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Mary Clurman '63's picture

Reading Critically

I find all this related reading to be salutary. At this point in my life I can even get ahead of the reading calendar (I still have bad dreams about not having managed all the required work in the required timeframe when a student -- maybe now they'll go away!), so I'd like to address everything I've read to date, including and beyond Schweickart and Sosnoski, and on through Cixous.

My overall impression is that the readings are getting more and more narrow, or at least the views of their authors are; the purpose here is surely to give us representative viewpoints, including the most extreme and/or militant. However it all reminds me of the reason I took a leave of absence from Bryn Mawr after sophomore year and never returned (I got my BFA instead): too intellectual, too abstract, too self-consciously rigorous for me. Unreal.

That said, it should also be understood that I feel I owe much of what I am and have become to the two years I completed at BMC, and far more than I ever learned in art school: I learned rigor, discrimination, articulation, perseverance, and with those, I think, intellectual honesty. So, looking at the course readings, I guess that what I acquired at BMC was the ability to seek and find what I need and to jettison what I don't -- even if I didn't recognize the latter at the time.

Nevertheless my experience left me resistant to jargon, keen on monosyllaby (new term? any synonyms?), and mistrustful of text that leans, as does Cixous's, toward the mystical and away from the straightforward. The defining moment came for me some years ago when, having seen the film "Pride & Prejudice," I felt "sucked in," a victim of intellectual identity theft; but when I watched "Othello," I felt a constant interplay between my emotions and my intelligence, a (Brechtian?) distancing that left me identified with, rather than alienated from, myself. (Yes, I'd read both long ago; but the films brought this insight.)

I appreciate the passion in Cixous's text; it was refreshing after Spivak's opaque rantings. I do appreciate Spivak's viewpint, just not her manner, or her writing style: she writes the way I was afraid, near the end of sophomore year, I would end up writing, though minus her anger.

I guess my basic concern is that anger/arguing (as in falsification)is a bad thing. It strikes me as counterproductive and counter-feminine: if, with Woolf, we are to save men (and ourselves) from themselves, atom bombs, global warming, etc., the individuation that is the goal of falsification won't cut it. I hate to see academe going that way, because truth comes to us only through intelligence, discrimination and perseverance.

I like and would shape my opinions and actions in line with the allegorical Kochinnenako of tribal interpretation: all things are in fact equal, each works best in its time, the foregraound is the background and vice-versa.


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