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Redeeming the Gorgon

“To tell her own story, a writer must make herself a character. To tell another person’s story, a writer must make that person some version of herself, must find a way to inhabit her” (3-4).

In My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, Jenn Shapland blends her own lesbian identity with McCullers’ closeted-queer persona to tell the story of each in parallel. Shapland articulates her thoughts with precision and artistry. Part of her skill comes from the vocabulary she wields, and today’s words come from her.

If you’re new to Wordy Wednesday, here’s how it works. I select words from books I’m currently reading that are new to me or that I don’t know well enough to use myself. I include the sentence that depicts the word, and then I list its definition. (Today’s definitions are from the New Oxford American Dictionary.) Lastly, I come up with a sentence to use the word myself.


“The room’s closets have been converted into vitrines with glass windows for doors” (91).

Noun, a glass display case

As a former tour guide, I remember the vitrines of souvenirs from their world-wide travels lovated throughout the Palmer mansion-turned-museum.


“Alive or dead, the author is a protean form, just as the self slips constantly beneath one’s feet” (119).

Adjective, tending or able to change frequently or easily

The modular furniture proved protean, easily and frequently rearranged to her liking.


“I wrote out my introduction and questions: a script that would keep me sane and, I hoped, prevent any egregious pronoun errors” (135).

Adjective, outstandingly bad, shocking

To miss a fracture in an X-Ray is an egregious mistake.


“[S]o many of the images of lesbians that circulated in pulp novels codedly, intentionally made them out to be gorgons, diseased, hardly human” (154).

Noun, in Greek Mythology each of three sisters, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, with snakes for hair, who had the power to turn anyone who looked at them to stone;

a fierce, frightening, or repulsing woman

“I promise you’re not a gorgon for being stern with your students,” the older teacher assured the younger, “It’s important to set clear expectations, and you didn’t even raise your voice.”

Try the words yourself and share your sentences in the comments!



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