Carolee Schneeman’s Vulva Morphia, the use of Humor, and Feminist Discource


Book Set Ten: Feminist Books

I thoroughly enjoyed our feminist book set. Exploring the ways in which the book has been used as a political object, or rather, a means for dispersing political ideas was really interesting.
Carolee Schneeman’s Vulva’s Morphia, aside from just being visually stunning, is incredibly skillful in its pairing of text an image. I was drawn to the book immediately, not a surprising fact, as the work of Granary Press has consistently stood out to me in our many book sets.
What initially struck me about the book was its humourous text. Schneeman tells the story of a vulva and its experiences encountering important works on theory, sexuality, and feminism. The humour initially stems from the personification of the vulva but, there is a lot at hand in Schneemann’s choice to do this. Using personification, Schneeman shows the ways in which ideas attach themselves to women’s bodies and how feminists seek to alter this discourse.
In many ways self-referential, the humour of the piece likewise comes from investigating the ways in which feminists construct themselves. The text isn’t afraid to poke fun at feminists and the ways in which feminist texts often obscure more than they reveal. In many ways the simplification of these ideas makes them accessible and becomes a point of entry for those interested in feminism.
The text is then juxtaposed with expressionistic portraits of various vulvas. The portraits are mounted onto the book with the text connecting each page as it moves over the inner-hinge of the book. Schneeman positions the text in the book beckons the reader to continue on exploring not only the vulva but, the ideas behind it. The impressionistic portraits work to sustain the reader’s aesthetic interests. The variety among the images allows for a representation of diversity both inside of feminist discourses, and the diversity of female bodies.
I also, think it is worth considering the ways in which feminism, to many an unattractive concept, is placed at the center of an aesthetically pleasing book. That the esoteric nature of the theoretical concepts alluded to by Schneeman are democratized by the books form.
Ultimately, the meaningful and complex nature of Schneeman’s Vulva’s Morphia could be easily lost. But, the combination of text and image within the book forces the audience to confront new ideas and old prejudices.

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