Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God
Katherine Anne Porter
Ellen Glasgow Barren Ground
Thomas Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel
James T. Farrell
Robert Frost “Mending Wall,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Nothing Gold Can Stay”
Wallace Stevens “Anecdote of the jar,” “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” “The Snow Man”
William Carlos Williams “To Elsie,” “Proletarian Portrait,” “The Red Wheelbarrow,” This is Just to Say”
Ezra Pound “In a Station of the Metro,” “The Encounter,” “A Retrospect”
Edna St. Vincent Millay “I, Being a Woman and Distressed”
Langston Hughes “I, Too,” “The Weary Blues,” “Dream Deferred”
Robert Penn Warren
John Crowe Ransom
Muriel Rukeyser The Book of the Dead
T.S. Eliot Four Quartets (addition from committee meeting)
Eudora Welty The Optimist’s Daughter
Richard Wright Native Son
Ralph Ellison Invisible Man
Saul Bellow Herzog
Flannery O’Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find
Norman Mailer An American Dream
Vladimir Nabokov Lolita
John Updike The Witches of Eastwick
Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49 or Gravity’s Rainbow
Philip Roth Goodbye Columbus
Joyce Carol Oates
Alice Walker The Color Purple
- Scott Momaday
Leslie Marmon Silko Ceremony
Don DeLillo White Noise
Toni Morrison Beloved
Maxine Hong Kingston The Woman Warrior
Robert Penn Warren
James Baldwin Another Country
William Burroughs Naked Lunch
Charles Johnson Middle Passage
Jack Kerouac On the Road, “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose”
Cormac McCarthy The Road
Malcolm X Autobiography
Audre Lorde The Black Unicorn
Allen Ginsberg Howl
John Ashbery Planisphere, “The One Thing That Can Save America”
Sylvia Plath Collected Works (or Ariel if that’s not allowed)
Richard Wilbur “Cottage Street, 1953”
John Cage “Writing through Howl,” “Lecture on Nothing”
Eugene O’Neill Long Day’s Journey into Night
Arthur Miller The Crucible
Tennessee Williams Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Thornton Wilder Our Town
Edward Albee: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
David Mamet Glengarry Glen Ross
Sam Shepard True West
Susan Glaspell Trifles
Lorraine Hansberry A Raisin in the Sun
Tony Kushner Angels in America
- Your list of ADDITIONS to the General Reading List, in MLA Format, added at the end of the General Reading List.
Barnes, Djuna Nightwood
Chambers, Robert W. The King in Yellow
Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep
Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Heller, Joseph. Catch 22
Herr, Michael. Dispatches
Hurston, Zora Neale Tell My Horse
Isherwood, Christopher. A Single Man
Johnson, James Weldon. The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Larsen, Nella. Passing, Quicksand
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar
Salinger, J.D. Catcher in the Rye
Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five
Whitehead, Colson. Zone One
Wolfe, Tom. Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
Angelou, Maya. Collected Works
Bukowski, Charles. “The Laughing Heart”
Parker, Dorothy. Enough Rope
Scot-Heron, Gil. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”
Crowley, Mart. The Boys in the Band
Hwang, David Henry. M. Butterfly
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman
Lincoln, Abraham. “Emancipation Proclamation,” “Gettysburg Address”
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden
A post I wrote for NetFlakes about which comedies I wish were on Netflix Canada.
I'm the founding editor-in-chief of the Centre for American Studies at UWO peer-reviewed graduate journal, Body Electric. We publish papers by graduate students anywhere in North America on American Studies topics from 1850-present. I finally finished putting together the second volume of the journal, and you can check it out here.