The 2020-2021 Brace Center for Gender Studies Faculty Fellowship was awarded to Kate McQuade, Instructor in English. According to her website, McQuade is an author of the story collection “Tell Me Who We Were” and the novel “Two Harbors.” Her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in numerous publications, including “The Harvard Review,” “TIME Magazine,” and “The Washington Post.” She is also the recipient of several other fellowships and scholarships.
McQuade’s project is entitled “Breaking the Frame: Authority, Intersectionality, and ‘Writing Beyond the Arc’ in Contemporary Women’s Literature.” Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, McQuade’s approach will diverge from the originally intended scholarly paper, presentation, and novel.
“When the pandemic happened, I realized I cared more about getting students together to talk about gender and story structure. I wanted to plan a more interactive event because we all need connection right now, and I’d like to create a space for students to explore their own gender narratives more proactively,” wrote McQuade in an email to The Phillipian.
McQuade has worked with Flavia Vidal, Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies, to create a weekend-long virtual writing retreat in January. According to McQuade, there is no prerequisite for writing experience, so any interested students may attend.
“The event will include a short presentation of my research and an interactive writing workshop where students will write and discuss their own narratives of gender and sexuality, with an emphasis on the different shapes those stories can take. We’ll also be livestreaming an interview with the author Kate Reed Petty, who is excited to talk with Andover students about her recent novel ‘True Story’ and why it plays around so overtly with different genres,” wrote McQuade.
McQuade was inspired to apply for the Brace Faculty Fellowship by authors who have written about gender and sexuality through non-traditional structures like split narratives, non-chronological narratives, or narratives that play around with multiple genres in a single book.
“I became interested in asking why so many authors, especially women and [LGBTQIA+] authors, are pushing beyond that traditional ‘heroic arc’ that we see so often in literature in order to tell their gender stories,” wrote McQuade.
Vidal explained that the Brace Center awarded McQuade the fellowship for three reasons: her scholarship, creativity, and student focus. According to Vidal, these three components made McQuade’s proposal “irresistible.”
“On one hand, there is a real strong level of scholarship and narrative fiction and creation of different forms of writing together with scholarship on social-justice related issues, gender for sure, and from an intersectional angle, she is also looking at race and class. With all of that, there is a really strong scholarly research component to it. There is a creative piece of it. Mrs. McQuade is an established, published author and writer, and her project investigates the creative writing process and the process of narrative formation, so again the merge of the scholarly and the creative was very appealing,” said Vidal.
Vidal continued, “The third piece of it is that there is a particular component that is connecting her findings to students and student work on campus: students who are interested, students who are interested in writing, students who are themselves writers and interested in creative writing and the writing process.”
McQuade hopes that by discussing different story shapes, students can find narrative structures that feel authentic to them. She also hopes that the retreat will inspire students to write down their stories.
McQuade said, “I think most of us are familiar with the [Aristotelian] narrative arc we often see drawn on the board in English class. That hero’s journey of rising action, climax, falling action. It’s a fine shape. It’s just not the only shape, and the gendered history of that structure can make it the wrong shape for certain stories. I’m excited to see more and more books published that don’t just question that traditional arc, but explicitly reject it for other shapes.”
For more information on McQuade’s work, visit www.katemcquade.com.