We felt the first stirrings of collaborative desire fifteen years ago. since then, we have published one book (and some miscellaneous pieces) together and have finished another. They are very different, though related, books, and while producing them we have had different, though related, thoughts about our collaborative authorship. One thing that collaboration teaches you is that there is no last word on anything. Someone looking over your shoulder or over your draft is going to find a better word or cross out your word entirely.
A story of origins: We began to talk about writing a book together while trying to finish our dissertations. It was helpful to fantasize such a project—it presumed that the dissertations would get finished and that when they did, we would be alive and well and still writing. But the fantasy of collaboration addressed other anxieties, especially over the word original in the demand that the dissertation be a “significant and original contribution to scholarship.” Each of us knew how much her work depended on the scholarship she had read and how much the shape of her work had been affected by conversations, in reading groups or over coffee, with other graduate students, professors, friends, bartenders. Worse, in our theory classes we were being rewarded for pontificating about the demise of the very author we were working so hard to become. The notion of solitary authorship on which intellectual authority depends seemed a lie. At least in our cases. We certainly felt like frauds, but then as women in programs in which the students and professors were no longer exclusively but still predominantly male, we were perhaps predisposed to feeling like frauds. To write a book that had two signatures, we mused, would formally acknowledge that authors depend on other authors and would as well trouble the notions of original and originary. Intellectual honesty seemed to require the candid dismantling of the solitary author, of the original and originary genius.