How does an author become an author ?
Meine Gedanken darüber findest du hier. You'll find my thoughts on that here.
The word poetics is derived from an ancient Greek word meaning to make. Wikipedia tells us that poetics is a theory focusing not on the meaning of a text, but rather on how a text's different elements come together and produce certain effects on the reader — how does the author make her texts? In my case, the elements that come together include my past career in music and media art, my life experiences growing up in California and travels thereafter, my identity disorder, and so on...
One of my models is Christa Wolf’s Cassandra, which was published in East and West Germany in 1983 along with a second volume, a protocol of her Frankfurt Lectures on Poetics, Conditions of a Narrative. I paraphrase literary critic Jane Housham’s description to fit my situation: “Cassandra stands for the female writer who struggles to be heard. Further, her guilt at her part in [music life’s] crimes and betrayals stands for [the author’s] lifelong sense of implication in [society’s] errors and delusions.”
In Conditions of a Narrative, Wolf gives background and motivating factors for the novel. A few quotes from her protocol reveal elements concerning the relationship between the writer, the written, and society that resonate in me. “I will tell you at once, I cannot offer you a poetics.… Mainly I want to ask you to follow me on a journey.… I employ various subjective forms of expression… The third essay has the form of a work diary that tries to trace the vice grip between life and subject matter.... The literature of the West is the white man’s reflection on himself. So should it be supplemented by the white woman’s reflection on herself? And nothing more? … Is it possible to conceive of beings endowed with reason who do not know how contemporary man is divided in to body/soul/mind, who cannot understand this division? Cassandra [Juni Shimata] experiences this divisive operation alive and in the flesh. That is, there are actual forces in her environment which, as the need arises, require of her a denial [dissociation] of part of herself.... Narrative techniques, in their closedness or openness, also transmit thought patterns. I experience the closed form of the [novel’s] narrative as a contradiction to the fragmentary structure from which (for me) it is actually composed. The contradiction cannot be resolved, only named.” (Quotes taken from Jan van Heurck’s English translation re-printed by Daunt Books/London in 2013.) Thank you, Ms. Wolf.
My protagonist, Juni Shimata, suffers from DID (dissociative identity disorder, commonly called 'multiple personalities'). I have shown parts of my manuscript to divers docents. Two of them have suggested that the storyline about the woman conductor and her travails is fine. But couldn't I leave out the part about her being dissociative?
Dissociative personalities got a bad name back in the days of Sibyl (I prefer Dr. Nijenhuis' analysis); and my impression is that publishers shy away from any story dealing with dissociatives. It might be pulp fiction! But seriously: who cares today? How about Homeland's bipolar protagonist Carrie Mathison? And what about the news that Benedict Cumberbatch is slated to portray severely traumatised Patrick Melrose in the eponymous novel cycle by Edward St Aubyn—who was himself severely traumatised?
Here's my case for St Aubyn's being dissociative. St Aubyn doesn’t explicitly that he is dissociative, but his biography with massive drug addiction, his running around from place to place, unsuccessful marriages, endless therapy, suicide attempt all point in this direction. Most particularly I point to his description of dissociation during the child rape scene in his novel Never Mind: “He (Patrick) did not know who this man was, it could not be his father who was crushing him like this. From the curtain pole, if he could get up on the curtain pole, he could have sat looking down on the whole scene, just as his father was looking down on him. For a moment, Patrick felt he was up there watching with detachment the punishment inflicted by a strange man on a small boy. As hard as he could Patrick concentrated on the curtain pole and this time it lasted longer, he was sitting up there, his arms folded, leaning back against the wall.” That, as far as I am concerned, is a great description of a dissociating moment. And this novel series about a dissociating protagonist is now to be made into a TV series staring Benedict Cumberbatch.
So why shouldn't my protagonist be dissociative?
More thoughts on the way...
Hélène Cixous' Poetics