There are countless theoretical arguments that attempt to define “major” and “minor” literatures, but this lively and deeply felt work is one of the first to speak from the authority of the experience of being minor—of being the “minor writer” who, according to the definition of “author” given by Michel Foucault, does not possess a “name.” This book, then, is an impassioned critical and ethical defense of the act of writing for purposes other than critical acclaim.

In the tradition of Horace's Ars Poetica, Gilliland uses comments by a broad range of writers, as well as her own experience as a minor woman writer, to consider the basic Horatian questions of purpose, choice of subject matter and genre, diction, characterization, setting, and style. She points out that in the absence of major recognition, the minor writer is continually confronted by the existential question, why do I (still) write? This book offers not only a challenge to existing critical theories but an argument in favor of being—for still being, for continuing anyway with one's life and art.

“Gail Gilliland brilliantly personalizes scholarship in this ground-breaking study of the minor writer's psychological and aesthetic position. Being a Minor Writer deepens the questions raised by Tillie Olsen's Silences and deserves to stand beside it in the library of every writer humbled by art's caprice.”—Eve Shelnutt
“What drives the work of 'minor' writers like herself (and the rest of us), those who have little hope of becoming 'authors' in the Foucauldian [cultural discourse-shifting] sense? Her response comes in a series of strikingly well-crafted essays, at once erudite and personal, that look into reasons for writing other than influence or acclaim.”—College Composition and Communication
“[Author Gail Gilliland] discusses major issues in this examination of the role of the lesser-known writer in today's society. Being a Minor Writer will interest anyone who has ever struggled with that 'raid on the inarticulate' called writing…Learned, impassioned, filled with high moral purpose.”—Wilson Library Bulletin




Chapter 1: The Question of Being Minor

Chapter 2: Purpose

Chapter 3: Why I (Still) Write Stories: On Making the Short Story “A Small, Good Thing”

Chapter 4: Experience

Chapter 5: Listening

Chapter 6: A Sense of Place: Geographic Flux and the Writer’s Work

Chapter 7: Diction: Searching High and Low for the Common Man

Chapter 8: The Moment of the Subject: Motherhood and Authorship in a Deconstructive Age


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282 pages