Fiction

It seemed natural to me that I began to gravitate to fiction through the door of philosophy, specifically, political philosophy. In part, that comes from my training. But my passion for the big questions that philosophy poses about our existence—what it means to be alive in this world, at this time, and how that might be different for others in different places and at different times—always connected me in more than cognitive ways to the philosophical texts I was reading.

In an essay called “Thinkers and Dreamers,” James Ryerson noted, that the novelist David Foster Wallace, who had a background in philosophy, considered fiction a way to “capture the emotional mood of a philosophical work.” Fiction isn’t simply an attempt to make philosophy accessible to a wider audience, but to “recreate a reader’s more subjective reactions to a philosophical text.” (New York Times Book Review, January 23, 2011, p. 23).

I think fiction can get at these more subjective, emotional resonances in a text. But I have become more and more interested not only in people's subjective responses to philosophy texts, but also in the feeling-ful work of writing philosophy and political theory. To explore this, I am writing an historical novel about the life and work of Christine de Pizan, a fifteenth century woman whose books were popular in her time and who became the first European woman to become a professional writer.

But, of course, fiction has a much wider reach than imaginative responses to philosophical texts. And so has my incursion into this genre. My first published story was “Eating Camille Paglia.” A satire based on Paglia's celebration of sexual libertinism, told from the point of view of an adolescent girl who takes much of what Paglia writes literally, it appeared in Fiction International in 2005.

I am at work on a story collection exploring dimensions of the sexual revolution and its discontents, told from the point of view of different characters--male and female--in the past, present, and future.