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A Vocabulary of Thinking

Deborah Mix cites the genesis of her project on female experimental writers as a seminar that she took in graduate school.

“We read a bit of Stein (just a few short pieces) in the class, but I was struck by the fact that the avant-garde was always talked about in masculine terms and with respect to masculine and white forbearers,” she says. “As a result, our sense of the contemporary avant-garde was also largely white and male. I wanted to find out what would happen if we thought about experimental writing through a lens that privileged female, and feminist, concerns.”

Mix sees A Vocabulary of Thinking as contributing, then, to the growing body of scholarship invested in “highlighting the significance of women writers” and “broadening our sense of what constitutes innovative American poetry.”

Mix is proud to have participated in a movement toward “broadening the canon.” She believes this type of work is important to students. “The more diversity students see in their literature classes, the more they're encouraged to recognize and value diverse experiences, the better,” she says.

Although writing the book was a long and involved process, Mix feels that the project has benefited both her teaching and her sense of herself as a scholar. She says that she enjoys teaching “writing that is perceived as difficult” and that she believes that her role as a teacher is to encourage students “to be willing to depart from what we know how to do already as readers, to experiment with reading. One of the things I want to do as a teacher, one of the things I feel like I learned from this project, is to encourage that kind of risk-taking.” Mix says that completing this project helped her to believe that she “can and should participate in larger conversations in the discipline.”

For more information about Mix’s book and to read the recommendations of reviewers, visit the University of Iowa Press’s profile of A Vocabulary of Thinking.

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