Melissa Febos Craft Talk—In Defense of Navel Gazing

Heimbold Visual Arts Center Donnelley Film Theatre

Open to the public

/ Tuesday


In Defense of Navel Gazing: How it is possible and why it is necessary to tell your most intimate stories and remain an intellectual (and why they keep telling you otherwise)

How often have you heard another writer sneer at the concept of literary writing as cathartic or, God forbid, therapeutic? How often have you agreed? Too often we take for granted the false binary between the personal and the intellectual. A literary work's aesthetic or intellectual merit does not preclude catharsis, nor concerns of domestic, corporeal, or "confessional" nature. Why shouldn't a literary examination of the navel approach profound universalities, be intellectually astute, politically relevant, and aesthetically great? During this talk, we will take a long hard look into our own navels, interrogate our own inherited biases, and consider why "personal" writing may be exactly what we need right now.

Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir, Whip Smart (St. Martin’s Press 2010), and the essay collection, Abandon Me (Bloomsbury 2017), which The New Yorker recently called “mesmerizing.” Her work has appeared in venues including The Kenyon Review, Tin House, Granta, The Believer, Prairie Schooner, Glamour, Salon, New York Times, Guernica, Dissent, Poets & Writers, Lenny Letter, The Guardian, Elle UK,, and her essays have won prizes from Prairie Schooner, Story Quarterly, and The Center for Women Writers. She is a three-time MacDowell Colony fellow, and has also received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ragdale, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The recipient of an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, she is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Monmouth University, serves on the Board of Directors for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and has co-curated the Manhattan reading and music series, Mixer, for ten years. She lives in Brooklyn.