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Lugones, Whitman, Cixous, (Gee)....

Riley's picture

Gee’s theory that discourses speak through people is really striking to me. We are channels for discourses, and are capable of shaping and changing them. After reading and discussing in class María Lugones’ “Playfulness, ‘World’-Travelling, and Loving Perception,” I started seeing connections between plurality of self, agency of actions, and the damaging qualities of hierarchical thinking; this reading, combined with Gee’s ideas of agency of discourse, are closely tied to two of some of my favorite texts, poet Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” as well as poststructuralist writer Hélène Cixous’ “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Among all of these texts, ideas of plurality (“inhabiting different worlds” at the same time), “playfulness” as a rejection of hierarchy and patriarchal thinking, and being “survival rich” speak to each other in many striking ways.

    Take this quote from “Song of Myself” from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass:
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun . . . . there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand . . . . nor look through the
    eyes of the dead . . . . nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.  

Whitman uses cataloguing and free verse to channel multiple perspectives in a way that could easily be equated to Lugones’ “loving perception” and “playfulness”, as well as Gee’s idea of people as filters for discourse (“You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself”). Like Lugones mentions, he also writes from the margin as a center of power, in a way. Both literally and figuratively, Whitman dismissed traditional ideas of poetry--literally by writing in free verse, which was unheard of in 1855; figuratively through the content of his poems, which celebrate a kind of rejection of hierarchy, even focus, and promote empathy and love and understanding--and I think in this way Lugones’ and Whitman’s texts are similar in their celebratory nature.
    Another link is to Cixous’ “Laugh of the Medusa.” I remember when reading this text last year being struck by the empwering tone of her writing, which reminded me of Whitman at the time; now I see links to Lugones as well--Cixous, too, encourages us to reject rationality, hierarchy, and patriarchy in a celebratory way that challenges how women typically suppress their desires: “Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of her drives (for she was made to believe that a well-adjusted normal woman has a ... divine composure), hasn't accused herself of being a monster? Who, feeling a funny desire stirring inside her (to sing, to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new), hasn't thought she was sick?” Cixous calls for women to write a NEW DISCOURSE (in “white ink”), in which Enlightenment ways of thinking and patriarchal domination are not the norm, in which women don't see themselves in relation to the dominating force which supresses and fixates their existence as subordinate.
    The links between these writers are engaging, empowering, and striking, and I hope to explore them more in the future. “Love reveals plurality,” and plurality is so central to the themes of LITERACIES in the course.


alesnick's picture

free verse, tumult, and opening forms

What an exciting cross-era, cross-cultural, cross-discourse reading.  I have waited to comment in order to sit with these rich ideas and words.  For me, at the base of this post is a drive towards multiple literacies, the need to open genre, to open voice . . . Whitman also seems to resonate with Tuck's "desire-based" approach, which Cisoux layers, as well. Take a look at The Breaking Project; see if there is a connection there, maybe publish a future blog post, or a version of this one, there?