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"Being Here": Notes Towards Day 14 (Wed, Feb. 15)

Anne Dalke's picture

bring large sheets of paper and markers for silent discussion

I. (2:00-2:10, Jody): coursekeeping

* writing conferences tomorrow morning:
Anne in English House 205 @ 10:30 w/ Amanda
Jody @ 11:30 w/ Helen in Bettws-y-Co-ed 302

* for tomorrow, please read
June Jordan's essay, “Nobody Mean More to Me than You and the Future Life of Willie Jordan.” Harvard Educational Review 58, 3 (August 1988): 363-374: [in our chapter, we describe trying to teach w/ this text in RCF a few years ago]; please note that, since the essay was published in 1988 (before you were born), some of the language will seem v. dated to you--"Black English," "Afro-Americans "--but the questions it raises still seem very vivid to us-and-we-hope to you!

please prepare for class
by either marking a single sentence that you'd like us to discuss further,
or writing out a sentence of your own noting an idea or question that the text raises for you

II. (2:10-2:30, Anne): Divide into site groups
for some problem-solving time
(Nell w/ BTB, Jody w/ YASP, Anne w/ RCF)
discuss your postings
BTB: further involvement?
YASP: on reflective writing?
RCF: sharing what happened:
adjustments for next week?
talking about our writing?
agreements? closing ceremony?
(Anne and Dani to facilitate;
shifting van drivers?)

III. (2:30-3:00, Jody): your Thursday postings offered a range
of descriptions of what we are doing when we write about others:
talking with others accelerates knowledge 
Everything you do affects you in some way, when you write you reveal yourself in some way on that page, and as a result you expose some of every experience you may or may not have realized you faced.
jane doe: Often it feels like the mere writing of down of a narrative and calling it such, means owning those people you represent and the narratives they bring with them.
m r r:
we are basically gossiping about others' lives in class and within our posted reflections
I have started to view "internet literacy" as...a highly overlooked form of isn't an inherent be able to...find reliable information....information is filtered.

Put up five sheets for a silent discussion
(with focus on the verbs: accelerating, exposing, owning, gossiping, filtering...)

What emerged?

3:00-3:10: BREAK

III. (3:10-4:00, Anne): "Being Here"
y'day's conversation about Douglass' Narrative focused on
* writing as simultaneously self-care and a
public act of conversation with/instruction to others,
* the relationship between the embodied and the more distant writing self,
* how Douglas represented both himself and others.

I also posted some notes this morning from a recent essay a
bout how Douglass was represented by others.**

Let's enter this text w/ these frames;
turn to a neighbor and talk about one/more
of the kinds of representation you see going on in this text:
private/public, written/writing self; representing others.

Then bring to a full group.

Now: use this text as an invitation to think about your role @ your own site.
In Jody's words, how does it feel possible to "grasp both awareness
of power relations and interactional possibility"? (p.63).

Notes from Joel Schlosser's reading of the
second person pronouns from Claudia Rankine's Citizen:
we cannot label these as Rankine’s experiences,
different from our own; if these
thoughts seem strange to us we feel pressure with the pronoun
to identify at least some commonality; these are not merely
confessional lines because they address us so directly.
In interviews, Rankine describes her use of the second person
pronoun as an attempt to disallow readers from knowing immediately
how to position themselves. Whereas the first person
would have deactivated the scene by allowing for immediate
identification or disidentification, the second person...forces
the reader to consider how and why they might apply a racial


Rachel A. Blumenthal, “Canonicity, Genre, and the Politics of Editing: How We Read Frederick Douglass,” Callaloo 36, 1 (Winter 2013):178-190:

[Although Garrison says in the introduction to Douglass’ Narrative, “It is…entirely his own production,”] Frederick Douglass explains in his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), that his white abolitionist advocates wanted only “facts” from Douglass so that they could “take care of the philosophy”….

Garrison delivered speeches by “taking me as his text,” writes Douglass, reminding the reader that text—whether human or written—is a fragile and mutable object of analysis, and that his own life…was partially co-opted by Garrison as one strand of evidence in a larger abolitionist project….

suggest[ing] a difficulty of African American, ex-slave life-writing—how do readers, editors, and critics settle on a representation of a life history which risks being absorbed in political projects (such as white abolitionism) that read and edit black writing as representative of black experience?

…. Douglass forcefully counters white editorial and managerial politics as early as the 1845 Narrative….disembodies himself in the appendix by inhabiting the role of literary critic. In doing so, he is…an outsider who claims the right to comment upon and judge his foregoing work…..He is not just the subject of the narrative, but its author and its reader....His brief analysis of the “tone and manner” of his autobiography marks his presence outside of the text.

In [the] 1855 edition, Douglass mounts a sharp critique of his state of freedom and the white abolitionists who shaped it. He quotes John A. Collins, an agent of the Massachusetts anti-slavery society, as dubbing Douglass a “graduate from the peculiar institution with my diploma written on my back!” Nowhere does Douglass chafe more explicitly against his status as a textual object for the white abolitionists than when he writes of his experience in the lecture circuit:

I was generally introduced as a “chattel”—a “thing”—a piece of southern “property”—the chairman assuring the audience that it could speak. Fugitive slaves, at that time, were not so plentiful as now; and as a fugitive slave lecturer, I had the advantage of being a “brand new fact,” the first one out…..

It is…undesirable to imprison [texts] in generic categories that violate the very politics of text, authorship, and philosophy they work so hard to espouse.