Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

The Breaking Project: Discussion

(photo/painting: Alice Lesnick)


There are a number of ways to engage in dialogue with the pieces on The Breaking Project, as well as with their creators and other readers.

  • Each Breaking Project piece has the option to "Add new comment" at the bottom of the page. You may add comments as you wish and reply to other comments about/sparked by individual pieces.
  • This page's comment space will serve as a general Discussion board for The Breaking Project. To join in the discussion, simply click on "Add new comment" below, or add to a thread by replying to someone else's comment.

We are looking forward to seeing where our conversations take us!


Back to the Breaking Project home page


Anne Dalke's picture


One of the students in my genre course just published a web event reflecting on the device of "gutters" (first named in comics, applied by her here to all literary forms), which seem to me another marvelous illustration of how breaks can operate to initiate creativity and newness; see Gutters: An Evolution in Thought.

Anne Dalke's picture

broken links

A few weeks ago, I noticed a number of broken links on this site. Thinking that these "breaks" were not so useful, served no purpose, irritated and frustrated me…I mentioned them to the ladies who maintain this space. Most of them were immediately fixed, though a few were left un-repaired; some glitches must have seemed unrepairable, or not worth the trouble of repairing, or…?

And then I realized that, unable to follow the expected links, I had to find some work-arounds, some other ways of either 1) getting where I wanted to go, or 2) going somewhere else. This opened up some novel associations, new connections, unexpected ways of going about things... Those actions, too, form part of the breaking project, made concrete and visible on this site… touché. How appropriate, to have a few literal "breaks" in The Breaking Project!

Anne Dalke's picture

Break and Continuity: Playing to Other Rhythms

When Alice visited my course on "Literary Kinds" today, to talk about The Breaking Project--> "choosing radical change —Breaking away, in, up, through, down, out, . . . ground, free . . . the cycle, the spell, the mold"--one of my students "said," in reply, on Serendip, that "Break is Fake: Our thoughts have happened before. There is no such thing as radical. There is no such thing as 'break.' Change and evolution, by their fundamental nature, are S L O W, iterative, 'tinkering' processes. "

I see two different orientations, here, towards change-and-how-it-happens--and I also saw an interplay between them this week, while reading Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The novel has a chapter called "Break and Continuity," from which I quote below. This passage is about the disruption of space (rather than time), but it nicely pairs sliding doors--which please because they do NOT interrupt continuous space--and the jerky movement of a Japanese woman's walk, which pleases because it DOES disrupt continuous movement. We need, in other words, and are pleased by, both break and continuity…..

Barbery's narrator says, "I was fascinated by the way the Japanese use space in their lives, and by these doors that slide and move quietly along invisible rails, refusing to offend space. For when we push open a door, we transform a place in a very insidious way. We offend its full extension, and introduce a disruptive and poorly proportioned obstacle…. An open door introduces a break in the room, a sort of provincial interference, destroying the unity of space. In the adjoining room it creates a depression, an absolutely pointless gaping hole adrift in a section of wall that would have preferred to remain whole. In either case a door disrupts continuity…. Sliding doors avoid such pitfalls and enhance space. Without affecting the balance of the room, they allow it to be transformed. When a sliding door is open, two areas communicate without offending each other. When it is closed, each regains its integrity. Sharing and reunion can occur without intrusion. Life becomes a quiet stroll--whereas our life, in the homes we have, seems like nothing so much as a long series of intrusions….

… an association of ideas led me from sliding doors to women's feet…. women come in, slide the door along the wall, and take two quick steps that lead them to the foot of the raised area where the family rooms are located…and with a supple, gracious motion of their legs pivot upon themselves as they climb, back first, onto the platform…. the slight pirouette of their feet leads to a curiously broken and causal series of steeps, as if their ankles were hobbled…. when a Japanese woman disrupts the powerful sequence of natural movement with her jerky little steps, we ought to experience the disquiet that troubles our soul whenever nature is violated in this way, but in fact we are filled with a unfamiliar blissfulness, as if disruption could lead to a sort of ecstasy, and a grain of sand to beauty. What we discover in this affront to the sacred rhythm of life, this defiant movement of little feet, this excellence born of constraint, is a paradigm of Art.

When movement has been banished from a nature that seeks its continuity, when it becomes renegade and remarkable by virtue of its very discontinuity, it attains the level of esthetic creation.

Because art is life, playing to other rhythms."

Anne Dalke's picture

politics of breaking

So much of the material published (so far!) in this collection is about personal "breaks." I came across a quotation today from Philip Berryman--"'Liberation' entails a break w/ the present order in which Latin American countries could establish sufficient autonomy to reshape their economics to serve the needs of that poor majority"--which made me realize that the concept of "breaking" has profound political resonances and consequences as well.