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September 2020

Professor Sandra Doller

Professor Sandra Doller 

  • What's your favorite book to read for fun?

    For pure pleasure, I have been reading Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, which led me down the path to reading her mother, Mary Ellmann, who is also an incredible writer and thinker. Both are satirical, biting, feminist, and very funny as well, which is especially helpful right now! Ducks, Newburyport is one sentence over 1000 pages and reads like Molly Bloom’s brain, in the present tense—which may be no accident, given that Lucy Ellmann’s father, Richard Ellmann, was a James Joyce scholar. I am always fascinated by writers’ families, and this particular genealogy is especially striking.
  • What's your favorite book to teach?

    To teach, I love timeless and instructive texts like The Writing Experiment by Hazel Smith, the Les Figues anthology I’ll Drown My Book—both for creative writing—and for film, The Conversations by Michael Ondaatje and Walter Murch, and Film Studies by Ed Sikov.

  • Do you have a favorite film?

    One of my favorite films to teach (and watch and rewatch) is Be Kind Rewind, because it is so indebted to the collaborative, the handmade, the low-tech, and the possibility of making art—even an art form that can seem so out of reach, like film. The director, Michel Gondry, is one of those filmmakers who truly makes poems out of films.

  • How do you spend your free time?

    This answer was different 6 months ago—pre-Covid! I can hardly remember that far back, so my “new” fun things in the new normal are noticing nature on evening family walks—especially a particular neighbor’s tree of bright pink plumerias and a rapidly growing pumpkin patch nearby. Having a 5 year old definitely helps with nature observation!
  • What is your biggest literary inspiration?

    So many writers I love, especially those who break with tradition, form, and genre expectations: Renee Gladman, Bernadette Mayer, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Claudia Rankine, Fanny Howe, Ronaldo V. Wilson, John Keene, Mia You—some of whom I have the pleasure of knowing, studying with, or publishing.

  • What's your cure for writer's block?

    I don’t believe in writer’s block! In my creative writing classes, I teach procedural methods that are designed to subvert the kinds of anxieties that face us when we face the blank (or partially scribbled on) page. Whether it is writing using Oulipian methods (like not using the letter “e” for instance), writing via erasure or cross-out, or homophonic or literal translation, I subscribe to the belief in constraint as a generative and necessary practice, one that writers have used throughout time.
  • What are you working on outside of class?

    My current work is at the intersection of several interest areas, including performance, cross-genre work, essay, and something called “not writing” (which I have written a lot about!). I am especially concerned with reclaiming dailyness and domesticity as valued spaces of artistic interrogation, the feminist act of asserting that embodiment and existence matter. Having a child a few years back, and now with Covid in the world, I am also interested in the notion of interruption not just as a hindrance to, but in fact as an essential part of my work.