Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!
For this session we read an excerpt from City of Incurable Women by Maud Casey, posted below.
Our prompt was a choice between: “Write about a portrait that you’ve seen.” OR “Write about an escape.”
More details will be posted on this session, so check back again!
Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.
Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!
You emerge reluctantly on the photographic plate.
Your hair parted in the middle; long lumpy braids punctuated by thin-ribboned bows. A third bow perches on top of your head, an afterthought. Your flat mouth. Your crumpled chin. One eyebrow interrupted, as if you shaved a line through it to stop its progress. Earrings dangle from your small ears; once, someone thought it was a good idea to adorn you. In this first photograph, you don’t yet know they have a name for your pain or that the stages of hysteria are called, collectively, the passionate attitudes. With great effort, you summon a body for the photographer.
You weren’t the photogenic one. That was Augustine. Still, there is the fortuitous coincidence of your godliness and your hometown of Loudun, famous for its demonic possessions. In particular, Joan of the Angels, mother superior of the Ursuline Order, to whom Saint Joseph appeared after a final rough exorcism. That you walked the same earth as Joan of the Angels is useful; you hear the promise it holds in the way the doctors discuss the she who is you. Serpentine sentences laced with optimism wound into science. With your birth in Loudun, the doctors make sense of your life; with that detail your life becomes a story with a beginning, a middle, and, somewhere up ahead, an end.
In the photograph, you look sideways out of a face a paler white than your blouse, which looks more like a billowy straitjacket, but that comes later. You may not have been the pretty one, but soon you will be known as the escape artist of the city of incurable women; it was said you could rip a straitjacket to pieces with your teeth.