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"Yoking the Other to My Speech": Notes Towards Day 12 (Thurs, Oct. 8)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. 2:25-2:45 Silence via Julia
Riley is up for first Tuesday after break
(reminder to Madison, Meera & Rhett to post...)

II. 2:45-3:00:
* Tuesday after break we'll be finishing our discussion of Wideman;
on Thursday,
we'll be watching some sign language poetry and
reading an article about it; another way of exploring the expressiveness
of "silence" (that is not...)
; we'll be joined by Jess Libow,
the first HC student to get second language credit for ASL
(also Sula, Abby, Rhett, who studied "deaf gain" and
"deaf studies" in their Disability course last fall..?)

* after that, I had selected 2 weeks' worth of reading
about the
Quaker vision of penitence (and the role that silence played in this);
and/but I'm thinking we might instead use one week for you
to really focus on your research project, before having one week
to work with Jody's report on your feedback

*  my response/bottom line: create a representation
for an audience beyond this classroom
probably on campus, maybe also inside??--
of what you have learned this semester about prison;
J,J & I not invested in any particular form
Sheila wants to help you w/ skills she can teach,
has a concept of something collective, archival...
ask you to be open to this...?
(Rhett, Abby, Sula re: last semester w/ Riva?)

that said: you can go where you feel led to go
do you have a sense of what it is
you now want-and-need to do...?
or: how might we most usefully use that class time?

can you come back after break w/ that sense?
want you to post on Sunday night when you return:
update on where you are, how you want to use the
week before Sheila's arrival (in class or out)

* To give space for this, I have also decided to
cut the third webpaper
(on 'cultures of silence'), which
was due the week after break, so that you can focus on your
research project; the last webpaper for me will be 5 pp.
rather than 3, and due on Dec. 2...

* I haven't gotten to the last set, your revised silence papers;
will read those over break, and respond on-line

* what did I miss from your  classtime (without me) on Tuesday?

III. 3:00-3:45: your postings
A. Remember Jane Tompkins saying that the purpose of education should be
to "give them skills to handle the things that are coming up in their lives"?

I picked Butterfly Wings' Sunday posting to start, because I think
it raises the question of whether we are doing this (or can?!): how does
what we are doing here help/worsen your anxieties on Monday?
[turn to a partner to discuss first]

"I’m afraid right now. I’m terrified. I can't think straight...all I can think about right now is all those conversations we had in class about the purpose of prisons; we spent a long time ragging on their existence. We complained and argued for their dismantlement.

I am a hypocrite. Right now I am sitting in my dorm common room... I’m afraid. I can’t tell my customs group how scared I am. I’m trying to be comforting, but all I want is for this person, this coward from 4Chan, to be found and locked away. I know it’s wrong to be wishing so hard that the prison system was effective and even more powerful, but I’m scared. I do not feel safe.

Part of the reason prisons exist the way they do is this type of fear; for some, though, I think this fear is much more present. This is the first time I’ve experienced this. All I can think about is how much I don’t want anyone to be hurt."

also cf.
"We don’t want to replicate a prison in a college campus, I don’t think.”

several others brought this threat into their reflections on the Socrates Cafe:
tong: The Socrate’s Café was very uncomfortable…The very first uncomfortable feeling came from the…American context…the facilitator used…examples of “totalitarian” countries where “no freedom exist”….I was waiting, waiting for him to name my country….but it’s not like what people imagined. I grew up in China, I had and still have freedom to do things I want to, and I AM FINE….I was questioning is America more free if the freedom of some jeopardized the freedom of others. I felt not free at all during Monday as I did not even know if my life would end that day.

WhoAmI: Given the events of the day and the fear that loomed over many students and others in the Philadelphia area, I wasn't emotionally or mentally prepared to hear someone [quote the second Amendment, and] express the need or right to carry a gun as their definition of Freedom…someone else explain that … that if someone wants to create a bomb, they should be free to do so…Considering that many of us were, and to some degree still are, frightened by the threat that loomed over us, it didn't seem to right to associate freedom and gun and bombs …Americans …will not support gun control.

B. more reflections on the Socrates Cafe:
abby rose:
it felt like we were speaking to each other without actually speaking to each other …. Our conversation wasn't made for me and I didn't understand it … I felt actually excluded … It makes me question my ability to connect with people who either irritate me or who have starkly different opinions than I do ….I wish that I could address someone's contrary point of view without feeling stifled or silenced. But there is no place to practice that in my day to day life… I think I may be acting close minded and selfish.

Mr. Phillips said that… we should “give equal weight to new and strange ideas”…. to see adults from different ages there was so refreshing….people who voluntarily come to these meetings …because they want to discuss these large questions and see how others think….So I really like what [the Socrates Cafe] stands for and the intentions of it. The reality of it was not as inspiring….I believe there was a clashing of cultures between us 360-ers and those who participate in Socrates Cafes regularly….I feel like people…were not … giving equal weight to new ideas as well as not taking the discussion into “you’re wrong and I’m right” realm…that night…… helps us to realize that discussion is a “process of human encounter”…with human encounter comes human emotions…

han yu: 
it is always hard for people to really see, or listen to things from perspectives different from their own…

I feel like conversation was not taking place that it was more of a place that everyone voiced their opinion… The group of people that I was actually talking to were not listening to me, and more importantly, they did not seem to care.

I am not used to a Socratic seminar where there is one person leading the discussion…disconnecting one side of the room from the rest. While I found it refreshing to engage in a discussion with others outside of the Bryn Mawr Bubble, it felt draining and depressing to engage in a conversation that was abstract and lacked depth….our facilitator did not hesitate to use other countries as a way of painting America as the land of the free…which I believe is really problematic….I should have raised these concerns, but…I believe my concerns would have been dismissed.
P.S Does anyone know why we were recorded? And where the pictures and videos record would be? ( I am not sure if I missed something, but I didn't sign a media release form giving consent to be recorded).

(to highlight importance and use of space, used exactly 100 words): in cafe, not much space, abundant people from varied backgrounds and experience... subjective truths, limited space…but freedom also subjective…many spoke of “ability” and “capacity” as only path to freedom, i tried to challenge notion…
i was very off-put by having chris in the center of the space... he directed the conversation based on his personal decisions, calling on folks rather than letting conversation occur naturally...i very much like the idea of deconstructing academic spaces and placing conversations outside of an institution, but then when that was put into practice this way, i didn't like it.

Do we want to (and if so how to?) share your feedback with Chris Phillips?

C. shifting to Wideman's memoir
Shira Kraus:
My thoughts spring back to my Jewish education…“a fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth,” God says [to Cain] ….Robby is a fugitive, a wanderer, running, living in fear, without peace—like Cain…. John is also Cain…”running away from Pittsburgh, from poverty, from blackness” ….I think this plural title invites the reader to see themselves as both brother and keeper. We are runners, fugitives, people who have acted in jealousy and made mistakes. We are also vulnerable, scared, victims of hate and violence…

han yu:
can human beings define freedom for other species while we cannot really comprehend their world?…Wideman said that “The hardest habit to break, since it was the habit of a lifetime, would be listening to myself listen to [Robby]. That habit would destroy any chance of seeing my brother on his terms”.  

smalina: the freedom to leave at the end of the visit…is exactly the distinctive quality which marks the visitor's privileged position….[the] identification between Wideman and his brother brought me back to Sommer …Wideman … read to me as a perfect example of …an empathy that lacked understanding of [his] own standpoint and privilege.

Grandjeat, p. 687: "one mind can not grasp the mystery of another...this unbridgeable gap ... ensures my inability to yoke the other to the will of my speech."

missing  postings from Joie, Julia, Madison, Meera, Riley, Rosa, Sylvia…?

IV. Notes towards another class about Wideman's memoir, after break??
I'd asked you to reflect on our responsibility for one another,
and on the indeterminacy of beginnings

( = why the book is structured to loop back again/again/again)

Wideman also attends to the openness of endings:
p. 194: "I realized no apotheosis of Robby's character could occur
in the final section...the only denouement that might make
sense of his story would be his release from prison"

cf. John Wideman's "Father Stories": "it was a world unfinished,
because not all the stories had been told....The fullness of time....
a space capacious enough to contain your coming into and
going out of the many lives, and each different,
each unknowable....we must speak these stories to one another."

p. 69, on his mother's approach to life:
"Most of the time...
she held judgment in abeyance. Events, personalities always
deserved a second, slower appraisal, an evaluation outside
the sphere of everyday hassles and vexations. You gave
people the benefit of the doubt...acknowledged the
limitations of your individual view of things...You tried
on the other person's point of view"

p. 237, on how he came to understand Robby:
"Silences troubled me...until I learned to accept
the quiet interludes as breathing spaces, necessary
reminders of...limits"

How might some of the other authors we've read
help us to make sense of Wideman's memoir? How
might they read it?

p. 202: "Maybe I'm inside West Pen to warm myself by his fire, to steal it."

cf. Doris Sommers: "what draws the reader to the the hope of warming his
shivering life with a death he reads about'...testimonios promise [a lot of] warmth."

Sommers, again: "Secrecy is a safeguard to freedom."

Delpit, quoting Ellsworth,
p. 40: " impossible...because...
power relations between raced, classed, and gendered [people]
are unjust....all voices...cannot carry equal legitimacy"

Price, p. 40: Nor do all rhetors bring an...equivalent sense of ...
what are "rational" and "appropriate" ways to voice ideas.

school to prison pipeline:
p. 116: "Turned school into a prison...They fixed us good...We had a black history class, but wasn't nobody eligible to take it."
p. 104: "Call prison the House of Knowledge cause you learns how to be a sure nuff criminal. Come in lame you leave knowing all kinds of evil shit. You learn quick or they eats you up."
p. 235: "Well, this is the place of knowledge. By the time a dude gets out of here, most likely he's a stone criminal...They got professors and Ph.D.'s in crime giving crime lessons in here."

some context:
John played basketball @ Penn, was a Rhodes scholar and graduated from Oxford;
has since published 10 novels, 5 short story collections, 4 memoirs,
won numerous writing awards, as well as the McArthur "genius" grant,
and taught @ many universities (now @ Brown)
1966: John graduated from Oxford
1973: had published 3 novels
1975: Robby present @ the commission of murder and was sentenced to life
1984: Brothers and Keepers was published
1986: @ the age of 16, John's middle child, Jacob,
killed his roommate and was sentenced to 25 years
1993: Robby's son, Omar, was shot @ his home in Pittsburgh after a bar fight
2011: Jacob was denied parole
2012: on-line petition circulating, to free Robert: