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Herself, Destructed: Examining Women Writers Who Destroyed Their Own Work with Naomi Huffman and Julia Ringo

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Four Sessions Tuesdays, 6:30 pm EDT - 8:00 pm EDT March 7 to June 6, 2023

Online via Zoom

The ‘With Books’ option includes all titles required for this group at a 10% discount from our Bookstore. Please allow 2 weeks for shipped books to arrive.

Meeting Dates:
3/7, 4/4, 5/2, 6/6
Online via Zoom

This course will examine the fiction and lives of three women united by their tendency to destroy their own work. In the 1960s, when she was nearing forty, Barbara Molinard devoted herself to a project of self-destruction: as soon as she completed a story, she tore it into pieces. Her husband and a close friend, Marguerite Duras, recognized the worth of her stories, reassembled them, and published a collection, Panics, which was first released in France in 1969 (and recently translated into English by Emma Ramadan). The absurdist stories of Panics deftly capture the despair that permeated Molinard’s existence, and leave a residue of anxiety and unease. Yet they’re beautifully and precisely rendered, the masterful work of an immensely talented and troubled mind.

Molinard shares this tendency for destruction with Rosemary Tonks, a literary darling whose antic autobiographical novel The Bloater incited controversy among English critics when it was first published in 1968. Following the death of her mother, Tonks experienced a mid-life religious conversion and so completely disowned her work she burned her last unpublished manuscript. Then there’s Ann Petry, whose novel The Street, from 1946, was the first by a Black American woman to sell over a million copies. Petry chafed against the ensuing publicity, which portrayed her talent as an exception, and destroyed much of her unpublished work, including personal correspondence and journals. In our discussion of these books, we will consider the forces of identity, politics, and culture that shaped these women’s lives. We will also attempt to understand why eradicating the fruits of their extraordinary talent may have offered them peace, agency, and the opportunity to heal from the abuses of the world.

  • Session I: Introductory Essays (included in your order confirmation email)
  • Session II: The Bloater by Rosemary Tonks
  • Session III: Panics by Barbara Molinard
  • Session IV: The Street by Ann Petry

Led by

Naomi Huffman and Julia Ringo are the co-founders of Hagfish, an editorial studio based in Brooklyn.

  • Naomi Huffman
  • Julia Ringo