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"This is not a story to pass on": Notes Towards Day 6 (Thurs, Sept. 15)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
* conferences next Tuesday morning w/ Franny @ 9, Amaka @ 9:30, in my ofc.

* For next Tuesday, please read a longish critical essay about Beloved, a 50-pp. chapter
from Avery Gordon's Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination,
along with Grace Pusey's application letter for graduate school in history, “’Unghosting’
African American Women’s Labor History at Bryn Mawr College, 1880-1940."

Please also read through the Black @ Bryn Mawr Digital Tour
(linked to from syllabus, as are other 2 assignments).
If you have not already taken the tour itself, then over the weekend, please take a friend,
take an hour, and try to visit several of the sites...the servant corridors under Thomas,
the Deanery Garden, the hallway of the fourth floor of Merion (originally the maids' quarters),
the Harriton Family Cemetery behind English House, where two slaves are thought to
be buried. Although the Enid Cook Center is not listed on the digital tour, it would be a good finale....

II. So, I felt good about our shared work on Tuesday,
creating "exhibits" of Beloved, and flagged a number of
ideas I hope we can return to: the difference between
words and images (what each can/not do); the desire to
forestall empathy, to make the book harder, not easier,
to access; the question of "housing" the book (in a home?
a haunted house?); the experiment of making an exhibit
into a classroom (a classroom into an exhibit?), and then
that really complicated, multi-media, multi-voiced event
created by Creighton, Abby, Amaka.

but then Tuesday night i read, on Serendip:
it's hard to study race while we are living health has declined...i want to engage in this study and it is hard....i know what it is to live in a world where the powers that act against [sethe] also act against me and mine, in updated form. it is so damn hard to do this and i want so much to do it. this stuff is hitting us all differently and sometimes it is hard...

and a response: i left class thinking about is what it's like to display, to put on exhibit other peoples' trauma.  i wonder if we have inadvertently done this in our classes. i wonder if this is unavoidable when trauma is on the syllabus.

...and it occurred to me a visit from Linda-Susan
Beard might be helpful to us @ this moment.

i introduced y'all to her already (she's the friend who
described my father as "giving patriarchy a new meaning").
Professor Beard is also a long-time teacher of an in/famous
course on "Toni Morrison and the Arts of Narrative Conjure";
& she has taught many versions of courses on The Literature
of Trauma, written by survivors of slavery, apartheid,
and the European Holocaust.

She has also been a Contemplative Practice Fellow, which means that she got
a grant to incorporate contemplative practices into these classes on
trauma, giving students time-and-space to take in the material.
In short, she has long focused her life-and-work on human beings
in the midst of unnameable crises; she wrote on the English Dept.
website that her "goal is to  companion students who, as witnesses,
stand alongside the burning bush of intense suffering, without their
becoming immolated in the conflagration."

For all these reasons, I asked Professor Beard to join us today, to talk
for a bit about why-and-how she has done this work, for decades--
as a way of inviting further conversation among us about how we
also might also do this work--
with particular attention to our reading Beloved.

III. Professor Beard

IV. Our discussion....