Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Towards Day 20 (Th, 11/13): "The Story of a Return"

Anne Dalke's picture

(Anne in P.R...leaving some "talking notes" behind; but for what
actually happened see the notes Hummingbird took of the discussion....)

Afsaneh Najmabadi. "Truth of Sex." January 12, 2005.

* what particular contribution can the genre of the
graphic novel make to our understandings of feminism?
*what particular contribution can this particular graphic novel
make to our understandings of feminism?

What's the relation between objectification and representation? and self-representation?
You had a warm-up, in creating a self-representation,
when you selected and explained your avatar to us;
then you worked on a childhood body, and a fantastical body...and now a self-portrait.
Go on thinking about how you have been represented,
how you would like to represent yourself,
and what sort of feminist thinking/feeling/philosophizing/orientating lies behind this.

One particular question you might want to consider is
how accessible/readable you want your representation to be...

the question of whether accessibility is a good thing,
a "feminist" thing: equalize access, yes?
well, but...

Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery, 1996:
...the question "Do I like this?" will have to be the opening question and not the final judgement. An examination of our own feelings wil have to give way to an examination of the piece of work.... It is right to trust our feelings but right to test them too....When you say "This work has nothing to do with me," when you say, "This work is boring/pointless/silly/obscure/elitist etc."...the work [might fall] so outside of the safety of your own experience that in order to keep your own world intact you must deny the other world of the painting....True art, when it happens to us, challenges the "I" that we are....for most of us the question "do I like this?" will always be the formative question. Vital then, that we widen the "I" that we are as much as we can....

A poem, a piece of fiction of any value is not instantly accessible. The reader, like the writer, has to work, and as long as work remains a four letter word, the average reader will not understand why they should struggle through their leisure time....What we cannot do is judge a book by how little bother it gives us....

Toni Morrison on Oprah, to readers who complained how demanding Beloved was: "Honey, that's called reading!"

Doris Sommer on I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala:
"books can sting readers who feel entitled to know everything as they approach a text...the slap of refused intimacy from uncooperative books can slow readers down....Is inhospitality toward the reader...surprising? It merits a pause long enough to learn new expectations...her techniques include maintaining secrets that keep readers from knowing her too well..."

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: “To be out is really to be in – inside the realm of the visible, the speakable, the culturally intelligible”...engaging in...dialogue about “personal” or “private” aspects of yourself...can make you TOO easy to understand...maintaining the  liminal...position...means that you do not become  “culturally intelligible”. You can’t be mainstreamed; your deviance cannot be absorbed ...“cannot be contained” (Outside in the Teaching Machine) .

Spivak has also urged each feminist to "wrench" herself away from the mesmerising focus on the
... female individualist .... to at least expand the frontiers of the politics of reading." 

So: what do we think of autobiography as a feminist genre?

What does it mean, in the history of women-as-visual object,
to create a visual text about a woman's life: What is the effect of doing that?

What role do the words play in this graphic narrative?

Spend some time sharing our sense of who Marjane is.

Find a page (or 2) with an interesting intersection of text-and-image.
Talk w/ your neighbor about what you've found...

How "individual"/how "doubled"/how coherent/how fragmented is Marjane on that page?
What's the difference between what she SAYS and how she is SEEN?
What can we see of her internal life? How would you characterize it?

Hilary Chute: Some of today's most riveting feminist cultural production is in the form of accessible yet edgy graphic narratives....."graphic narratives"...destabilize standard narratives of history... bridging wartime-focused testimonies and child-oriented testimonies ...Persepolis is about the ethical verbal and visual practice of "not forgetting" ... modeling a feminist methodology in its form, in the complex visual dimension of its author narrating herself on the page as a multiple subject.

Who is not represented, when the self represents itself?
Who lacks voice or vision here?

Spivak's "Can the Subaltern Speak?"
(a founding text of postcolonial studies) focuses on
suttee, the religious practice (banned by the British in 1829),
in which a recent widow would immolate herself on her
husband's funeral pyre. Spivak points out that all accounts
of what suttee meant to (or how it oppressed) women
are re-presentations (by British colonizers or Hindu leaders),
but there are no records by the suttee-performing brown women
themselves: "the subaltern cannot speak."

Anat Berko, Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers  (2009):
an Israeli researcher who tried "to open a window for the reader
into the inner world of men and women who blow themselves up" -->
"Western society, for which human life is the supreme value, finds it
difficult to define and understand the suicide bomber's behavior" (p. 12)
"Now we're just passing through. Real life is in paradise...
in fact he isn't dead, he's in paradise and he's still alive" (p. 159)
"For the suicide bombers, such dreams [of paradise] are a concrete reality" (p. 171)
"It's more impressive when a woman carries out a suicide bombing attack,
because this is the Middle East and a woman is very limited,
and that makes her action special" (p. 112)
"female suicide bombers...were the expression of a unique wave of feminism,
which allowed them to improve their social status" (p. 114)