Saturday, April 9, 2011

That'$ the Fa$hion

Delirious Hem recently put out a call for work for a feature on fashion called SEAM RIPPER ("Delirious Hem already speaks to fashion in its very title. What better space for a response to the intellectual community at large on women writers and fashion? And what better way to respond than to let these women speak and glitter and shimmy and bedeck and bedazzle for themselves? For that’s where Oprah and Orr made their biggest mistake—they put “fashion” on women, instead of realizing that fashion, like poetry, is something that comes from a woman, that she does by and for herself"). I like fashion, so I submitted a piece ("Some Notes on Fashion"), a little lyric essay, which you could just as easily call a prose poem. To my surprise, someone responded in a comment that they'd like to see more research or evidence to back up the claims in the piece. It hadn't even occurred to me that anyone might take it for a journalistic article. The assertions are bold and provocative by design, but of no inherent truth value; they're just ideas, openings for discussion. See, from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
essay (n.)
1590s, "short non-fiction literary composition" (first attested in writings of Francis Bacon, probably in imitation of Montaigne), from M.Fr. essai "trial, attempt, essay," from L.L. exagium "a weighing, weight," from L. exigere "test," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + agere (see act) apparently meaning here "to weigh." The suggestion is of unpolished writing.

essay (v.)
"to put to proof, test the mettle of," late 15c., from M.Fr. essaier, from essai (see essay (n.)). This sense has mostly gone with the divergent spelling assay. Meaning "to attempt" is from 1640s. Related: Essayed; essaying.
I love the history of the word "essay," its implications. Harper's recently published a list of "general subject questions" taken from the All Souls College examinations ("Often described as the hardest exam in the world, the test is given over two days in September to recent graduates of Oxford"). The questions included:
What is war good for?
Why should I tolerate?
Is dark energy more interesting than dark matter?
Has there ever been a period that was not an information age?
Why does truthfulness matter?
Is China overrated?
What has happened to epic poetry?
Is "women's writing" a distinct category?
Can happiness be measured?
What are the deprivations of affluence?
Why is a leather jacket more acceptable than a fur coat?
Isn't global warming preferable to global cooling?
How many people should there be?
Has morality made progress?
Is nothing sacred?
These could have easily been phrased as statements (China is overrated, Happiness cannot be measured, Nothing is sacred, etc.) and served equally well as prompts.

Anyway, I left a comment to this effect (currently awaiting moderation), that the statements are not to be taken as facts, but perhaps that was counterproductive? Perhaps I should have let it be and seen what other reactions it provoked. Maybe Kate and Becca as moderators will wisely reject my comment.


  1. This all soul's thing awesome, they should give that in the US

  2. What do you think, is dark energy more interesting than dark matter?

    Also, is "cosmic latte" more interesting than taupe?