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Notes Towards Day 2 (Mon, Jan. 27): Belonging

Anne Dalke's picture

Chris Jordan, Midway: A Message from the Gyre
(exhibit @ HC's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery in 2010, on Running the Numbers)
an image to complexify inside/outside, home/unheimlich, close and far away...

I. Coursekeeping
A. Any questions/comments (so far) about using Serendip?
trouble uploading (Betsy?);
be careful re: tagging ("this week's work," for ex, "belongs" to Hummingbird,
who is assembling that--don't use it or you will end up on her page!--
Betsy, Lisa, Shamial, Simona--I 'untagged' you....)
don't put your papers up as attachments, but as an on-line document
(Jenna, Kelsey, Sophia--please re-post);
using the private posts (we figured out a work-around re: images for Jo!);
you are of course welcome to read one another's papers (maybe have already?);
we will do something more focused w/ them--I'll assign each of you two others
to read/respond to next weekend--once I've read them all more carefully myself...

B. What I forgot/didn’t get to on Wed…

1) notes towards class will always be available from the top of my syllabus-->
use them to preview, if you don't like surprises;
to follow up, if you missed something (links, full quotes);
to catch up, if you miss class;
they are not complete ("notes towards"), but they will give you a good overview of main ideas;
I generally will not project them (this turns our attention to the screen, and away from
really attending to one another), but you can print them off, and/or project them on
your own computer during classtime (as long as you attend to what we are saying!)

2) are there other things about our talking together (like only Shamial raising her hands....)
that we should review or discuss? things you esp like/hate, find useful or not in class discussions?

let's continue to attend to this as we go: spending so much time together will mean that
the ways in which you please and annoy one another will be intensified!

3) syllabus ("syllaship") will change as the semester goes on,

so be sure to "re-fresh" each time you return to it

4) overview of course-->this is a class about questions of representation:
of ourselves, others, the world we all share...
and how these representations might be altered.
it’s about the limits of representations—> the things we can’t say (Jo: silence!)
but also about its possibilities—> the things we can imagine/create that don’t exist,
that we might conceptualize to change the world

Following the guidelines of the Quaker teacher Mary Rose O'Reilley,
--any pedagogy that doesn't start w/ personal, and end w/ the general, is unconscionable!--
I've divided the course into 3 sections;

the first is called "Inside/Out: What's Home Got to Do with it?"

we'll focus on "place attachment" and connectedness in a(n ever more?) placeless world;
our primary text will be Exile and Pride, but we'll read some shorter things, too,
Ursula LeGuin's science fiction short story, "Vaster Than Empires, and More Slow,"
Paula Gunn Allen's reading of a Keres Indian tale, Stacy Alaimo's description of the "trans-corporeal";
you'll end that section w/ a second 5-pp. paper about home and exile: place investment/divestment.

Section II is called "Single/multiple; or, how much latitude can we allow?":
we'll spend those weeks thinking about the danger of a single story--and of multiple ones;
our primary text is a VERY LARGE (and very readable) novel by Ruth Ozeki called All Over Creation
(you might put it by your bed and start reading now....), along with J.M. Coetzee's essay collection,
The Lives of Animals...; at the end of that section you'll write another 5-pp. paper about
how much "latitude" you can allow, in telling multiple stories.

Section III is called "'Re/presenting: A Space for Justice ":
it includes
Amitav Ghosh's (also large!) novel, The Hungry Tide, as well as some essays
aimed @ getting us to reflect on our role as activists in the world; you'll end that
section with your fourth 5-pp. essay, on "doing justice" in/to fiction.

[where are we on accessing these texts?
are they not yet available in the BMC bookshop??]

Woven and and around these sections will be a series of visits from other scholars, activists, artists,
and of course the series of every-other-week field trips Ava is leading/
mentoring your visual and visceral awareness and expression, and guiding you in the creation of responses.
She will be giving you feedback, and evaluating your work for her, which will
also become part of your eventual grade for this course...

C. That's the big picture; focusing in on this week:
your homework for Wednesday is to read Part II: Bodies, in Exile and Pride
[let me know by tomorrow morning if I have to scan the rest of it!] and
to look @ Lorenzo Triburgo's series of Transportraits, linked from syllabus.

Also on our schedule this week is Ava's public lecture, 7 p.m. this Thursday,
in the Lecture Hall across the hall...

and our second field trip, 10-2 on Friday, to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum.

Questions about any of this?!

II. Okay! moving on!
using our avatars as intros!

you all introduced yourselves last week; our user names are not so mysterious;
only Betsy has an aphorism--or a non-aphorism, since it's “aporisnt”;
Shamail's is an instruction on how to pronounce her name: "smilewithsh"
the other 10 of us used our first names (plus some middle and last ones);
couple of you very articulate about usernames as being too confining
("Sara Gladwin" allows for more complexity than "dog lover")
interesting thought about the ways in which words clarify-and-limit!)

Our avatars are much more oblique/evocative “representations” of ourselves,
not what you will see in the class photos on BiONic, for example,
and worth exploring for a few minutes, so...

Go ‘round and play “picture bingo”—
can you identify your classmates by their avatars...
what are you learning about them thereby?

Agatha--chicken on stick fence
Betsy (aporisnt)--clothespin person
Jenna-- windmill
Jessica-- smiling self
jo-- rickety bridge
Kelsey--”iron-y” and U.N.
Lisa Marie-- happy in D.C.
Sara-- eye
Shamail--bangles from Pakistan
Simona Clausnitzer--little girl self
Sophia-- self happy in spring

sit down w/ the images, and take a minute to categorize them,
to "move up one level of abstraction": What sorts of pictures have we used?
How many are photographs of selves? How “whole”/partial?
In what environments? How present is the environment?
What is the relation between the organism and the environment?
How “ecological” are these images? How much “connection” do you see?
Or: what do they say (what are we saying?!) about how we see ourselves in the world?

II. bell hooks is Gloria Watkins' "username" (nom de plume),
which she took from her maternal great-grandmother Bell Blair Hooks
(to honor her women ancestors), and which she doesn't capitalize,
to get away from the ego associated with names (?!)--
hasn't really worked, since it is so unusual = attention getting!

What avatar would bell hooks use?

(what avatars might you find for her in her text?)
this is a new kind of "text rendering"--> visually rendering her book:
take a few minutes to sketch an avatar for her...
[pass out colored pencils...]
let's go round and either show or describe what we have done
(can i photograph these?)

what do you notice about the avatars we have assigned her?
what dimensions of her text have we brought to light?
let me ask the same questions I asked about our avatars:
How many of our images represent her body/face/her whole or partial "self"?
In what environments? How present is the environment in our renderings?
What is the relation between the organism and the environment?
How “ecological” are these images? How much “connection” do you see?
Or: what do they say (what are we saying?!) about how bell hooks sees herself in the world?

III. How might we do the same exercise for Eli Clare, who also renamed himself?
The name his mother chose is in one of his poems,
"The Stories Mama Tells," p. 56 in The Marrow's Telling:
"Elizabeth, my preemie baby...
From her I learned the words...birth accident"

What avatar would he use?

IV. how are you feeling about this exercise?

(it feels to me haunted by Agatha's question, in Jody's class last week:
"what right do we have to represent others?
to tell their stories or portray them in images?")


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