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Notes Towards Day 13 (Tues, Feb. 28): "History Redefined/Reconstructed to Include Us All"

Anne Dalke's picture


I. coursekeeping

*signing in/final name-testing/second web-event due Friday-before-you-leave!

* Bryn Mawr College Books Performance Artist Villanova Canceled
there is space for 14 students in the Bi-Co to join the workshop,
--a super cool opportunity for anyone into that kind of thing:
3 1/2 hour workshop each evening Monday-Thursday, April 16-20,
2+ hours of rehearsal Friday mid afternoon, followed by a
2-hour public performance later Friday afternoon.

* tasting (again) The Book of Salt:
melal: At the end of our class on last Thursday, Anne asked if we cared about the characters in the book. Acutually this is also my question. I felt that we put our focus mainly on the language during our class discussion, reading this book as a ‘textbook’ for an English course, trying to get something out of the writing style. Did we really ‘taste’ its taste? Or we just ‘analyzed’ its taste? To tell the truth, reading by only paying attention to the language itself seems a ‘cold’ way of reading for me. Analyzing the writing style is definitely an important part, but language, no matter how beautiful it is, is used to express people’s emotions.... I care about Binh, because I feel his story relates to mine .... when we are really ‘into’ a book or like a certain character, it is likely because we can see ourselves in it .... their past reflects our past, their future implicates our future ... that explains again why it is so difficult to explain or describe something to a person who does not have any concept of the object, for example salt, only by using language. 

S. Yeager: I was troubled by our in class salt licking ... because ordinary table salt, licked out of our hands, is so different from the way salt is described in The Book of Salt, and so contrary to how salt is used in cooking .... when we read Jessy's post about the queerness in the book being ... simply allowed to be an ingredient ... I understood what was vexxing me. The thing about salt is that is in nearly everything we eat .... However, if it's too obvious, ... it can take the focus off the other aspects of a meal, so can queerness if it's forced to become the central aspect of a character's being.  I think that, by allowing the characters within it to have multiple facets of their lives, The Book of Salt also allows their sexualities to flourish and enrich the story, instead of overpowering the narrative.

FrigginSushi: I can see Binh as stuck ....His image as a vietnamese man is stopping others from knowing Binh more deeply. By not directly addressing Binh as a gay man, I think Truong is giving the character more agency in the book. She doesn't want him to be completely identifable and by using the label "gay", Binh would be trapped in his own image and the gaze of others....Truong is emphasizing ... how limited language can realy be.

II. I had asked you to read Peggy Mcintosh's essay
on phrases of curricular revision for today;
only one of you referenced it in her posting (meaning....
no one else read it? or found  it useful?)

I want to bring it in to frame our conversation:
McIntosh uses Little Women
--Meg, Jo, Amy and her daughters --
to walk her way through five "interactive phases
of personal and curricular revision," asking
repeatedly, "what are the shaping dimensions
of the discipline [of history]? how must they change
to reflect women's experience?"

Meg --who learns Womanless History (about
those in public power) is socialized to 'fit in,'

Amy--who studies Women in History (the
exceptional few) "kills herself" trying to be

Jo--who studies Woman as Problem/Anomaly/
Absence in History "("it's not an accident that we
were left out...the gaps were there for a reason")
understands interlocking systems that work to exclude;

her daughters Maye & Angela--who learn about
Women AS History
(life below the faultline;
subjects as authority on thier own experience;
honor particularity, stress diversity, identify commonality)--
are "canny about systems"

and their children/grandchildren (you all?) will study
History Redefined/Reconstructed to Include Us All:
McIntosh is calling here for an "alternative value system
of 'lateral consciousness,' working for  the decent survival of all,"
that overturns the conventional disciplinary divisions of knowledge;
one of her keynotes is that "Teachers are trained to isolate bits of
knowledge; this training keeps students oblivious to larger systems."

III. what "seems to be working" in our class are phase 5 interventions:
open-ended, exploratory (surprising) discussions, in a community of "listeners"
(aided by digital media, multi-media, your postings....)

what still needs working on is
* increased inclusivity?
(raising hands, sitting closer, to increase the sense of obligation/
accountability; more small group discussions, my sitting down)

* increased structure?
(themes to tie the discussion together? or "needing to
get used to the possibility of the discussions going anywhere"?
more close reading? or stop asking "Is this a feminist text?" -- and so
"trying to pinhole such multiplicitous, multi-faceted work into a single function")

how to work on some of this? how to bridge the gap between the
two ends of the spectrum: discomfort both w/ knowing "more" and "less":
* Ideologically, I want to have a lot of voices coming from various perspectives
and disciplines and histories of texts or ideas or thoughts, but in practice, I am
less than patient and get frustrated with those who are at a different place than
I am in their understanding of feminism.

* just asking questions if I don't know what's up can be a bit difficult to do
sometimes when you're worried that maybe you should know what's happening -->

*  I always saw the interactions as a hierarchy in which I was at the bottom
of the knowledge pyramid, but now the ground is far more even….I realized
that I should say what is on my mind and let it be heard. 

we are positioned differently; some of us know "more"--or "differently"
than others--how to negotiate those differences in the classroom?

IV. these are matters of form--what about content?
two main initiatives seem to be called for: attention to
the experiences of women in other parts of the world AND
a class that isn't so "binary" (= focused on women's experience)

self-organize into groups of about 5; each one needs a scribe
who promises (!) to post your notes on-line tonight; here are some
discussion starters: you all want

more canonical feminist texts

more feminist theory
* vocab/theory 101: imperialism, Said, orientalism...
* French feminists (Wittig)
* burlesque: gender, performativity, (body image?)
* corsets: imprisonment or empowerment?
* underprivileged women

feminism and sex work
* porn stars (and other sex workers)
* women in sex work/pornography
* sex workers and feminism in different cultures

more political work
* how feminism fits into the current sociopolitical climate
* a link between politics and (feminist) literature
* more emphasis on that which is social justice-oriented
* more theory-into-practice work
* looking @ things in history which have not worked

a broader range of global texts
* feminism of non-western and non-first world cultures
* feminism from different cultures/how feminism is viewed in other countries/Asia/Africa
* more multiculturalism in our feminist texts, particularly Latin American, African or African American
* South America, Latin America, New Zealand/Australia
* forms of feminism that are not Western, particularly  East Asian
* the development of feminism in other cultures/countries

feminism though male perspectives

more non-binary identities
* how LGBTQ individuals or theories fit into feminism
* the relation of feminism to homosexuality
* more lgbtqia issues and texts
* more emphasis on the queer
* exploring gender issues/sexism/feminism within the queer community
* feminism through a non-cis female perspective (trans, genderqueer, cis male)
* trans* folk
* focusing not only women, but men,
and people who are neither, and not feminists

there is also a desire for different forms of expression:
* more novels
* women in film
* children's stories
* film and video art, performance art, feminist art collectives, feminists using new media
* some sort of art project or "bomb" type of project,
in which we put things around campus or in Philly for exposure

specific suggestions:
Trinh Minh Ha, Reassemblage
Eli Clare, Exile and Pride
AMAB (=assigned male @ birth) queer folks
Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
people very specifically associated with Bryn Mawr/alums/artifacts/gifts
Buck Angel, a famous FTM porn star
Sexing the Transman
Kate Bornstein  
Amanda Palmer, and/or feminism in music.
comic books: Batwoman, Birds of Prey, or
any of the Gotham Sirens (Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy)
Neil Gaiman's Delirium
a comic book called the 99 (based on the 99 principles of Islam)
U.S. feminism over time (70's feminist manifesto,  Kathleen Hanna)
voices of women like Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin
Ophelia Speaks (a response to Reviving Ophelia)
a feminist autobiography dealing with Islam
Regency/Victorian novels (Austen and Brontë)
Alice Walker’s essay, “In search of our mother’s gardens"

V. return to the large group w/ a proposal

VI. By 5 p.m. tomorrow/ Wednesday night, post again,

in response to these conversations (spend the time you
generally would spend doing your reading assignments
reading and reflecting, then proposing a syllabus (with
concrete reading suggestions, not just general "kinds") for

T, Mar. 27

Th, Mar. 29

T, Apr. 3

Th, Apr. 5

T, Apr. 10

Th, Apr. 12

T, Apr. 17

Th, Apr. 19

8 p.m. Fri, Apr. 20: third 4-pp. web event, exploring ....?

T, Apr. 24

Th, Apr. 26 Final Performances