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Amophrast's picture

On one of the very first days (weeks?) of class, when we were talking about diffraction, I noticed something very interesting. The chairs that we sit on in English House have a texture that’s almost like a very solid mesh—there are lots of tiny circles both in the back of the chair and the seat of the chair. If you look across the room to one chair sitting in front of another, you will notice something very interesting. The visual space in which the backs of the chairs overlap will appear to have magnified the pattern. While you may not be able to really see the texture of a single chair from across the room, looking at one chair through another magnifies it to make it visible, if not totally crisp and clear.

This has been the image that has been stuck in my head the whole semester. I realize that while some of the dots are magnified, others get pushed out from the magnification, and it must be impossible to scale in a way where you could see everything. The effect would disappear. I kind of think of our classroom this way. A single chair is like me looking at an article. Karen Barad was one I had difficulty with, despite having read her last semester as well. Now say I put class discussion as another chair in front. Things are starting to become clearer—I can at least try to discuss the material, even if I fumble with it. If you keep adding layers, while a magnification is done, limiting the range of knowledge, a greater depth and understanding rises up. For instance, it was fantastic when Karen Barad came to speak. From her presentation slides alone I could see very clearly that this wasn’t just an article about physics (though nothing ever is at Bryn Mawr, hahaha). Though I have a very limited breadth of what I feel like I understand from her article, I feel like I have an increased depth of knowledge. Thus, the “edges” of my learning blur from one magnified blob into another less magnified blob, into another intensely magnified blob. Sometimes clarity is achieved by creating layering them on top of each other to create the depth of a tunnel rather than the two-dimensionality of a map. Maybe a topography map.

It has felt that way with a lot of the reading. I know I definitely took away more from some than from others, and some have felt more helpful when paired with other texts. And sometimes these pairings came from outside. Pairing T.S. Eliot and Karen Barad was incredibly useful for me (it’s only been about ~80 years since he came to speak at Haverford College!). In general, pairing New York Times articles with more difficult articles led to a good magnification of the issues discussed. In some instances, the magnification wasn’t quite there: for example, the different articles on intersex. The difference between the Oprah article and the Haverford College interview was almost laughable, though having the different styles/perspectives was certainly enlightening.

I hope that describes how and what I’ve been learning. Where am I now? In so many places, making leaps from one to another. On one part of the topo map that is my learning, I’m very interested with youth activism, the PSEC, uniting Rainbow Alliance and high school GSA’s, group activism. On another part of the topo map is what I’ve been doing in two other classes this semester: discussion of consent in terms of sadomasochism, power and powerlessness in relationship structures, more theory and a lot more literature. I’ve found that my work in these classes doesn’t quite overlay properly the work that AmyMay, someshine, jmorgant, and others have been doing at Haverford College in regards to the Consent is Sexy campaign. Maybe it’s the theory and literature that seems to distance it from real life experience. Maybe it’s the fantastical realism I sometimes write with in my creative writing class. The Consent is Sexy campaign feels very real. PSEC feels very real. So I suppose I’m still having difficulty making quantum leaps between theory and practice, since theory still seems distanced and impersonal. I wonder if we talked about the personal in my other classes if it would make some of the theory make more sense.

That’s where I am.