by sof sears, natalie waite, & shirley jackson

 notes on this project

Read & navigate this text as you would a crime scene. As you would if you were looking for clues, for passageways & buried secrets, reverberations of someone who’s long disappeared. Click on the objects beneath every paragraph to get to a new page

Try to click around on the different objects & try clicking on words & try to find the secret pages hidden in the site; embedded into every different fragment of text is another page, if you explore carefully enough.

This is a critical-creative multimedia project/archive/dreamscape/nightmare. Please be aware that much of this content could be potentially triggering and disturbing; nothing is particularly graphic but this is a text about death, murder, the language and rhetoric of violence, trauma, patriarchy, and so forth. There are moving visuals as well as several pieces of music or sound that will automatically play. Some of these audio elements could be jarring if you’re not prepared. Please listen with caution & maybe listen at a medium volume, with headphones.

This is a project in auto-theory; I’m trying to work with feminist methodologies to craft a feminist and monstrous narratology, and wielding creative writing—memoir (see hospital), theory, fiction, essay, performance—to restitch a new language, a new expression of the uncanniness of “girlhood” as an experience and socially enforced role. I inhabit “girlhood” even though I no longer identify as a woman or girl; I cannot outgrow this particular self, I mean, and that liminality, as thorned and scabbed as it is, is worth excavating, palpating, restitching, I think. I am inspired by Shelley Jackson’s thoughts here:

“The project of writing, the project of life, even, is to dissolve that tumor. To dismantle the project is the project. That is, to interrupt, unhinge, disable the processes by which the mind, glorying in its own firm grip on what it wishes to include in reality, gradually shuts out more and more of it, and substitutes an effigy for that complicated machine for inclusion and effusion that is the self.” 

This thesis draws from different blood sources: I like to think of it as an interconnected web of veins, of various routes and movements. I cite others’ work and ideas as often I can, either via hyperlinks and/or in the Works Cited” page. I am primarily borrowing/reworking Shirley Jackson’s Hangsaman, but I note when I am using direct quotes from the text. For the most part, the words are my own, but I’m writing towards and with the text, extending it, using its character (Natalie) as a narrator. I am inspired by Shelley Jackson here, in her groundbreaking, experimental 1995 hypertext work “Patchwork Girl,” which is a queered, feminist, fragmented and subversive retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I am looking to honor her work through honoring Shirley Jackson’s novel—her most underacknowledged and interesting work, in my opinion. I also draw from my English Honors Thesis, directed by Dr. Whitney Trettien, which is conjoined with this project at the hip, really; I excerpt some of my analyses of the text and use those here as well. 

This project is also greatly indebted to my advisor Ricardo Bracho and Dr. Gwendolyn Beetham as well as the entire GSWS and English Departments at the University of Pennsylvania. 

This project is dedicated to the girls, though, most of all: to the real missing and murdered girls, especially the trans girls and femmes of color whose deaths or disappearances don’t get TV shows, don’t get storylines, don’t get any sort of homage or enough attention. It’s dedicated to the immeasurable historical and ongoing trauma produced by patriarchy, by misogyny and transphobia, by the fact that there is enough horror for me to write an entire thesis about. This shit has a psychic toll. There is no peace in pretending it doesn’t exist. 

Click here to begin.