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More on the Narrative: Notes Towards Day 13 (Tues, Feb. 14)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. (2:25-2:30, Anne): coursekeeping

* reminder of writing conferences:
today: Una @ 3:45, Matey  @ 4:15 with Anne in her office upstairs;
Dani @ 3:45 w/ Jody here
tomorrow: Sierra with Jody, 10:45 in Bettws-y-Co-ed 302

*for tomorrow, read (as usual) one another's postings, focusing on your own site in particular (we'll meet in site groups)
also read the first chapter of our forthcoming book, about our own experiences teaching in prison

Steal This Classroom: Teaching and Learning Unbound is
about our philosophy and experiences of teaching @ Bryn Mawr,
with a particular attention to what is unpredictable, unruly,
unknown, unknowable about the process of learning;
Amanda and Delilah read a later chapter of the book in ESem last fall;
Farida's read this chapter and another, on Silence, in the Arts of Resistance 360

the link is to our website, which has many bells and whistles;
there's a link in the lower righthand corner to a pdf version,
if you want to print off the text

in the spirit both of transparency and shared risk,
t feels important to us to share it w/ you;

you'll see that we tell some stories here, about our students both inside and out;
we're curious to hear how you'll take this up,
given last week's searching conversation
about what it means to write about others

II. (2:30-3:00, Jody): Narrative of Frederick Douglass, continued

Open floor: been over a week since we first assigned this;
let's go back and grab our initial responses, and/or
ongoing experience of (re) reading his text -- ?
take some to look over the text and write about about this;
share in the large group

return today to the discussion we were holding last Tuesday, when we were distinguishing between
safe, private writing and stressful public work, between (in the language of your postings),
"authentic" writing for yourself, and writing for a "judge,"
between "writing yourself into existence" and "performing" for others...

Pick this up again with a passage from that essay "Critical Literacy as Care for the Self,”
in which Morrell talks about Narrative of Frederick Douglas (pp. 179-180): 
Slave narratives "stand out as the only surviving texts written by African-Americans themselves that describe the institution of slavery....they exist as the only authentic collective memory and history for the nation of this despicable yet defining institution of racial and social relations.  Equally as significant, though, these texts exist as representatives of an important genre of writing as care for the self....these authors were not just writing to share their horrors with others; most of these texts were not even published during the lifetimes of the authors...[the well-known African-American literary critic, Henry Louis] Gates offers a powerful heuristic for analyzing the autobiographical narrative of the marginalized and oppressed as a political act of self-definition.  When one considers the totalizing narratives of oppression in which these authors existed..., it makes sense that they would need to find conscious ways to will themselves into being... 

Get into groups of three: find passages that illustrate either
either how Douglass' writing might be
"writing himself into existence"/"writing as care for self"
OR conscious of being "performative/for others."
AND/OR places where both of these are happening.

Let's hear three of these passages...
what do we notice? What are learning here about
writing as a space to do both these things;
re-consider this as you begin to think about your first paper for this class...

III. (3:00-3:30, Anne):
We want to step off of this idea that writing might be both private and public,
to think together about the relationship between the writing self and the experiencing/embodied self,
between the person doing the representing, and the person being represented.
We invite you to think about two linked selves:  the one who writes,
and the one who is written about self and embodied/experiencing self.

We'd asked you to find a passage or two that represents (something about)
the relationship between the "writing self" and the embodied self whose experiences he recounts.

Let's hear some of those; what are we learning about this relationship?

We got this concept of the bi-partite self from a 1995 essay by Lindon Barrett,
“African-American Slave Narratives: Literacy, the Body, Authority,” American Literary History: . Barrett writes,
In giving account of slavery and "themselves," the paramount task [of slave narratives] is to reproduce the experiences and trials of a "body"—their bodies—in a medium necessarily antithetical to that project. Written language is an abstract medium recalcitrant to mimicking or reproducing bodily experience; what literacy affords those who acquire it is precisely the ability to some extent to do away with the body (in deference to the mind and abstraction). Yet to accomplish their project as ex-slave narrators, these writers must assuredly make their bodies appear for their readers, since to be an African American or slave is to be foremost a body.

IV. (3:30-4:00, Jody): we've just spent an hour looking @ how he writes about himself;
but the text is peopled with others too. What can we say about how Douglass represents others?

exs: beginning of Ch 7, p. 62 (re: the change in Mrs. Auld);
cf. end of Ch. 1, p. 26 (the beating of Aunt Hester)