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

musing on the limits of the course, extroverts v introverts and the intersection of politics and art

Flora's picture

Gail and Mary, thank you for being brave enough to share your art with us.  I am moved both by your work and your decision to share it with us.  Thank you again. 

I am starting to better understand my frustrations with this course. First, this course (like the discussed mestiza) is straddling many identities. It's online, it's new, it includes alums, its students have a variety of class years and academic backgrounds, it's an intro to feminist studies that does not require texts from the mainstream, historical feminist "cannon" (Woolf excluded): all of these things make for a challenging environment. Hell, many courses don't have much of anything about them that sets them apart from semester to semester.

But the hardest contradiction in this course for me to wrap my head around is that it is an "intro to critical feminist studies" in the English Department. I am in the final semester of my social-science-focused major in gender and sexuality studies. But my feminist study only touched on literary critique within the context of other modes of analysis. Therefore, I know that I expect this course, as an intro to critical studies, to pursue the interdisciplinary mode of study of feminist issues I love. BUT- will the curriculum committee sanction such an indiscretion in a specifically departmental course? Perhaps this is my bitterness at Bryn Mawr's lack of a gender studies department talking, but I do find the potential limits of an English department categorization frustrating. I don't know if this is something we will have to consider as we compose our menus for the rest of the semester. (I know the syllabus says that "The texts we will examine will include, but not be limited to, those that address the matters of reading and interpreting literature." But I question the rigidity of those limits). Just as there are multiple feminisms, there are multiple studies of these feminisms. I must admit that I often find our coursework's reliance on literary critiques limiting, find myself yearning for multiple disciplinary perspectives not just the multiple personal perspectives of the members of our classroom. Then again, perhaps I'm just selfishly longing for an academic context in which the knowledge from my semesters of study in my major is valued and useful, not a political "distraction"...

I also wish to respond to Ann's critique of the model of generous feminisms for introverts. I don't think of myself as much of an extrovert at all even though I do speak up in class; I perform. I started touring and performing with my family troupe before went to school. I am very aware of the difference between "performing" (ie with structure) in a classroom and daily social interactions (unstructured). Performing is not the same as being relaxed and generous. I rarely find speaking up in class or in public extremely easy. I find it necessary and difficult: a better option than the alternative of keeping my secrets, but I dislike both. But if it causes me pain, I will stop. In my last paper, I discussed the closest I could come to an accurate bloody model of critique and textual creation. Today, classmates' stories of the ways in which airing their opinions made them feel vulnerable hit home for me. I thought of Hemingway's opinion that editing was akin to "killing your babies." Speaking up is opening your thought-children to assault. And I've been doing a lot of that in public forums besides this class lately. It makes me want steel myself for the necessary assaults to come.

And finally, I must answer to the thread of the discussion today that faulted feminist theory for inserting the political onto works of art. I am a third generation artist who desperately does not want art sealed off on its theoretical pedestal/clean room. Art exists in social contexts and it's completely fair, even necessary to examine its place in those contexts. I want my art to make people think and feel and question. What would be rude to me is if someone saw my work and accepted it without interrogation. Of course I would be upset if someone imposed a politics opposed to mine on my work. But I would still, through my tears, be hugely proud to know that my image was complex enough to evoke multiple meanings just as Brooks' words are. Unlike academic study, not all art must be made with conscious goals and intentions. This is another beauty in the land of enacting life instead of studying sentient life.