Tiffany Kraft teaches English Composition and Literature at Clark College. Her research interests include 19th-century British Literature, creative writing, Rhetoric and Composition practice and pedagogy, and adjunct advocacy. “I teach in a way that leads to an awareness and appreciation of the craft of writing.” You can find more at tiffanykraft.me.
In The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), Wilde subverts social, intellectual, and sexual paradigms to expose the ethos and materialism of the age. In title and intention, my zine takes its cue from Wilde’s playbook, and attempts something similar, though on a smaller scale that is fit for the digital maker (author, editor, self-publisher, and promoter) of the 21st Century. In the Preface, I come out in character:
This is a Trivial Zine for Serious People. Because there is very little music in traditional academic publishing, and I need something sensational to read on the train, I give you The Importance of Not Being Too Earnest. Itwas conceived via email, or scooped, rather, from the seminal mind of Wilde’s DNA. This slight illustrated quarterly tucks neatly in handbags and attracts cult followings. It also masquerades as an Objet d’art, for its own sake.
Above all, it is a curiosity of things others dare not say in our digital age of posing as pstdeudo-intellectual [sic]. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it. It promises nothing more than to ease sorrow when your heart pangs, give rise to laughter when you’re limp, and show love when you hate.
Tiffany (A Woman of No Importance)
The idea for the zine materialized when I reflected on an email from Merlin Holland, in which he advises me not to “follow the rest of the sheep down the path of pseudo-intellectual obfuscation” (Holland, Personal Correspondence). This is ready advice, as too many scholars are in the habit of appropriating Wilde as gay martyr or affected Aesthete when in reality he was many things, including a Classics scholar, a husband, father, friend, and lover. So in taking Holland’s advice and Wilde’s cue, my zine shall take on the spirit of fancy in a hybrid form.
There is even more collaborative spirit in my zine, though, as faculty fellow Rebecca Kelley suggested that we each introduce the zine as project in our sections of Writing 151, The Writer’s Craft, at Oregon College of Art and Craft this fall semester. Now, OCAC’s culture is utopian, and students are working artists/academics. For example, it is not unusual to receive non-traditional academic artifacts, such as performance essays or neatly bound books with an imaginative essay perfectly paginated inside. The students’ critical and creative capacities dovetail, and it’s inspirational to see ideas set in art and action.
Zine crafting reminds me that art and language are adaptive, and that the tools we use to create are not singular, but dynamic. My zine begged for a mixed aesthetic, so I was compelled to buy a vintage teal Underwood typewriter. The machine, whom I call Algernon, helps me balance, embellish, and ground digital content, and because I love playing in words, the marriage is ideal. And it is personal, as the anthropomorphization of Algy indicates.
In drafting workshops, I recognize the certain sparkle in my students’ eyes as they contemplate the pattern, substance, and shadow of their zines-in-progress. And this is a core collaboration from concept through to creation, publication, reflection, reception, and appreciation, as we will show, critique, and archive the zines in OCAC’s library come this December.
Essentially, zines are alternative, collectible, art objects that are not only fun to create and read, but they are calling cards that announce your arrival in an inclusive community of artists, writers, and rebels. I am fortunate to live and work in Portland, Oregon where creatives thrive in no small part because of world-class attitudes and places, such as the Independent Publishing Resource Center. IPRC supports makers by sharing knowledge, resources, tools, and technology: “We’ve helped community members find their artistic voices, especially disenfranchised youth (including GLBT, minority, at-risk, and homeless youth) whose lifestyles and experiences tend to be marginalized in the major media.” This is social conscience.
So it is no wonder why I embrace Wilde who writes:
Still, I am conscious now that behind all this Beauty, satisfying though it be, there is some Spirit hidden of which the painted forms and shapes are but modes of manifestation, and it is with this Spirit that I desire to become in harmony. I have grown tired of the articulate utterances of men and things. The Mystical in Art, the Mystical in Life, the Mystical in Nature–this is what I am looking for and in the great symphonies of Music, in the initiation of Sorrow, in the depths of the Sea I may find it. It is absolutely necessary for me to find it somewhere (De Profundis).
For me, for now, the Zine is Mystical.