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Notes on Bristling

Our first official installment of the Orientations blog is a set of linked posts by Erica Gene Delsandro and Carrie Rohman. These pieces are meant to be read dialogically, with each other and with themselves, their voices filling and overspilling the professional spaces—journals, conferences, departments—available to us.  They are simultaneously feminist reflections on disciplinary and institutional violence and calls to intersectional feminist action. They are offered in the spirit of what Orientations hopes to accomplish in this space.

-Janine Utell, editor, Orientations

Note: My notes have notes! Given the reflective nature of my post, the endnotes are not traditional endnotes. Rather, they are a running metacommentary, reflecting back upon the process captured in the body of the post. Feminism is a process, not a product, and the endnotes here speak to the fact that our scholarly forms are not always adequate containers for our feminist reflections.

Bristling. I don’t use this word much, and I definitely do not see it on the page often. Maybe that is why it stood out to me when Carrie Rohman (whose post you can read here) employed it in her keynote at the Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf in June 2021. It seemed offhand but managed to strike me as significant. Carrie was saying something about how we—women, I think, in the context of her talk, but let’s circle back to this we[1] later—bristle when we encounter familiar but nonetheless distressing articulations of sexism and misogyny in our places of work. Being talked over, having one’s labor rendered invisible, being told one is too selfish or too aggressive or too successful . . . such expressions of sexism and misogyny pepper our professional experience in the academy. We—there is that we again—hear them in department meetings, search committees, conference sessions, and sometimes even in the classroom. They are so familiar that we often consider them mundane, harmless, and the “cost of doing business” when business is trying to make it in a heteropatriarchal world.[2] But they are also harmful—especially as they accumulate. These mundane experiences of sexism and misogyny might not seem harmful in their singularity but in their accumulation they are powerful. They erode us. They diminish us. And when they occur, we often can’t see their dangerous potential. We focus on the reality that it will be exhausting to point it out, it will take too much energy to explain, it will make us vulnerable to even more commentary and critique.[3] Yet we make a mental note. Record the experience with our body. We bristle.[4]

Illustration of porcupine from zoological lectures delivered at the Royal Institution
Fig. 1. Illustration of porcupine from zoological lectures delivered at the Royal Institution in the years 1806–7. Illustrated by George Shaw (1751–1813). Public Domain.

Carrie’s keynote made quite an impact at the Woolf Conference[5] because it married form and content, boldly recalibrating the parameters of the traditional keynote genre while prioritizing personal experience as a source for theory and praxis. In her own words, this was an “unconventional plenary talk, one that is really about activism and advocacy.” Instead of discussing her recent book or her new project, Carrie chronicled her difficult experience moving through the tenure-track process at her university.[6] Additionally, she provided a break in the middle of her presentation for everyone to gather their thoughts and reflect. And perhaps most significantly, Carrie opened up the floor for those in attendance to share their own experiences. This last choice served to decenter Carrie’s experience as singular and therefore unique, repositioning her experience as a case study, one example among (too) many. The decision to make the keynote less about the me and more about the we compelled a shift from personal experience to structural critique. It was Carrie’s story in its particulars, but it was many people’s story in structure. Between the audience members who chose to speak and the audience members contributing in the Zoom chat, it was apparent that we were participating in a collective bristle.

The experience of a collective bristle was certainly invigorating for many of us in attendance. It was a testimony, a validation, a witnessing, a moment of solidarity. However, I imagine that not everyone had those same feelings, not everyone felt that they were a part of the we that was bristling.[7] For starters, the Woolf community is predominantly white. So, although the audience was constituted by mostly women, it was likely white women who found the greatest affinity with Carrie’s particularly raced (white) experience. Additionally, how did Carrie’s keynote strike the graduate students, adjuncts, and contingent faculty members in the audience? I’m sure that they shared the indignation and righteous anger, but also pondered how, for them, discrimination on the tenure track might be an experience out of reach thanks to the increasing exploitation of contingent labor leveraged to shore up the shrinking and rarefied tenure-track professoriate. And thus, we are back to we. Who is the we that responded so fervently to Carrie’s keynote? How collective, actually, was our bristle?

The question of how to foster coalitions inclusive of difference is not a new inquiry, although it is one that white feminism[8] either keeps asking or, in its most problematic manifestations, does not even perceive as a question. Black feminists, Indigenous feminists, and people of color feminists,[9] because of their acute experiences of intersecting structures of oppression, have been offering answers to this question for decades, even centuries. Audre Lorde, for example, persistently theorizes difference and coalition building in her writing, this quotation being one of many illustrative examples: “It is learning . . . how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures, in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.”[10] Or, one of my favorites, “Divide and conquer must become define and empower” (Lorde, “The Master’s Tools,” 112). Carrie’s keynote—invested as it was in eschewing professional expectations, refusing intellectual disinterestedness, and validating personal experience as testimony—opened a door for many women in the audience to step through. And on the other side of the threshold, they were welcomed and invited to share their experiences. Her keynote initiated the process of defining and empowering. Now that the door is open, it is imperative that those of us in the room tear the door off its hinges and explicitly invite everyone in. Our bristle must not be an end in itself—a sign of affinity, code for belonging. Our bristle must be a beginning, an outstretched hand, an impetus for action.


Bristling indicates a specific orientation,[11] an orientation to or away from something. Is someone oriented away from a white supremacist heteropatriarchy? Is someone oriented towards feminism, intersectionality, and anti-racism? A bristle communicates someone’s orientation. I know I’ve seen someone bristle at something and have recognized immediately that we shared the same orientation. It has happened in graduate seminars. It has happened at faculty meetings. It has happened at the MSA conference.

Imagine: you are filing into a hotel conference room for a roundtable on academic precarity.[12] There are only a few seats left in the too-small room. It is the end of the day, and everyone is showing the strain of dry hotel air and not enough water; regardless, more and more people enter the room. The seats are full. People begin sitting on the floor, perching in the window frames, squeezing into corners. The speakers rearrange themselves so that people can sit up front with them.[13] Finally, as the roundtable begins, it is as if the entire room simultaneously shares a revelation: precarity is an urgent issue adversely impacting so many academics and the academy at large, and yet it is structurally marginalized and diminished within the conference. Everyone is looking around, tallying up the evidence, one cramped and uncomfortable audience member at a time: the roundtable focused on precarity is scheduled at the end of the day, given a too-small room. Regardless, it is standing room only with people lining the hall outside hoping to hear through the door. And that is when it happens, the collective bristle. Everyone in that room shares an orientation. They are oriented against the exploitation of contingent labor and towards a more just and equitable system of employment. Everyone in that room is there to testify and bear witness. Everyone in that room is there to imagine a different way of doing business in higher education. Everyone in that room is oriented toward change.

This moment is not just a figment of our imagination, though—it was real. I was in the room, as were so many others reading this now. We shared a bristle.

The collective bristle that rippled through the room as the roundtable commenced was, at first, encouraging. “We are all in it together,” we seemed to be acknowledging as we looked around at each other, packed like sardines. We were all witnesses to and participants in the process of being made precarious. The reality of the too-small room and the too-late hour coalesced into a pronouncement—arguably unintentional but impactful nonetheless—from the powers that be: This conversation is not that important. This issue is not that urgent.

I imagine that for those in the audience who were used to such treatment—adjuncts in shared offices, contingent faculty with no research support, etc.—this was yet another instance of a familiar experience. Their bristle was the expression of once again. And I imagine that for those in the audience who were unused to such treatment—tenure-track faculty at well-endowed institutions with windowed offices and resources at their disposal—this was a moment of shocked recognition. Their bristle was the expression of indignation. My guess is that the majority of the audience were positioned somewhere between these two poles, as many faculty, even those on the tenure track, experience the threat of precarity to a certain degree. Their bristle was the expression of I’ve seen this before. Even in our different professional positionalities, for a moment, we were of a similar mind: dare to examine the presence and persistence of precarity and you will be made to feel precarious.

What good did our collective bristle in that dry cramped meeting room do? Nothing, if, when the roundtable ended, we met our friends at the hotel bar and forgot about our exasperation, indignation, and recognition. But, if we carried our bristle with us—to dinner, to the next morning’s panel, to our next conference—then that collective bristle might actually serve our choices, our analysis, and our activism. During that roundtable we found strength in numbers, solidarity across rank. Numerous scholars cared enough about precarity to forgo the happy hour drink or the disco nap before dinner, cared enough to sit on the floor and stand in the hall. Many people, I imagine, translated the bristle from a posture into a practice. I see evidence of that: the seminar “In These Times: Activism, Labor, Modernism” originally scheduled for the now-canceled MSA conference and the “Precarity and Pandemic” virtual workshop being offered by Feminist inter/Modernist Studies Association (FiMA) in April 2022.[14]

As we begin ever so tentatively to perceive a post-pandemic professional future, I encourage us to not forget the times when we bristled together. What compelled us to react angrily or defensively? What compelled us to draw up, straighten our shoulders, roll our eyes, and cringe in recognition? Bristling is an expression of discomfort and frustration, but it can also be a sign of solidarity and an invitation to be in coalition with others. And as intersectional feminists, we must not only attend to our own bristling, but also to the bristling of others in service of decentering whiteness, oppositional sexism, ableism, and so on. As a white woman, I must acknowledge the bristling of my colleagues of color, for example. And if I don’t understand why what was said or done was bristle-inducing, then it is my responsibility to find out and examine my own complicity —because if it makes my colleagues of color angry or defensive but not me, then it likely serves my comfort and ease, reinforcing my privilege. Bristling is a way feminists can communicate among our differences and reorient ourselves in solidarity.


Considered in this way, bristling becomes an invitation. Our colleague’s bristle invites us into solidarity, affinity, maybe even coalition. But it can also be a warning sign. Something is not right. Something is amiss. Inclusion is compromised. Difference is devalued.


What if I cause someone to bristle? As a white, cisgender woman, I am very certain that I have been the cause of someone’s bristle. And even more disappointingly, I have probably made someone I care about bristle. My white and cisgender privilege can too easily become an obstacle to my perception of the injustices and oppressions that surround me but do not negatively impact me directly. Instead, they advantage me. Someone’s privilege requires another’s oppression. In fact, I am currently reflecting on how my whiteness advantages me as I move through the tenure track. Am I more easily able to write about feminism, sexuality, and race because I am white?[15] I fear—but also know—that the answer to that question is yes. So I must be the cause of some bristling as my colleagues of color witness how my work is supported and maybe even applauded. Would their work on similar issues be met with similar support, similar approbation? Or, to take another real-life example, how often has my cisgender identity and straight-passing privilege been an advantage in certain professional settings, and how often has such an advantage gone unnoticed by me? (The answers are very often and very often.) Certainly my trans and non-binary colleagues bristle, if not at my privilege alone, then at my ignorance of it. Thus, bristling is both a warning sign and an invitation. My colleague’s bristle warns me when I have strayed from the path of intersectional feminist practice. Simultaneously, my colleague’s bristle invites me to ask, examine, and reorient.

I am reminded of Audre Lorde’s open letter to her colleague, Mary Daly. The letter is a warning and an invitation from Lorde to Daly. Consequently, this open letter is now a lesson. (Especially for white feminists.)

Lorde’s letter is also a bristle. In it, Lorde commends Daly for her work at the University of Boston and thanks her for sending a copy of Gyn/Ecology. And—not but—she critiques Daly for the ways in which the book “dismissed my heritage and the heritage of all other noneuropean women, and denied the real connections that exist between all of us.”[16] Lorde, setting the stage for the work of the feminist philosopher Mariana Ortega, identifies Daly as “lovingly, knowingly ignorant.”[17] At first Lorde thinks that Daly narrowed her scope to western european women, only to realize upon encountering the initial chapters of the Second Passage that Daly does, in fact, examine noneuropean women, but only as “victims and preyers-upon each other” (Ortega, “Being Knowingly, Lovingly Ignorant,” 67). Lorde’s conclusion is immediate: Daly chose ignorance. She might have known, and she might have loved, but she chose ignorance.[18] 

Such a dismissal, Lorde explains, does more than trouble their professional camaraderie. It functions as a serious obstacle to communication between them. Lorde’s letter seeks both to name the obstacle and begin chipping away at it. According to Lorde,[19] Daly never responds. Alexis De Veaux, Lorde’s biographer, did find a note from Daly in Lorde’s papers, thus, regardless of how unsatisfactory its contents, Daly did respond.[20] Lorde’s open letter, the “lost” response from Daly, and the afterlife of this feminist tension only reinforce the obstacle Gyn/Ecology created between them, Daly’s book a dismissal of Lorde’s feminist, anti-racist motivated work.

Lorde was not a modernist writer. Nor was she a modernist scholar. But she was a poet, essayist, and memoirist, regularly on the program at conferences like MLA. (In fact, she first met Daly at an MLA panel.) So although Lorde and Daly might not be the subjects of our scholarship, they should be models for our professional praxis. Their interaction, and specifically Lorde’s open letter, has so much still to teach us about what it means to have a feminist ear, to borrow a phrase employed by Sara Ahmed.[21] Or, to extend Ahmed’s metaphor, Lorde’s letter illustrates what it means to cultivate our intersectional senses.[22] Even if Daly did respond to Lorde’s letter—concurrently warning and invitation—it seems she failed to hear Lorde with a feminist ear, failed to apply her intersectional senses to the pain her book wrought. What can we learn from this vexed communication, seemingly both unfinished and unsatisfactory? We must hone our intersectional senses so that we can recognize the bristle of our colleagues—and our students—even when, most painfully, we are the impetus of their bristling.


As one who came to modernist studies through Virginia Woolf, I am reminded of Woolf’s well-known bristle in Three Guineas. Readers enter the text three years after the narrator received a letter—“a letter perhaps unique in the history of human correspondence,” the narrator muses—and her bristle echoes through the text. What makes the letter unique is an educated man asks a woman “how in her opinion war can be prevented?”[23] We can imagine Woolf’s narrator, rereading the three-year-old letter, pen poised above a blank piece of paper, rolling her eyes and clenching her jaw. Woolf’s narrator laments with frustration that women have been telling men for decades—dare we say centuries?—how to prevent war. In more recent history, women have been demanding the vote so that they could have a voice in decisions such as whether or not to go to war. Readers practically hear the narrator’s exasperated sigh as her pen scratches the page. The narrator’s reply might be three years late, but the educated man’s letter is both long overdue and woefully ignorant.

And yet, Woolf, the consummate white feminist, seems unable to understand how the text of Three Guineas might provoke a bristle in someone else. (Readers, you may find Queenie Leavis a bit annoying as I do, but it is clear that Woolf sets her a-bristling!) Working-class women, immigrant women, colonial women, women of color: Three Guineas not only does not account for their experience or perspective, but also it seems not to imagine them as possible readers. Whereas the daughters of educated men might nod in recognition and validation, other women, far distant from educated men, tighten their jaw, tsk-tsk under their breath, and bristle.

This is important. Woolf, the person, was flawed, and structurally complicit in systems of oppression. Thankfully, Woolf studies has begun to grapple with her personal and political failures more directly.[24] Instead of pushing aside her antisemitism and the way the British colonial project saturates her novels, for example, scholars—especially early career, contingent, and non-white scholars, I would argue—seize upon these tensions, perceiving them as fertile ground for more inclusive scholarship, more open theorizing. Woolf is not being canceled. This is not cancel culture. This is responsible intersectional feminist scholarship. Woolf is being complicated.

Kabe Wilson complicated Woolf. In The Dreadlock Hoax[25]—the novel and the visual art that accompanies it—Wilson uses every word from Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and creates a new story, a recycled story that seems born out of bristle: Of One Woman Or So by Olivia N’Gowfri. The fictional story by a fictional author follows a mixed-race woman through her experience at Cambridge eighty years after the publication of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Instead of understanding Of One Woman Or So as a vehicle of critique only, Wilson understands The Dreadlock Hoax project also as a collaboration with Woolf[26] across time. Moreover, Wilson digs into and ultimately excavates the generative tensions that concurrently complicate and celebrate Woolf’s work. Of One Woman Or So is a bristle in practice, bristle as praxis.

In the scheme of things—modernist studies, the academy—Woolf is but a drop in the bucket. We—and here my we most directly addresses those of us with structural privileges similar to Woolf—must set our sights higher. What would happen if feminist modernist studies looked beyond MSA for community and coalition? Could the structures of the conference push against conventional academic wisdom by scheduling contingent faculty and graduate students in prime slots? Could intersectional ethics be at the center instead of on the sidelines? Could self-reflective assessment be the norm instead of the anomaly?

Perhaps FiMA[27] is an attempt at this reimagining? FiMA hopes to bring together the bristlers, the eye-rollers,[28] and tsk-ers. (The pandemic has twice canceled the first stand-alone FiMA conference; fingers crossed that 2024 will bring FiMA’s feminist goals to in-person fruition.) Born out of the desire for feminist community within modernist studies, FiMA began with a bristle—literal and metaphoric. But even FiMA isn’t enough. Arguably, nothing short of dismantling the master’s house will do.

How? Our graduate programs and professional socialization provide us with only the master’s tools. Luckily, we have alternate tools at our disposal. We have our bristles. If bristles are more than a posture, if bristles are a praxis, then they are also our tools. Bristles, when combined, can tear down as well as build up. I felt this: at Carrie’s keynote, in the too-small room at MSA in Toronto.[29]

Cactus Art by Carrie Rohman, February 2022
Fig. 2. Art by Carrie Rohman, February 2022. Permission granted by the artist.

Maybe you can feel it now, reading this.

Consider this a call to all those who have ever bristled, all those who have ever felt overlooked, undervalued, and spoken over by the academic status quo. A call to all those who have ever felt compelled to seek collaborators, conspirators, and confidants quietly in the corners of the conference room, unseen by the panelists and their pronouncements. And, perhaps more importantly, consider this a call to all of those who witnessed a bristle, spied an eye-roll, heard a tsk-tsk and didn’t understand. Consider this an invitation to attend to those who are not cited in the bibliography, not named in the program, not thanked in the acknowledgements. Chances are that what you saw but didn’t understand was a lesson waiting to be learned.

Let the bristle be our guide: a lesson, and invitation, a tool. I look forward to learning what our bristles can build.


[1] The use of “we” should always strike a note that catches our attention. Intersectional feminism has taught us that the use of an unqualified collective can be leveraged—intentionally or unintentionally—to erase, silence, simplify, and essentialize. This is a lesson that white feminists particularly should learn well.

[2] Who else watched The Chair on Netflix and was both disturbed by the displays of sexism and racism and comforted by the validation such a portrayal signifies?

[3] As Sara Ahmed has written in several places, when we point out a problem, we risk becoming the problem.

[4] The definition of bristle is to act angrily or defensively, typically by drawing oneself up. Can you picture it? You register the implication of a colleague's comment, and you straighten your back, push your shoulders down, perhaps even cock your head. Often barely perceptible, bristling is a common posture, I would imagine, for women, BIPOC, queer, and trans scholars. It's automatic. It's familiar. It's often unselfconscious.

Notably, to bristle also means to make one's hair or fur stand on end. To bristle is to physically register a sound or a sight that might be a threat. It is a bodily reaction. It is embodied.

[5] Benjamin Hagen, the host of the 30th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, made the difficult decision to hold the conference virtually. This prioritized safety and allowed for a more inclusive conference considering the various COVID-19 protocols by which different individuals were abiding.

[6] Recently, in the wake of allegations against Harvard's John Comaroff, several essays have been written about harassment and intimidation in academia, sexual, gender-based, and otherwise. See Paula Chakravartty's “Of Academic Hierarchies and Harassment” and Casey Lawrence's “The Whisper Network Won't Protect Your Students.”

[7] Carrie situated herself like good feminists do, noting her various identity vectors, emphasizing those that bequeath her unearned advantages: Carrie explained that she is white, cisgender, and, in relation to her remarks, a tenured, full professor at a private liberal arts college. If privilege, by definition, is made to be invisible—as Peggy McIntosh explained to us decades ago—then Carrie chose to make hers visible to her audience. Thus, the story that she goes on to share—one of sexism and misogyny—is de-universalized, deliberately framed as particular and personal.

By highlighting her particularities, Carrie is able to invite us to leverage her story as a vehicle for structural analysis. As Carrie explains, “In this situating note, given the experiences that I am going to treat today, we should understand that my experiences may be mild compared to what academics of color, native academics, queer academics, variously abled academics, first generation academics, for instance, with all the intersectional positions included, have experienced. And so, that is part of the point. That is, if I have had certain experiences in this profession, imagine what others have experienced. I can only speak for myself, of course, but this does not make me courageous or original. In the work of memoir, personal experience becomes anonymous, anecdotes are exchanged, and as Ahmed so powerfully reminds us, the personal is structural, the personal is theoretical, and HERE I will add, the personal is professional.”

Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism, ed. Paula S. Rothenberg (New York: Macmillan, 2015), 151–56.

[8] Here I am referring to political whiteness and its employment of feminist rhetoric. As Rafia Zakaria explains, “You do not have to be white to be a white feminist.” Rather, a white feminist is “someone who refuses to consider the role that whiteness and the racial privilege attached to it have played and continue to play in universalizing white feminist concerns, agendas, and beliefs as being those of all of feminism and all of feminists” (Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption [New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2021], ix).

Alison Phipps also takes up the issue of political whiteness in her book Me, Not You: The Trouble with Mainstream Feminism (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2020)—and cites scholars who have theorized the term before her.

[9] Charlene A. Carruthers does a deep dive into Black Queer Feminism in her book Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements (New York: Beacon Press, 2019). I highly recommend!

[10] Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (Berkeley, CA: Crossings Press, 2007), 112.

[11] “What does it mean to be oriented?” This question begins Sara Ahmed's book Queer Phenomenology. My use of the word orientation borrows from Ahmed, with special emphasis on her explanation that “orientations shape not only how we inhabit space, but how we apprehend this world of shared inhabitance, as well as ‘who’ and ‘what’ we direct our energy and attention toward.” (Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006], 3.) And, of course, I am thinking of Janine Utell's inaugural post and the title of this online feminist space!

[12] So, this isn't actually an exercise of the imagination. The roundtable, “Future of Modernist Studies in the Age of Precarity,” occurred at the MSA Conference in 2019. Featuring Alix Beeston, Debra Rae Cohen, Rebecca Colesworthy, Pardis Dabashi, Michelle Rada, and Benjamin Wilson, the roundtable was scheduled for Saturday at 3:30 p.m., the last time slot for regular sessions that day. If you were there, you remember how packed it was!

[13] I can't help but hear echoes of Virginia Woolf's dinner at the women's college in A Room of One's Own: “The dinner was not good. . . . One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Food was not our issue that afternoon, of course, but space certainly was. Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 18.

[14] I would add other seminars, workshops, and roundtables that were scheduled for MSA 2021 to this list, such as: “Fostering Activists: Seminar for the Modernist-Scholar Activist;” “The Whiteness Problem: Filling Gaps;” “Identifying Investments, Labor Solidarity;” and “Teaching Modernism in the Age of BLM.” While not all of these explicitly deal with contingent labor in higher education, they all focus on inequities that contribute to—as well as actions that challenge—ideologies and structures that buttress a labor system dependent on hierarchy and exploitation. They have transformed bristling from a posture into praxis. My sincerest hope is that although in-person MSA was cancelled, members can still participate in some of these action-oriented sessions in virtual—and thus potentially more inclusive—forms. 

FiMA, too, canceled their 2022 conference. In the wake of the cancelation, the conference committee created venues for feminist scholars to share their work and cultivate community: the “Precarity and Pandemic” virtual workshop scheduled for April 2, 2022, and an upcoming issue of Feminist Modernist Studies dedicated to work that would have been presented at the conference.

[15] Similarly, much of my current work is collaborative. (Shout out to Jen Mitchell and our co-conspirators Laurel Harris and Lauren Rosenblum!) Would the predominantly white reviewers of my tenure dossier be more suspicious of my commitment, contribution, and labor if I were not white? Likely.

[16] Audre Lorde, “Letter to Mary Daly,” Sister Outsider, 68.

[17] Mariana Ortega, “Being Knowingly, Lovingly Ignorant: White Feminism and Women of Color,” Hypatia 21, no. 3 (2006): 56–74.

[18] I am replicating Lorde's spelling and choices regarding capitalization here. Her words are chosen, her message carefully crafted, and to alter them feels disrespectful.

[19] When De Veaux was immersed in her research for Lorde's biography—Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003)—she discovered a letter from Mary Daly in Lorde's papers, marked with Lorde's hand. The longstanding lacuna surrounding Daly's letter serves to underscore the tensions between white feminists in the academy and feminists of color straddling activism and academia. Check out De Veaux's biography of Lorde for her interpretation of the events and emotions surrounding the publication of Gyn/Ecology.

[20] Alexis de Veaux, Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006).

[21] Sara Ahmed, Complaint! (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2021), 3.

[22] Ahmed talks about having a feminist ear in her new book, Complaint!, although her use of the physical sense is metaphorical. Many of us with 20/20 vision do not see the inequities around us; many of us with perfect hearing do not register the calls for justice. A feminist ear, a feminist eye: these are not biological; they are political. Feminists, and especially white feminists like myself, must cultivate intersectional senses.

[23] Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2006), 5.

[24] Failure is in the midst of a renaissance, yes? I often turn to Jack Halberstam's The Queer Art of Failure (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011), and Anne Cunningham's essay on the negative feminism of Jean Rhys's protagonist Anna Morgan from Voyage in the Dark is one of my favorite essays to teach alongside Rhys's novels (“‘Get on or get out’: Failure and Negative Femininity in Jean Rhys's Voyage in the Dark,” Modern Fiction Studies 59, no. 2 [2013]: 373–94). And both of these texts always send me to Modernism/modernity's Print Plus issues on weak theory. All to say, one modernist author's failure is our generative opportunity!

[25] Wilson's work pays complex homage not only to A Room of One's Own but also tao the infamous Dreadnought Hoax in which Woolf participated. In 1910, Horace de Vere Cole and members of what would later be called the Bloomsbury Group, Woolf included, disguised themselves as Abyssinian royalty and fooled the Royal Navy into giving them a tour of the HMS Dreadnought.

[26] It is totally worth listening to this interview with Wilson posted on Paula Maggio's Blogging Woolf site.

[27] What is now FiMA began as series of conversations among Sarah Cornish, Julie Vandivere, Anne Fernald, Cassandra Laity, and others. Over time, and at many conferences, these conversations motivated the creation of the association and the journal, Feminist Modernist Studies.

Check out this interview conducted by Janine Utell on The Space Between: Literature and Culture, 1914–1945.

[28] As Sara Ahmed explains, “Rolling eyes = feminist pedagogy.” Sara Ahmed, Living A Feminist Life (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2017), 99.

[29] And I feel it. When my co-conspirators and I meet. When my collaborator and I write. When I imagine the generative and inclusive possibilities that I believe our profession can and should offer to all those in the academy.