In late April 2012, students in my undergraduate Introduction to Feminist Theory class at Naropa University read Danielle Dutton’s SPRAWL. With literature written by women as our guide, we explored feminist thought in its historical and philosophical contexts as well as in its application. The course was organized around several books, including Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Dutton’s SPRAWL. We read these novels over an atypically long period so that we could do both close readings of the texts and apply multiple theories to produce multiple readings. Simultaneous with our reading of SPRAWL, students read Simone de Beauvoir, Lyn Hejinian and Sherry B. Ortner, but one will also recognize in their questions the influence of other courses they were taking at the time, such as Experimental Women Writers.
Jack Kerouac School BA students Emily Ashley, Anna Avery, Ali Baker, Kiwi Barnstein, Eric Cooley, Lauren DeGaine, Taylor Estape, Jackie Gardea, Yasamine Ghiasi, Caroline Jacobs, Erin Likins, Carolyn Ripple, Ella Schoefer-Wulf and Sofia Stephenson participated in the interview. It has been lightly edited for publication.
The Class: In Everybody’s Autonomy: Connective Reading and Collective Identity, Juliana Spahr writes that Gertrude Stein’s Everybody’s Autobiography and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas indicate that “her writing (her self) is not unreadable but rather hyper-readable.” Would you consider SPRAWL to be what Spahr calls “hyper-readable”?
Danielle Dutton: I haven’t read Spahr’s book, so I’m not entirely sure if I’m understanding the question, but here’s what it makes me think of: Werner Herzog. There’s an interview with him from GQ that I’m kind of obsessed with. In it he talks about how he makes films for the “secret mainstream.” I love this idea. Partly because it makes me laugh and partly because I believe him. And this idea of his seems to jive with my (mis?)understanding of Spahr’s notion there of “hyper-readability.” That something seemingly difficult could actually be enormously “readable,” if this latter term can be defined starting from a different set of assumptions about what reading is.