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"Articulating Silence": Notes Towards Day 26 (Tues, Dec. 8)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. 2:25-2:45: silence by Rosa & Abby
Thurs by Kieres and Riley

II. coursekeeping:
* scheduling for the Wed event? 4:30-?
(conflict w/ fac'y mtg, needing to make some decisions...:)

*your reading/listening for our last class is three short pieces:
Maria Popova's The Origin and Cultural Evolution of Silence
Gordon Hempton's podcast, The Last Quiet Places
Kim Tingley's Whisper of the Wild

III. any reflections on our visit with Michelle last Thursday?

I was most interested by the conversation @ the very end,
when Michelle was speaking about living/teaching "holistically,"
and I asked if you really wanted "our whole selves" in the classroom.
Farida: "Yes, partially."
Meera: "I want to know what is happening to you in the everyday."

The complimentary question of course was
"how much do you yourselves want to bring to the classroom?"
How much do you feel you should be obligated to bring?
Do certain texts force you to bring parts of yourself you don't want to bring?
That has seemed to be the case, for a number of you, re: Eva's Man.
What do you think, now, about discussing this novel in class? In jail?

Riley's Nov. 22 post on "going forward": I'm uncomfortable with how we're studying trauma in class and I feel excluded not being able to push aside my feelings to read Eva's Man academically. Not being able to engage with a convoluted text is one type of struggle, but trying to convert raw feeling and testimony is something else entirely. I can't be a vulnerable scholar; my feelings directly impact my ability to work. I feel like I'm expected to study and academize trauma without being able to live as a traumatized person, and that divide puts me at a standstill.

Meera's comment, "thank you for saying this":
I've been feeling similarly. I feel like we have pushed ourselves in a lot of different ways; we are pushing ourselves to read this incredibly raw, violent narrative on traumatic topics, and we pushed Brothers and Keepers  in prison. Week before last, pushing Brothers and Keepers (along with other compounded issues) led to a painfully vulnerable moment in book group. It was somehow a breakthrough though, this moment when we were able to confront our issues head on and engage as whole people because we were so vulnurable. we are pushing ourselves to read this incredibly raw, violent narrative on traumatic topics .... whether that will be beneficial to us as a a group is different from how much this text is affecting us all as individuals... I wonder if we are supposed to be aiming for some kind of breakthrough as a group, and that's where this is headed, that's why we have to engage with this anguishing narrative. But is that happening at the expense of our own individual safety and mental health? Feeling really conflicted about this, and I really appreciate you putting the whole "academizing trauma while living as a traumatized person" idea in words.

Joie: on choosing not to read the novel or attend class sessions talking about it (?)

Abby: so, should we teach this [novel]? i feel as though my experience reading this is another paradox - in order for this text to resonant with its readers, especially those who are survivors of trauma, they must be able to read it and discuss it; i was unable to do this at first, so I was hurt by my inability to speak to it; not only could i not speak to it because i hadn’t read it, but when the conversation in class became so relevant i had to join, i couldn’t find the words. i didn’t know what the space was like… however, my silence frustrated me and thus mobilized me - i ended up reading the book (however without pressure to discuss it in class in the future; i read it on my own terms). and i have gained so much from it, it’s changed the way that i see myself and my story - basically, i needed to read this book. i was able to write, my primary mode of expression after so long a period of stifled writing…. eva’s story gave me a way to interpret my own, complete with silence and inconsistency and illogicality… but i had to read it first!! i guess my answer is that i don't have the answer. but i have a lot to say in favor and in opposition at the same time.

Sula: ... the process of engaging with texts in the medieval period “enabled a participatory reading and writing that was simultaneously suspicious of any source of authority”.... it is our engagement with the technology of the book that renders it mutable.... Book clubs, as highlighted by Sweeney and as experienced in our own visits to the prison, create the spaces for these opportunities to disrupt presumed authority. Perhaps this, in itself, is a form of resistance. Perhaps this, alone, is radical. In a space characterized by such intense forms of surveillance, control, and dehumanization, offering a space in which the incarcerated people subjugated by these systems daily are able to reclaim some small form of agency by applying their own readings to a book (and in this way, “adapting” it) is incredibly important. And while we so often question our intentions in the space, constantly wondering if we are reenacting the very hierarchies of power that the women experience every day, we deserve to acknowledge this contribution we make when we carry in texts each week. And here I name a major purpose for book groups as form of higher education in prisons.

IV. Responding to my piece on "Articulating Silence"--
is this a case where you are able to be suspicious of authority?
it is an example of my bringing my whole
(or @ least a 'fuller') self into the class?
(does that impede or invite your push-back?)
how bi-directional did it feel, as I was responding to your papers,
and you were responding to my draft essay, this weekend?

some of your response:
the practice of teachers calling on students… I’ve certainly felt pressured by that statement in the past, even if the intentions were to offer MORE freedom, rather than to take it away….
Do we have some sort of subversive attraction to this kind of speech [fake-deep] that defies monolingualism? Is it that it offers us a much needed reprieve from the straight-forwardness and fast pace of day-to-day language that doesn’t ever seem to quite reach the truth?
... how silly this culture of monolingualism in writing seems now coming into it with the understanding that no creator can REALLY know their audience, while no audience member can REALLY know themselves. If we accept this reality, how might it open the doors for radical forms of self-expression that are that much closer to the “truth?”

Abby: where is space for educators to be vulnerable about their not-knowing? ….
How early do we learn that speech is the primary way to express our “insights, suggestions, questions, and comments”? What happens to those inner phenomena when they are not allowed to be voiced?

Julia: To me, the classroom is a constructed place, somewhere beyond which I cannot breathe as fully or think outside the bounds given me or hear the universe. Everything is artificial, and hard-edged....
There is so much we keep locked inside of ourselves, that silence forces us to notice and turn over. We can’t pretend ignorance when there is nothing to distract us from ourselves.

Han: in China are mostly lectures that only the lecturers are the ones speaking in classes. And the students are habitually being silenced. I almost got myself used to it and forwent any of my critical thinking until I started to feel more and more dissatisfied of this unilateral “communication”…. here I came. However, I started to feel dissatisfied again. I felt that I left one extreme (of silence) and came to another extreme (of anti-silence).

Riley: It seems that classrooms and conferences can fall into that Freire notion of banking education – depositing and sharing without opening oneself to receive anything in return.

Farida: I often used silence as a means of escaping, a shield from everything, including myself, but never as a force that I can used to contribute to my learning….what if we had allowed silence as part of the discussion…..
We could had have even more productive discussion had we been able to use silence as way of learning and processing the discussion and furthering the discussion....
I  think that it’s also better to remain silent in order to learn and survive.

Joie: we often reveal more with our silences than with what we say. I personally hide behind my words most of the time, my jargon, my rhetoric, my academic know-how....
There are times when the choice to silence yourself must be to create room for those that have come across that choice less often and so it is not a true autonomy. But perhaps it is the closest we can come to egalitarian choice.

Kieres: I started to realize that my assumption was that spoken language was infallible, which it is not. Words can be clunky and come out wrong, sometimes what you crafted perfectly in your head can be misconstrued in someone else’s mind….I believe a lot of this is tied to my own socializations around silence being perceived as a lack and a poor reflection on people who are silent…I applaud your chapter for really challenging my own thoughts around silence. …so often the institution of academia is self perpetuating without the room for self reflection and critique. Overall, I get a subdued rebel vibe to the chapter.

Rhett: silence and trauma are pretty interrelated. at what point does discomfort become a reliving of trauma for those who have been silenced? at what point is there “too much” silence? at what point does silence take away from, rather than add to?

responses from Madison, Meera, Rosa, Sylvia, Tong...?