On Closeness: ​Explorations of intimacy through narrative, sculpture, and translation

Plan Author

  • Hannah McGowan, 2018

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Course: Tell about the South: The South in the American Literary Imagination
  • Course: Polemic in Antiquity
  • Tutorial: Sculptural Knitting
  • Tutorial: Advanced Latin

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Caroline Whitbeck, University of Pennsylvania


This Plan includes translations of selections from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, a piece of creative writing titled “On Closeness,” an art installation by the same name, and a comparative essay titled “Absurdity of Self.” I have always had a passion for language, using it in strange ways and pushing its boundaries. It felt natural to incorporate that interest into creative writing, through means both of more formal translation, and lyrical stylistic experimental narrative what-have-you. In the exhibition tie-in to ​On Closeness—​which began as just a few personal writings done in order to appease the rather neurotic need to put words to feelings, and grew into the monstrosity before you—I set out to create a space that, to me, best encapsulated the environment and atmosphere I set out to achieve through words in the writing.


blood and fate have the same weight in your mind. there is a supposed-to-be as much as there is a very-well-could-be and we can’t know what that is precisely, but one spends their entire life sorting stones and figuring out which is which. even if you don’t realize that’s what you’re doing, you’re probably sorting—it’s what people do. fate does the same thing, but differently than any person ever could. this is not equivocal to god. god doesn’t have a say. there’s just a way that things are, and will be, and those things are constantly changing because one turns left instead of right, north instead of south, and so forth. there are a million paths. everyone is always blind to all of them. that’s how it is.

Summer had breathed a sort of shaky life into us, late as it was now. The slow creep of autumn felt far away even as it was presently apparent in the leaves and the cut of the air in the early morning, as though we would be sustained on the memory of humidity and the non-memory of bitter cold—something I forgot about every year. I sat up, asked Em for a cigarette. She handed me the one she was smoking, not interrupting herself in her conversation with David, and I took it.

The reality of the art world, even now, is that it has been so dominated by male artists for so long that there are, functionally, two labels one might get when working and achieving in the field: artist, and female artist. An argument could be made that this is not a maliciously wrought label, and that it’s simply due to the climate of the times preceding now that this distinction is made; but such an argument ignores the fact that women often have a more difficult time gaining a foothold as ​just an artist–that is, an artist without the prefix of ‘female’–as though being female places them in an inherently different category than their male counterparts.

A detail from Hannah McGowan’s Plan show titled “On Closeness.”
A detail from Hannah McGowan’s Plan show titled “On Closeness.”