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Varying the Silence: Notes Towards Day 20 (Thurs, Nov. 12)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. 2:25-2:45: silence by Farida & Tong;
Julia & Sula are on for next Tuesday
[last sad request for Riley, Sula, Meera,
Sylvia to archive these experiences...]

II. 2:45-2:50 coursekeeping--for Tuesday, read 3 essays:

two by Adrienne Rich, "Some Notes on Lying" and "Arts of the Possible";
a third, harder, more theoretical one by Wendy Brown, "Freedom's Silences."

You all know Adrienne Rich? a poet and essayist; my dead best friend!
You have also 'met' Wendy Brown, a political scientist @ Berkeley
who has affiliations in rhetoric and gender studies; Sweeney quotes her
in Reading is My Window; she talks about how "confessing injury"
can attach us to that injury, and cautions against the "fetish" of
"breaking silence"; I think you'll find her provocative.

We'll use
these essays to go back and re-think some of this week's material:
esp. Juhasz's films and Olsen's essays (so keep bringing 'em all back...)

request from two E'Sem'ers to come observe us @ work--what do you think??

Anne Balay's talk @ 7 tonight

III. 2:50-3:05: Brief follow-up from your final
planning session with Jody on Tuesday

Space - Kieres?
Title? [Joie:] "And/But"
[Sula:] Guiding Theme: "Resistance" and "Freedom"?
Moving from history (Kieres) to imagining a future (Rosa)?

* one curating the space
* one working on the Socrates Cafe
* what else? (food, etc?)
* a "Bottom Liner" who keeps everyone on track?
Further thoughts?

Costs? Joie: $20 Polyurethane, $20 plastic flowers, $10 paint =$60
Sula: $53 book, $6 X-Acto knife, $10 a self-healing cutting board
(+ $10 for a self-healing cutting mat?) = $70/80
(and borrow wooden book display/small podium)
Rhett: laptop/recording device (from library?)
Julia, Abby, Han, Shirah: 0
anybody else??? (Farida, Kieres, Madison, Meera, Riley, Rosa, Sylvia, Tong?)
procedure for getting $/reimbursement via Sarah Theobald

III. 3:05-3:15: on Tuesday I asked us to do "think-alouds,"
breaking down/speaking what we were thinking-while-reading:

I wonder if this was Anne's secret mysterious alterior motive, but upon reflecting on our reader-response activity and the density of Balaev's work, I have been thinking about how readers are silenced by literature. When we were discussing in class this sort of censorship of seemingly irrelevant reader-reactions which is a silencing of sorts. When we read out loud or to ourselves, there are thoughts that emerge in our minds and we silence them ....

I think Balav's writing is reflective of a silencing academic form of writing. Academia often uses its prestige to silence marginalized or dissenting voices. Yet those in academia have a motive for preserving their power and for using their data to do so.

Sula: [Olsen] named for me a great issue in literature that I had never before truly considered--the luxury of writing .... I feel a call to value even more now the unconventional, self-published creative efforts of minority writers and poets who work outside of a system that values only those who already have time and money. [responses: on academic writing/reading as silencing?]

Anne: learning to read academic papers is like learning another language;
like learning Arabic, it enlarges your world--requires time, surrender,
but will give you access to codes you may not know, will be glad to have;
I want to keep working with you, to give you some of that access...

Balaev's "Trends in Literary Trauma Theory" is both built around
a conversation--and asks for further conversation.
She starts by saying that reading trauma novels upsets the prevalent understanding of trauma
as a "speechless fright" that destroys identity, dissolves and shatters the self;
the conventional understanding has been that trauma stands "outside representation,"
that although the event is ever-present, intrusive, repetitive,
because the brain can't properly encode/process what happened,
it's also forever unknown and unintegrated.

It's that prevalent understanding that underlies the notion of transhistorical trauma,
of cultures--her example is African American culture--passing trauma across the generations,
recreating it for those who weren't present.

Balaev describes that conventional understanding to overturn it
(this is a common structure in academic arguments). She argues that reading
different examples of "trauma fiction" teaches us something else:
that the "unspeakability" of trauma is not epistemological or neurobiological, but cultural.
Baleav's claim is that--while trauma disrupts a previous formulation of self and world--
that disruption leads to an adaptive reordering of perception,
with characters reorganizing themselves in relation to a new view of reality
(this is where place, as a site w/ value, comes into play...).
Trauma challenges fundamental assumptions about social relationships, and/but/so
drives characters into a "profound inquisitive state"....not frozen, fixed, but curious!

Some of you responded to/were working with-and-against this claim:
Michelle Balaev is trying to argue that "trauma" ... is not necessarily equivalent to "history" as being static and as never changing fact.
Rhett:  i wonder if the idea of “before and after” trauma should not be complicated…trauma, as well as recovery…can be ongoing, can be “repetitious, timeless, and unspeakable, yet… also literal, contagious, and mummified”….[an incarcerated individual from the trailer:]  “today defines me. right now defines me….life is right now.”

IV. 3:15-3:30: let's test Baleav's claims, in Kingston's stories-->
another exercise in close reading, this time in groups of 3 (count off by 5);
re-read two chapters of Women Warrier through the lenses provided by Balaev-->
use her ideas as a way of analyzing "what happens" in
Kingston's chapters: what are the traumas?
how are they narrated?
what is the effect of these re-tellings?
what would Balaev do with them?
could they work as evidence for her theory?
or do they challenge her claims?
how useful is her framing for interpreting?
how might Kingston's stories push back against that frame?

IV. 3:30: Come back together to share.
If you didn't post last night --
Abby, Madison, Meera, Riley, Sylvia --
I'm still expecting a posting from you tonight.

Anne's Reading Notes:
"No Name Woman"
"You must not tell anyone" (3).
"The emigrants...must try to confuse their offspring...who ...threaten them...always trying to name the unspeakable" (6).
"It very well could have been, however, that....." (9).
"Another, final reason for leaving the crowded house was the never-said" (12).
"I have tried to turn myself American-feminine. Chinese communication was loud, public...but at the dinner one could talk....A complete moment of total attetnion is due everyone alike....but my aunt used a secret voice, a separate attentiveness" (13).
"The villagers punished her for acting as if she could have a private life, secret and apart from them" (14).
"...the family broke their silence and cursed her" (15).
"But there is more to this silence: they want me to particiapte in her punishment" (18).

"A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe"
"I don't think she said anything" (189).
"His version of the story may be better than mine because of its bareness, not twisted into designs" (189).
"When I went to kindergarten and had to speak English for the fist time, I became silent. A dumbness--a shame--still cracks my voice in two...." (191).
"My silence was thickest--total--during the three years that I covered my school paintings with black paint" (192).
"There were other quiet Chinese girls...but most of them got over it sooner than we did. I enjoyed the silence" (192).
"It was when I found out I had to talk that school became a misery, that the silence became a misery" (193).
"After American school, we...went to Chinese school....The girls were not mute. They screamed and yelled...." (194).
"I felt the weight and immensity of things impossible to explain...." (198).
"You are a plant...That's all you are if you don't can't have a personality" (210).
"We have so many secrets to hold in" (212).
"The adults get mad, evasive and shut up if you ask" (215).
"I thought talking and not talking made the difference between sanity and insantiy. Insane people were the ones who couldn't explain themselves...." (216).
"And there were adventurous people inside my head to whom I often I went away to see these free movies" (220-221).
"I had better not say a word, then. Don't give them ideas. Keep quiet" (228).
"...a song that...translated well" (243).