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reflection on menchú's use of silence in composition

rb.richx's picture

given the paper i’m considering for anne, the use of breaks in a text, especially breaks to insert art, is a concept of which i’m currently hyperaware.

menchú's chapters could definitely speak for themselves alone. each section is given a heading to shape our understandings of the sections as readers.

so what, then, is the purpose of the quotation interjections at the beginning of each chapter? and how do these quotations shape the “silence” that accompanies a chapter break?

first, i want to address that notion of "silence" at the end of a section or chapter. in citizen, claudia rankine presents to her readers an image that is, at times, directly related to her text - and other times, the image is jarring and has only a little to do with the text that came previous.

in an interview anne pointed me toward, rankine says that, "[the images] were placed in the text where i thought silence was needed, but i wasn’t interested in making the silence feel empty or effortless the way a blank page would." so, as readers, we take these images as an almost palate cleanser, in which we are no longer taking in someone else’s voice directly. she uses these images to create a mental silence - and while we as readers may sit there, trying to parse the image and relate it back to the text or a concept, there is still a semblance of silence in that moment.

Cerebral Caverns. Radcliffe Bailey, 2011. Wood, glass, and 30 plaster heads. 97 x 100 x 60"

cerebral caverns. radcliffe bailey, 2011. wood, glass, and 30 plaster heads. 97 x 100 x 60".
are artists trying to manipulate us and put our brains into cupboards they control?
(this piece was also used in rankine's citizen)

i think that with texts that have clearer headings and chapter breaks, there is still a similar effect. the words of the previous section are left so sit in the air or silence or blank space of the page and in our minds. but in that moment, i believe that space is a silencing. we pause based on those spaces. it isn’t just like the text orders us to think about what was just said. instead, i think that it is more of a “doorway effect” in which we experience, again, an almost palate cleanser.

in using the quotes directly following a break, she shapes us and that silence. we are void of menchú’s words for a moment with the literal silence embodied in the breaks on the page, and then we are presented (usually) with words attributed to someone else, or words taken out of context to just sit with us, to ring, to take us out of what we were just thinking about and reframing us to focus on exactly what she wants. it is a manipulation through silence (the break) and also through voice (the quotation(s)).