note on the future of the mirror

Hello friends,

Last week, The Stage Mirror had its first birthday. It’s been a week since I wrote for the newsletter, and so I thought I’d send you all an explanation for my relative slackness. There are two reasons for my having had less time than usual for the last week. 

The first is that I’ve been finishing a first draft of (the book I used to think of as) my memoir, the public-facing book that I’ve been working towards since I started writing about my transition on Facebook a few years ago. It’s clearly not exactly a memoir, any longer, in the sense I’d anticipated when I began the process of compiling this manuscript - it includes elements of criticism, some theoretical writing (though much less than The Argonauts!), and a lot of genre pastiches, of the kind that I’ve worked on for the newsletter over the last year. I’m pleased with how it’s going, and I’m also pleased that it is mostly made up of new material, so there’ll be something even for Stage Mirror readers.

The second is that, over the last week especially, I’ve realized how heavy has been the emotional stress of the last few months. I’m glad that I got a chance to write something approaching my feelings about the whole thing last weekend, and at the same time the “Yoko” piece has really left my feelings of anxiety in a fairly hard place. I’m very safe, and I’m taking good care of myself, but in the emotional context I’ve been in, I’ve preferred to dedicate my time to projects that aren’t going to appear in public on the same day as I write them. Hence finally getting around to putting the memoir together, and stepping back from the more high-contact genre of newsletter post. 

Last Fall, I wrote to you all to tell you that I would be stepping back from The Stage Mirror sometime in 2020. I’m getting more of a sense of what that will look like. I’m not going to discontinue publishing completely - I’ll just move to something much more occasional, one idea every couple of weeks or so, as and when something comes up that I want to write about. I also think that, once I’m finished with the memoir, I’ll be shifting this title back into the critical genre that I worked more in when this began. In the longer run, my goal is to try to figure out what it means for me to be working in so many different registers and domains: how can I bring together the public-facing work with the peer-reviewed stuff? I care about both a great deal, and I’m grateful for the example of so many scholars and thinkers who have found some way to yoke the two horses to the same chariot, so to speak: I’ve been thinking especially hard about the work about the work of Terry Castle, Jennifer Doyle, and Fred Moten, in particular. And I’m also aware that my own approach is quite different from theirs, and so I need to think about how I want to stitch something together, make something make sense for me.

I felt tremendously guilty when I realized I was going to have to step back - as an academic already possessed of enormous institutional privilege in a profession that is collapsing into a neoliberal nightmare of contingency, and just as a human being in the world, I’m extremely aware of what an honor it is that anybody pays a subscription fee for my words. I think the fact that this has been paywalled has been a remarkable boon for my writing, in ways that I didn’t expect at all when it started - I think it has enabled me to assume a much greater confidence in the way I address this list, than I otherwise could have assumed. I think that has been a consistent good. I’m also aware that it has produced some of the conditions I was writing about last week, where people feel entitled to information about me. That has felt more difficult to bear than I would have expected in advance.

And it also has made it difficult to contemplate winding down - since people have paid money for my writing, I feel obligated to supply writing, more or less regularly and more or less indefinitely. Which I can’t do - I doubt anyone could. I’ve also begun to realize that the quantity of writing I’ve been producing has, to some extend, slowed my ability to pick up new competences, or even just new interests. And whatever this post-tenure life can look like for me, I no longer want to be recycling the knowledges and competences that have brought me this far. So that need is pushing me into a reading phase.

My relation to that changed when the newsletter became a year old - somehow that, arbitrarily, infamy looked enough to me like a substantial body of work worth paying for access to, even if I didn’t produce anything new. So I suppose what I’m saying is, moving forward, I’m going to be publishing less on here than I used to. Most of what I publish will be for subscribers only, rather than public posts. There will be some new material each month, but I will think (and encourage you to think) of the subscription fee as access to an archive, rather than as a financial expectation of new material. 

This newsletter has not been what I expected it to be, which was a more or less academic blog about Victorian literature. It has helped me to see that, in certain ways, Victorian literature is not (or is no longer) a primary category under which I wish to marshal my resources, or make my commitments. So, with an understanding that this newsletter has accomplished so much work, moved so much for me, and that my continued movement depends on nudging it gently to the side, I would like to offer my most particular gratitude to those writers who have allowed me to publish their work or their ideas on here, either in the form of collaboration or interview: Maddie Holden, Molly Priddy, Paul Saint-Amour, Christina Grace Tucker, Charlie Zieke, and of course my husband Daniel Lavery. And I’m so extremely grateful to you who read this, for supporting my work, for writing to me about it, and to discussing it on Twitter, on here, and in real life. Even on Reddit. I’m beyond astonished that people have been willing to come along with me, and as grateful as ever that my transition has placed me in a community worth sustaining, in conversation and physical communion with the most remarkable people with whom I have ever exchanged anything at all.

With all my love,