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

Notes Towards Day 7 (Tuesday, 9/24): Ordering the Chaos of Dreaming

Anne Dalke's picture

I. Coursekeeping
Continuing the name-testing:
ask folks whose name you don't know...

Signing in (last Thursday also?)

Signing up for writing conferences
this week:
talk about the class, generally; you-in-the-class particularly;
then hear your thoughts re: first "web-event" re: self-representation
(I've had two so far, each selected a particular text/author, not in class,
to examine these questions; don't know how the self-portraits will work in--or not)

many of your posts this weekend were working the question whether
autobiography could be thought of as a feminist form
in the last post in that particular thread, Sam made the great observation that each of us
"writes" an autobiography every day, in which we "make ourselves readable" to one another...
that might be a great place to begin this paper: how do you "write yourself"?
how do you make yourself "readable" to others?
what identity do you perform?
how much of this is already scripted for you?
how "adequate" is the script?
how much do you script, or re-write, yourself?

making a web-paper interesting/"readable" to the larger world:
--evocative titles draw folks in
--images, ditto (attend to size--large images slow down the loading of everyone's pages)
--don't assume that your audience is this class; explain references/give citations
--better: create active links, as windows into further research
(how to create a link--look @ the icons across the top and you'll see)
--paragraph (spaces between each stage of your argument makes it easier to read)
--chose a readable type (visuals matter)
--this is a different genre: think about "representing" your  ideas,
making them "accessible" to a large audience (rather than just for a prof who has to read 'em!)

Paul Farber, Postdoctoral Writing Fellow @ HC, will offer a workshop, 7-8 p.m. this Wednesday,
in the Meditation Room of Woodside Cottage, on "How to Read an Image":
we will explore interdisciplinary approaches to reading photographic images,
consider the roles of aesthetics, perspective, hybrid text and image forms, archive collections,
technology, and techniques of alteration through a number of examples drawn from civil rights-era
documentary photography and contemporary digital images.

Crystal Leigh Endsley: Keynote Speaker for Latin@ Heritage Month:
reception in Quita @ 5:30, talk in TGH @ 7:00 this Thursday
Her performances and current research focus on issues of performance and identity and the ways they intersect with feminist pedagogy, race, and popular culture; Hip Hop and cultural production as activism; and the connections between academic/home communities, motherhood and knowledge production.

II. Mini-lecture
many of your Sunday night posts said that you don't know what feminism is:

--some of you came in thinking you knew--and have lost that certainty;
others came in not knowing and are more confused than ever;
--some of you think it's essential to find a definition that includes everyone;
others of you think that such a definition is a box, "a dead-end one-way road";
--some of you think feminism is all about individual choice;
others that the movement is about much more than the empowerment of
(already relatively empowered) individuals;
--we heard about "straw feminists"
(extreme examples that turn folks off of feminism),
critiques of women critiquing women,
critiques of "porn for women" that takes the form of buff men doing housework,
critiques of transphobia embedded in a new anti-teen pregnancy campaign...
all very rich, thinking pretty hard!--with lots of great, concrete examples....

I want to give you a little more historical context for some of this confusion.

  • Three Waves of Feminism:
    • male-identified ("get what they got"--BMC)
    • female-identified ("celebrate what we've got--w/ an emphasis on embodiment, sexuality, motherhood)
    • postmodern (unidentifying/unessentializing)
  • Mridula Nath Chakraborty, "Wa(i) ving It All Away: Producing Subject and Knowledge in Feminisms of Colour," Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration. Ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howie and Rebecca Munford. Palgrave, 2007
Feminists of colour argue that the very idea of a phase/stage/wave-based consciousness is an ideological construct...that seeks to subsume and consume the challenges posed to it through notions of 'inclusion' and 'solidarity'...

Feminism must stop conceiving itself as a nation, a 'natural' political destination for all will have to develop a self-conscious politics of partiality, and imagine itself as a limited political home, which does not absorb difference within pre-given and predefined space...

global feminist models take into account the political economy of their socio-cultural milieu and are contingent upon broad-based approaches to questions of equity rather than a simple gender divide...a new typology...engages with multiculturalism, racialised class formations, immigration and naturalisation laws.. example is the Palestinian female suicide bomber...perceived as a traitor to the feminist causes, without any questioning of the Eurocentric stakes in 'international' feminist politics....

from Rosemarie Tong's 2009 edition of Feminist Thought:
A Comprehensive Introduction
, on the diversity of feminist thinking:

  • liberal feminists (suffrage; equal rights; equality of education: Bryn Mawr!)
  • radical feminists (libertarian and cultural: ripping out the patriarchal system)
  • Marxist-Socialist feminists (critique of the class system: oppression located in private property--means of production should belong to all)
  • psychoanalytic feminists (shift focus from macrocosm to microcosm of the individual: psychic trap of the Oedipal complex; explore prelinguistic, pre-Oedipal domain of the Imaginary, before children enter the Symbolic order--French feminists/Kathy Acker/Neil Gaiman)
  • care-focused feminists (why are women associated w/ emotions and the body, men w/ reason and the mind; women w/ interdependence, community, connection, and men w/ independence, selfhood, autonomy?)
  • multicultural, global, postcolonial feminists (highlighting differences among women--in race, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender identity, age, religion, level of education, occupation/ profession, marital status, health conditions--challenge female essentialism, chauvinism, "sisterhood")
  • ecofeminists (focus on strengthening humans' relation to the nonhuman world: broadest, most demanding definition of self's relation to the other; see Donna Harraway, of "Cyborg Manifesto" fame: "I am fascinated with the molecular architecture that plants and animals like a leaf I am")
  • postmodern and third-wave feminists (highlight plurality, multiplicity, difference to re-think the category "woman")
most expanded (and most relevant-to-Persepolis) chapter:
"Multicultural, Global, and Postcolonial Feminism"
looks @ the tendency of privileged women to speak on behalf of all;
reminds us that all women not created/constructed equal
affected by (among other things) national membership,
esp. differences between Northern/Southern Hemispheres;
interlocking sources of economic, political oppression
Third World feminists may reject label "feminist":
economic greater than gender oppression; may reject "rights language" for valuing
personal autonomy and mobility over communal ties, @ the neglect of social responsibilities)

rough cut of film about LGBT in Lebanon: transboy who veils

III. Today, turning to The Doll's House.
I could have selected many of graphic novels that focus
more explicitly on questions of gender, like Persepolis,
Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan,
Alan Moore's Watchmen...
I could even have picked other narratives in the Sandman series,
like A Game of You (which focuses on Barbie's experiences);
but what interested me here was the absence of
explicitness, the obliqueness of presentation, the chaos of it all.

Its geneology includes

  • comic books,
  • Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House ("first true feminist play," well-made, important ex. of
    "naturalism": a critique of marriage norms, in which Nora leaves husband, children to find herself...),
  • Shakespeare --not just that little-integrated "Men of Good Fortune" sequence,
  • but his key notion that "we are such stuff as dreams are made of...."

count off by 6's, to re-assemble in groups of four:
what was your EXPERIENCE of encountering this text?
what did you LEARN/can you THEORIZE about that experience--
and its relevance to our conversations here?
in particular: how do you understand the relation between dream- and waking-life?
what does dreaming (escape from dreaming?
destruction of the structure of dreaming--
in which we are each separate/private?) have to do with feminism?
Who are the "dolls"? What is their house? Who is in charge here?!?

Passages to discuss:
mandela-like beginning: stories w/in stories w/in....
Clive Barker's intro: on (Poe's) kind of fantastic fiction,
in which the whole world is haunted/delirious
Gaiman's intro: never see the beginning/fiction as frozen realms, with structure, not to be trusted
punishment: to wake from one dream to another nightmare
(distrust) the moral: know what you're dealing with
still listening....stay beginning, no ending
Tales in the Sand: on the queen who loved 1 of
the endless, the dream lord, and so destroyed her city
not a real story w/ a proper end
in another (women's version): things happen differently? (but that story's not told...)
The Doll's House
127: Wil on creating dreams to live on after his death
132: great stories return to original forms (happy endings will not last)
162: the connoisseur's preference for pre-op transsexuals
172: "A nightmare created to be the darkness, and the fear of darkness in every human heart.
A black mirror, made to reflect everything about itself that humanity will not confront."
174: "you have all sustained fantasies in which you are the maltreated heroes of your own stories. Comforting daydreams...No more. For all of you, the dream is shall know, at all times, and forever, exactly what you are. And you shall know just how LITTLE that means."
184: everyone dreams, incl. Chantal and Zelda together
188: Sinking, slowly, downward and inward. Enter a world where everything's going to be just fine.
192: Rose dreams. She knows she's dreaming. She's never had a dream like this before. Everything seems to real, so vivid, more true and more vital than the waking world. Her sense of identity has never been so certain...her sleeping no part of her; the essential her, the true Rose.
193: All of them seeking a place to belong. All of them seeking a place to be safe. And she sees how simple it all is. Sees how thin and fragile the walls that divide them truly are.
208: The vortex...destroys the barriers between dreaming minds; destroys the ordered chaos of he Dreaming....
221: If my dream was true, then everything we know, everything we think we know is a lie.
222: It means the world's about as solid and as reliable as a layer of scum on the top of a well of black water which goes down forever, and there are things in the depths that I don't even want to think about....
It means that we're just dolls. We don't have a clue what's really going down, we just kid ourselves that we're in control of our lives while a paper's thickness away things that would drive us mad if we thought about them for too long play with us, and move us around from room to room, and put us away at night when they're tired, or bored.
"And then she woke up." You know, I always hated stories that ended like that. I always felt cheated.
226: We of the endless are the servants of the living--we are NOT their masters....we are their toys. Their dolls...
229: never apologize. never explain
...."thanks for making the dream breathe"