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Notes Towards Day 10: "Seeing Gender"

Anne Dalke's picture

Notes Towards Day 10: "Seeing Gender"

















[Kathy Acker: as herself and Gaiman's "Delirium"]

I. Coursekeeping

Naming one another...?
Reminder of conferences all day tomorrow
General questions re: paper
s due by 5 p.m. on Sunday?

linked to from top of home page @

Next week my forum questions will be about what patterns/desires/problems
you notice when you begin to imagine constructing a class out of this variety of interests and hopes.

We'll be thinking concretely of how to answer
McIntosh's challenge to use our school studies to
redefine and reconstruct history to include us all.

Once before when I tried this, there were lots of sour grapes afterwards,
so we'll take two classes to do this, deliberatively....

II. Continuing our journey with the Sandman
with the help of
thats how i think the book gravitates towards gender and sexuality, it deals with...identity realised through awareness. and if we are ever questioning our identity, our gender and sexuality, we need to be more aware of the forces within us that our shaping us everyday. our fear, anxiety, memory, even (as mentioned in the book), our desire.

eshaw: I’ve been taking an English class solely devoted to the graphic novel so I’ve been thinking about these texts a lot in the past month. I find it...appropriate that we should be using the medium for a text in Gen/Sex....the graphic novel can deal with modes of representation in incredibly innovative ways that...can...efficiently explore issues of The Dollhouse, the theme that consistently emerged...was the juxtaposition of positive and negative space. The negative space, traditionally associated with woman, is a place of discomfort in the narrative tradition (you want to know what happens in the story - you want everything to be explained)....The comic book mechanism rests entirely on that sense of space – what fills the spaces between the panels where the reader cannot see?... This balance between positive (filling of space) and negative (emptiness of space) is reconfigured in The Dollhouse as a juxtaposition of gender. Rose, the Vortex, is a danger to the dream world – she threatens to collapse all the walls around individual dreams and erase them into a void of nothingness.... the book...seems to be making the claim for a kind of balance...achieved between full and empty, positive and negative.

...and Kathy Acker's "Seeing Gender"....














"We don't have a clue what it is to be male or female, or if there are intermediate genders. Male and female might be fields which overlap into androgyny or different kinds of sexual desires. But because we live in a Western, patriarchal world, we have very little chance of exploring these gender possibilities."

[with the help of the *koosh* ball....!]

What did you understand from her essay? What did you not understand?
What is its argument? What is its genealogy?
What role did books play in her (child and adult) life?
What role does she suggest literary language might play in ours?
What do Plato, Irigaray, Butler and Carroll contribute to this idea?
"What if language need not be mimetic?"
What might it mean to imagine that "language has no discernible mimetic meaning"?
What role does dreaming play in this imaginary?
"Could gender lie here?" What would it look like?

"Literature is that which denounces and slashes apart the repressing machine at the level of the signified." (Acker)

"Chantal is having a relationship with a sentence. Just one of those things. A chance meeting that grew into something important for both of them....However...she has no ideas what her sentence is about." ("The Doll's House," Part Six, p. 185)

What do you know of Irigaray, or of other "French feminists"?


Hélène Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa" (1975): Only then will the immense resources of the unconscious spring write...will tear her away from the superegoized structure....To write and thus to forge...the antilogos weapon."


Rodney Sharkey, "'Being' Decentered in Sandman: History, Dreams, Gender, and the 'Prince of Metaphor and Allusion,' ImageTexT: Interdisplinary Comics Studies 2008 (4, 1): 1-32.

"what an unimaginably broad access to knowledge of unconscious mental life we are promised by the interpretation of dreams" (Freud).

for all of Morpheus' domineering attitude and downright misogyny--for all of his 'Name of the Father' authority--his influence is somehow, simultaneously, gender pluralistic....

Sandman succeeds in both constructing a realistic picture of relations between the sexes--where phallocentric discourse can often entrap and brualize women--and in providing a space where a handful of women arrive at a form of liberation from this discourse. It is able to produce this contradictorily coherent paradox by alternating beween two planes, or two worlds--that of the physical plane and that of the dreaming plane--where finally neither plane is the site of an originary, central form of authority.

Morpheus is burdened with the responsibility of maintaining a universe very similar to what Lacan calls "the symbolic order" is Dream who is the center and locus of humanity's transcendent expectations....Dream is the locus of a metaphysical logic that he himself resists.... issue by issue of the
Sandman series he is a different figure drawn and pencilled and coloured by different artists....He is the site of infinite play...the fluidity and unfixity of dreams themselves.

" has been argued since Aristotle that events in narrative are radically correlative, enchaining, entailing. Their not simply linear but causative....But...our minds inveterately seek structure"....However, in Sandman this organizational capacity turns on the fulcrum of an essential metaphoric displacement....the condensations and displacements of the dream-work confound the readers' ability to properly distinguish between supposed 'dreams' and 'reality.'

....both Unity Kinkaid and Hipppolyta Hall..have been pregnant during prolonged dreaming and as a result of this they tend to 'morph(eus)' into each otherr. As a result they are intra-subjective women. Their borders are not fixed; their identities are not entirely separate, their experiences are shared. In the end of "A Doll's House," Rose, Miranda and Unity Kinkaid are literally "fused into a single unity in the manifest dream"....they reveal an intra-subjectivity that is denied in the symbolic order of the waking plane.

Rose Walker is in dreams but
her dreams are also reality...Rose, as a dream vortex, constitutes the site of the play which gives rise to them. Within the context of how the Sandman series treats gender, she is also the site of the silenced difference (the feminine) on which the illusory distinction of reality and dreams in based....In this way, an institutionalized and thoroughly rationalized patriarchal subjectivity is challenged and a more democratic notion of the social is articulated through dreams which erode rationalist conceit.

experimental texts..."are often so fragmentary that one's attention is almost exclusively occupied with the search for make us aware of our own capacity for providing links....the reading process is selective, and the potential texts is infinitely richer than any of its individual realizations....we bring to the fore an element of our being of which we are not directly conscious...reading literature gives us the chance to formulate the unformulated."

....we have come to recognize words as a means of stabilizing differences; as a way of representing experience in a  universe built...on play....Vocal expression...attempts to delimit the signifying capacity of words through intentionality....

Given the amount of story arcs in
Sandman that interrogate the symbolic acculturation of women and their attempts to define a more fluid identity, it is reasonable to argue that Gaiman's creation is a feminist text and perhaps even apporaches a feminine practice of writing....Cixous has suggested that...."it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system....It will be conceived of only by subjects who are...peripheral figures"...

Morpheus exists in comics and dreams which are both places so far unsubordinated....

Is it possible that a feminine place of writing may exist in dreams...?

[from the most recent session of the Evolving Systems Group:
a few Rorschach tests of our pattern-seeking, dream-imagining inclinations....]