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Notes Towards Day 21 (Tues, Nov. 20): Metaphorizing/Genderizing Silence

Anne Dalke's picture

Engendered in Silence Thought

* Sasha and couldntthink
...will structure our silence

* remind you/your know that your 4th web event for me, a close
reading of gendered silences, is due on Serendip by 5 p.m. tomorrow

* when we meet again, next Tuesday, we will not have a structured silence,
because we will be conferring with Jen Rajchel, in the Haverford College Quaker Collection,
about the work she is doing in "Making Silence Visible/Animating the Silence/Leaving Room for Silence";
in preparation, please read her blog posting,
Don't Put Up My Thread and Needle: A Few Thoughts on archives, unbinding, and digital books

* her presentation will be our bridge from this section on "gendered silences" to
the final section of the course, on "practicing silence"; Jen and I have talked about

* the basic Quaker tension between speech and silence
* archival, "mediated representations"/fragments of the lives of Quaker women
* which are interesting/unfair, that cover up/fill up the silence
* or: how representation gets "out of our hands"

* what ways are there, of mediating that…?
* "mediated": different media/platforms
* how to get you to think about your own archivalism,
* to rethink re-presentation/make sound clips...?
* on being a "ventriloquist"

* Penn is holding a conference on silence! (see attached....)

II. from our on-line forum (which was wonderful this week!):
* Dan: Rosemarie Garland Thomson
…explained to us why we feel inclined to stare….we are incredibly curious about something new/novel.  Our eyes linger or get stuck because we are desperate to make sense of a thing. We are looking for clues and explanations about why this sight – this person, does not conform to or appear the way we understand that people should. Thus, it’s a natural desire resulting from interest/desire to know….She calls the person with a visible disability the staree, and she examines their coping mechanisms, or their strategies of dealing with constantly being stared at….starees quite often assume the responsibility of consoling the starer. Or they have to take it upon themselves to diffuse the tension or unsettlement of the situation….This has me thinking about our experience in the Prison – and the ethics of subjecting these women to our stares…. it is a learning experience for us. But is it an ethical one? Especially the Prison tours we took…Isn’t it sort of like we are visiting a zoo? feels wrong that they have no place to escape our stares.

* on "metaphorizing" our experiences in prison:
one of the women said that being in the Cannery was a privilege. I couldn't believe my ears. After seeing the inside of their rooms, I was beside myself....I didn't expect for everything to be so out in the open....I was impressed that they could sleep during the day...I also wondered about what it felt like for them to sleep. At the very beginning of this semester, when Anne asked us to post an image that represented silence, I posted a picture of a woman sleeping. I thought dreamless sleeping would represent silence because you're not awake and hearing things and thinking....Maybe sleeping is a way to escape their current situation? Another thing I noticed was that some of the women used spiritual terms to describe how they were feeling that I normally wouldn't expect. Some of the responses included "feeling blessed" and "grateful". I just wonder how they managed to stay so positive.

Hummingbird: I was really struck by what Howard Zehr said about metaphors being people's way of dealing with trauma because the experience of trauma is so hard to put into words and so difficult to understand....we saw this with Eva's story of the Queen almost mythical woman who killed every man who loved her....But I'm also really interested in "prison" as a metaphor. When reading in Jody's class about southern women's experience of Bryn Mawr, one said that the school felt "like a prison" because of ...the stifling emphasis on academics....I'm really interested by use of metaphors in understanding prisons, niches, and trauma because I do think in many ways that each of these things are indescribable. Unless you've experienced any one of these three things, it's difficult, if not impossible, to understand what they're like. I find it particularly interesting, though, that many people who have never experienced prison life use prison as a metaphor... This goes back to talking about (or voicing!) experiences which are not our own. I'm still uncertain as what separates appropriation and giving voice.

HSBurke: Metaphors give words to otherwise unexplainable ideas....provide a sense of agency to those who lack a broad vocabulary or for whom words don't suffice....silence, too, is a strategy that can be used when words just don't work....a way to exert power and agency in assuring that you aren't misunderstood or your words misused....while metaphors run rampant in Doing Life, silences have less of a presence...maybe incarcerated people are so desperate to have their voice heard that metaphors...are their tool of choice.

Owl: Your post has me thinking about the purpose of voice and how voice only has meaning when it comes into contact with another voice. As you do, I think that metaphors and silence are two mediums through which we can voice agency, but I think that metaphors are much more difficult to grasp in an interaction if the Other has not experienced what is being conveyed through the metaphor. In other words, metaphors are specific and if the Other has no connection to that specific metaphor, the purpose and meaning of the metaphor gets lost.

So let's explore this, metaphorically:
Silence is...

Inside that silence is….

* On Eva's Man
Erin: I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this reading experience….The story is depressing and fragmental storyline just make it harder for me to understand…I was annoyed…because of the disconnected plots and disoriented timeline …I kept thinking that I want to know more about Eva’s story….I tried to find a starting for her tragedy but I realize that the root of sin is so deep and dated back to time before her birth….she was treated disrespectfully by every man she met….

couldntthink…: I loved reading Eva's Man and really enjoyed trying to figure out the character, Eva. However, as I read…I couldn't help but sympathize with the guys, whether it was the nasty little boy with the dirty popsicle stick or the disturbed old man in the hallway. What were the stories of the males? What made them act this way? Who or what hurt them in the past that led them to act out their personal abuse?… I see all characters involved as victims…all are apart of a cycle of abuse that goes on in cultures, communities, etc….I think there is a larger conversation to be had about this book…. that touches upon male's oppression, sexism and internalized sexism in the African-American culture...

Owl: I couldn't agree with you more! I especially found myself thinking about the "cycle of abuse that goes on in cultures, communities, etc." when Eva talks about her relationship with James, her much older husband, and the fact that he had killed a man over a woman. I couldn't help but see his aversion to telephones, for example, as a way to make sure he could keep this woman (Eva) and not have to deal with the same situation he had previously.

Sarah: On page 169, there seems to be a conversation going on between Eva and her psychiatrist….The psychiatrist asks, “Why did you kill him?” and Eva replies, “I filled in the feelings”.  This … seems to support a theory that …Eva killed Davis because he represented all the other men in her life. …There are also a few questions I have… I’m not sure can be answered….did Mr. Logan abuse her…? I also was confused by both Eva’s father and husband saying “you act like a whore, I’m going to fuck you like a whore”….Finally, I am left with questions about Eva’s sexuality….

So: let's try to "get into" the novel through the "gendered silences" of the male characters.

Have a silent discussion: get up and "fill in" each man, w/ quotes,
reactions to others' quotes, questions for/about each one...

Now go to the "character" you want to discuss further....

Return to the large group for the next stage in this "exponential" conversation…
what can we say about the silencing of the men in this novel?

What is highlighted/foregrounded if we re-consider the novel from their points of view?

What might we learn if we attend more carefully to their experiences?
What do these characters have to say to us? 

What might they ask us to do? 

How might we respond?

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