Dubravka Ugrešić’s novel ‘Baba Yaga Laid an Egg’ teaches us about the mythological legacy of ageism in contemporary society

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Photo by MaddiesCreation on Unsplash

More than a decade after its publishing, Dubravka Ugrešić’s book is still relevant: Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (2007) criticises how we reduce humans — and in particular women — to their bodies… and age.

“In the absence of all ideologies, the only refuge that remains for the human imagination is the body.”[1]

In Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, the mythological being from Slavonic folklore — Baba Yaga, a hag — comes to life in the form of contemporary women; older ones, whose age and gender automatically push them to the margins of our youth-obsessed, patriarchal society.

Aging, dying, and death are all realities we wish to avoid as much as possible. They have turned into a sort of taboo — emotions connected to loss and death, such as mourning and grief, that were once openly shared have become increasingly private and almost shameful. Death used to be acknowledged in extensive public rituals, but now a quick funeral is all there is. …


“Killing the Angel in the House [is] part of the occupation of a woman writer.”

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Toxic masculinity and ghosts go together brilliantly. Take The Shining as a… well, a shining example. But we are not here to talk about famous creations brought to life by male geniuses like King or Kubrick. Instead, we want to highlight the less recognised ones — the angels in the house, as Charles Dickens would say, to which Virginia Woolf would retort: “Killing the Angel in the House [is] part of the occupation of a woman writer.”[1]

It’s the female writers who tell of the quiet, often overlooked lives of women confined inside the four walls of their domestic sphere. And what these voices show us is that even there in the quiet of the house women face and fight the abuse that a world dominated by men enables.


Reviving the Idea of Maternal Finitude

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Photo by Alexey Shikov on Unsplash

‘The definition of motherhood in our culture is one in which the mother sacrifices herself to the child. She sacrifices her self,’[1] argues Susan Griffin in ‘Feminism and Motherhood’, an essay she originally published in the 1970s. Like many of her influential contemporaries, such as Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, or Adrienne Rich, Griffin is interested in the idea of ‘maternal finitude’[2], which subverts the traditional ‘belief that she [the mother] could satisfy our desires if she really wanted to[3].

“The murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness.”

Although motherhood implies ‘a space shared with the other’[4], the aforementioned feminist theorists renounced the concept of the mother and the child as a unity ‘expressing the original unity of the world’[5], claiming that such definition only reinforces the Christian ideal of ‘kenosis or the loss of self’[6] traditionally encouraged in mothers. Instead of idealising the mother as a selfless martyr suppressing her own needs to fulfil those of the F/father and the child, second-wave feminists perceived motherhood as ‘the field of contradictions’[7], a space for ‘ambivalence: the murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness’.[8] Hence, the second-wave feminist theory subverts the myth of the selfless mother who has an infinite capacity to give and nurture. Furthermore, it highlights the complexity as well as the finitude of maternal love and selflessness. …


Alice Munro defies the ideal of female domesticity

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Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

‘I am not sure now whether I love any place, and […] it seems to me it was myself that I loved here — some self that I have finished with, and none too soon,’[1] contemplates Alice Munro’s protagonist of ‘Home’ when she returns to the house of her childhood. Despite what the title might suggest, Munro’s ‘Home’ is a ‘narrative of a haunted self, a story of loss, longing, and dread’[2], in which the narrator envisions her future domestic self trapped back in her hometown ‘like one of those […] captives — nearly useless, celibate, rusting — who should have left but didn’t, couldn’t’[3]. …


Seven practical steps by a Creative Writing MA student

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Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

You’re getting up past noon, eating canned beans three times a day, and playing videogames way past a reasonable bedtime. Most importantly, you’re not getting any writing done. It’s a block, a rut, a hibernation, or whatever you want to call this dark period of uncertain length that strikes unexpectedly and at the least convenient of times to suck every ounce of inspiration out of you. There’s nothing you can do but sit at your desk and wait for the stars to align, the skies to open, and a golden ray of creative energy to touch your face. …


Gender Posing in Deborah Turbeville’s 1975 Vogue Editorial

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Turbeville, Deborah. Vogue US May 1975. 2. / Source

In 1975, Deborah Turbeville’s fashion editorial “There’s More to a Bathing Suit Than Meets the Eye”, or “Bathhouse” for short, appeared in the American Vogue, marking her breakthrough. Two years later, The New York Times described the rising star as

the only American photographer in the triumvirate that has changed the direction of selling clothes from pleasant images to eeriness, shock and alienation. The other two are men who live in France, Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton. Her work is more romantic than that of her male colleagues, who have been described as producing erotic fantasies that flirt with danger. …


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Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

As another year ends
we find ourselves
in a numb post-coital phase;
with Christmas behind us
December’s purpose, too, turns into nothing
but freezing air and foggy breaths
we don’t quite know
what to do with.

Soon we rush into the upcoming
suicidal season; ins Loch fallen
as we say in German and what I do to prevent
myself
from falling into one of those black holes
is cooking everything that moves:
a duck is the best since it used to fly, untamed.

While I roughly stuff the bird with grated apples
and smear its stripped back with honey,
I imagine how later we might also eat some of its
former ability to fly,
consume its knowledge of wildlife, its lack of
existential fears
or those of future,
even might inherit its gaping pores meant for
growing feathers
that could beat
the dreary winter months to come. …


Writers should not serve their readers as a moral compass

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Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Due to popular demand (a huge thank you to everyone who responded to my story on trigger warnings, regardless on which platform), I will now continue the conversation I started two weeks ago on the increasing oversensitivity to controversial literary works.

Let’s begin with another classroom anecdote (I currently study Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham): during a heated debate on (in)appropriate literature, someone recalled having to read about women being mistreated, raped, and murdered in every single text assigned as part of a dystopian fiction module. …


An individually universal experiment

(ex-pe-ri-men-tal [1] wri-ting [2])[3]

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[4]

[5], [6], [7], [8]

potion
sassy mind
solar arm
matcha sole [9], [10]

/ɛkˌspɛrɪˈmɛnt(ə)l ˈrʌɪtɪŋ/ [11]

an unfledged thought,
simmering, complete
in its in com ple tion. [12]

experiment = complete in its incompletion [13]

/ -t(ə)l/ [14]

[1] Lexico says: “based on untested ideas or techniques and not yet established or finalized” OR “relating to scientific experiments” OR “involving a radically new and innovative style” OR “based on experience as opposed to authority or conjecture (archaic)”

[2] Lexico says: “the activity or skill of writing” OR “the activity or occupation of composing text for publication”

[3] So, what is it, the nature of “experimental writing”? Is it a way to produce a text that is incomplete, fragmented, broken — in other words, unfit for publication? Or is it a “technique” one first has to invent in order to expand the canon of publishable writing? If the latter is true, how far does a writer need to push? …


Censorship in lit is near

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Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash

When I have moved to Nottingham this September to attend the Creative Writing MA course, I have begun learning not just about writing but also about a different culture. While it would be farfetched to say that I experienced a culture shock — after all, Switzerland, as most of Europe, has been properly globalized and, yes, westernized after the Anglo-American tradition — there was something I found extremely difficult to digest.

Two months later, the omnipresent political correctness continues to baffle me.

This bafflement overgrew into outright frustration when, a few weeks ago, a discussion about trigger warnings erupted in my “Creative Writing Conventions” class. We have just read “The Janitor on Mars” by Martin Amis, which is — paradoxically — a quite unconventional story: it takes place in an orphanage run by a group of pedophiles. While there are no graphic descriptions of sexual assault, the reader is informed that one of the boys, Timmy, was raped by a staff member. …

About

Denisa Vitova

Creative Writing student in Nottingham. Published by The London Magazine, Ambit, Firewords, Poetry Society, The Moth, Acumen, etc. On Twitter as @VitovaDenisa

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