Playing with Categories

For Wednesday:
finish Jimmy Corrigan (if you haven't), and post on-line
a response to your reading and today's discussion about both Cherrie Moraga and Jimmy Corrigan

By 5 p.m. Sunday 11/13 post on-line a collaborative 3-pp. introduction to your book.
See both samples from last year's class and
(in your packet) Table of Contents and Introduction. After Shock: September 11, 2001. Global Feminist Perspectives.

Book One: Reproductive Choices
Alex: birth control accessibility and sex ed for teenagers
Flora: pharmacists rights to refuse to distribute Plan B emergency contraception
Samantha: new reproductive technologies and the devaluation of feminist ideology

Book Two: Cultural Male and Cultural Female: What's the Difference?
Talya: the problem w/ classifying and describing oneself
(the difference between intentions and interpretations)
Anna: how the political culture of BMC deals w/ working moms
EmJ: women "acting like men," in the workplace and the bedroom
Lindsay: see-saw of the closed economy, vs. collapsing the gender gap:
can we not hurt one sex while championing the other?

Book Three: Unsettling the Categories of Pleasure
Amy Phillips: what does it mean to be transgendered?
Patricia: inside the pleasure-dome: taking hold of our identities
Orah: unbounded imagination as the source of our politics
Amy Pennington: sex kitten as media archetype and role-model

Book Four: Sex Pro and Con
Sarah: including gays in hate crime legislation
Kat: anti-sex and sex-positive feminism
K: sex industry and sex slave trade
Elle: sex-negative U.S. politics

Day 19: Standing Up--

--or Lying Down?


"...both the notion of having a rupture with your self and the notion of narrated personal coherence are Protestant conventions....We've invented an impressive array of...conversion religions. They offer you a new and perpetual personality, and they tell you your current one was a mistake you made. They tell you to be somebody else. I say: believe them."
(Michael Warner, "Memoirs of a Pentacostal Boyhood")

I was thinking about today's discussion on the way back to my dorm after class....I wonder about my own invisibility when I'm feeling particularly melancholic - I look white and straight, but that says nothing of my Slovak grandparents and lesbian tendancies. Maybe this is why I like the word dyke so much - I this word lets me say, "Look, I am more than I appear. This is me." But am I being selfish? My gf "appearance" or "identity" changes depending on who she's with. When she's with me, she's whiter or straighter. I have the ability (and luxury?) to make claims. I can say, "I'm a dyke," and most days I feel like a dyke and think like a dyke, but I've never once been bashed. I've never had people yell at me in school or paintball my car.... There's this luxury in being able to say, "Ah, look! I am more than I appear".... But what about people like Moraga and my gf who don't have the luxury in making these claims - their appearance and identity is dictated by who they are with.

I am who I am. I define myself. I define my actions. I can't define my skin color in any real way. I'm white. I'm Caucasian. I'm Western European. I'm.... It all makes me white. And that's all people see. Well, the people who want to see only my "whiteness". I can't do anything about others' impressions of my skin color. The only things that I can control are my own impressions and interpretations of others. I walk down the street and I don't see colors, the world is much more uniform than that. But I do still see poeple and lump them into other categories, so I have to work on that. Will it ever be possible for me to think outside the box in this way? I don't think so and I hope not, at least on some level.

Some reflections arising from last week's Universe Bar:
Thanks, all, for rich conversation tonight, not only for the ideas but also for the strong feelings displayed in relation to some of them. I learned some interesting things from both....Might one agree that...people interested in righting social wrongs could choose to do so by the avenue either of "political" action or cultural action?.... Perhaps there is a related and corresponding message in the clash of strong feelings that accompanied the play of ideas? That clash seemed to me to obscure a very significant commonality in objective, the creation of a culture in which each individual and distinctive person feels involved and contributory. What was being argued about was how to act to move in that direction, and I have the feeling that people were hearing reasons to move along one avenue as simultaneously and necessarily reasons NOT to move along the other. Its interesting to me that people tend to make that leap without thinking about it. In a monolithic culture, it would indeed be true that an argument for one thing is necessarily an argument against another. That isn't, however, true in a pluralistic culture, where one can not only have different people moving along different avenues but doing so with mutual support and respect. And since a pluralistic culture is in fact our common objective, maybe it would be useful for us to try and reshape some of the deeper assumptions we make when listening to one another in a way that would make one of the principles of a pluralistic culture part of the process of moving more towards it?

So, in the interest of learning more about one another,
understanding where each of us is coming from, and why--
here's some background on Moraga:
how she got to where she is,
why she choses to be "loyal" to this particular "narrated coherence"
(aka why she tells the story she does):

(From "A kind of queer balance": Cherrie Moraga's Aztlan.
MELUS, Summer, 2004 by Lisa Tatonetti):

Cherrie Moraga's theoretical project is not about comfort. With each new text, Moraga extends her investigations of identity formation, inviting readers to follow suit. Each new book also, however, moves readers progressively away from the comfort zone in which the climax of a multiethnic author's narrative lies in a return to the "mother" culture. Instead, the body of Moraga's work presents complicated and less tidy narratives in which Moraga examines the multivalent nature of identity....

My analysis of Moraga's multivalent depictions of ethnicity and sexuality begins with an examination of Moraga's provocative statement: "My mother was not the queer one, but my father. [...] But it is this queer I run from. This white man in me. [...] It is this queer I run from. A pain that turns us to quiet surrender" (Loving 8). First, it may be said that the "queer" Moraga "runs from" is not actually her father, but her father's absence. In Loving in the War Years, Moraga sets up this paradigm by figuring her Anglo father as an emotional and sexual absence in her and her mother's lives. Silence and distance are interconnected in this first text, which depicts Moraga's father as emotionally impaired. His absence of emotional support is evidenced early--as an eight-year-old Moraga has a revelation about his behavior during her mother's serious illness: "I saw that he couldn't love us--not in the way we so desperately needed. I saw that he didn't know how" (Loving 93). Her father, "a large lumbering child [...] trying to play a parent" (Loving 93), is incapable, according to Moraga, of providing the parental affection that she so desperately needs at that moment in her childhood. This experience gives rise to the pivotal realization of Moraga's life: "It is the love of the Chicana, the love of myself as a Chicana I had to embrace, no white man" (Loving 94). Her father's reserve, then, is presented as providing a portion of the impetus for Moraga's strong affinity with her mother; his pale absence of emotion, or perhaps his inability to express emotion, intensifies "the most passionate feelings that had ever lived inside [Moraga's] young heart"--her love for her Chicana mother (Loving 93). Ultimately, her father's emotional detachment, figured as a specifically Anglo "queerness" in Moraga's text, plays an integral role in Moraga's powerful connection to the cultural heritage of her mother. As a result, whiteness melds with queerness, becoming a symbol of loss that propels Moraga further toward her identification as Chicana.

In Moraga's representation of her family, the emotional absence of Moraga's father in her life mirrors his sexual absence in her mother's life, creating a vortex that both women feel compelled to fill. Moraga consistently associates her lesbian passion with her mother's emotional and physical need, at times positioning herself as a possible sexual surrogate for her father. When her mother confides, "Honey, I know what it's like to be touched by a man who wants a woman. I don't feel this with your father" (Loving 11), Moraga has a visceral and immediate response: "[I]t takes every muscle in me, not to leave my chair, not to climb through the silence, not to clamber toward her, not to touch her the way I know she wants to be touched" (Loving 11). In this case, Moraga constructs her own desire for women as the answer to her mother's obvious need, transfiguring her mother's desire for heterosexual intimacy into a need identical to Moraga's own. In doing so, Moraga establishes her mother as the linchpin of her cultural, ethnic, and sexual subjectivity, embracing her while rejecting the source of her pain, Moraga's father.

Those are two examples (one by Moraga, another by the critic)
of turning "self rupture" into "narrated coherence."

Another way to think about this would be
to begin "at the other end" of this loopy process:
not w/ the personal, but w/ the generic,
not with the self, but with narrative forms.

while we tend to emphasize the word ejections in discourse, 'Jimmy' equally weighs worded-frames with silent-frames...discourse is the conscious (that which is ejected) AND the unconscious (the in-between frames, the gestures, the blank stares).

i thought that the drawings and the spatial layouts were really intriguing, indicating some kind of alternative mind-space....but...i was... profoundly in the novel didn't really think of women in terms of self-definition....these women were depicted as knocked-up servants, cowardly tomboys with sexual "issues," or subjects of perverted sexual was disconcerting to be confronted by a text which...preferred to navel gaze.

Jimmy Corrigan...has...left me with that "sick of heart" feeling that Em spoke about. ...did anyone else start crying when the kids brought back his tin horse?....he does not realize/notice that they are makes me very hesitant to trust any kind of feeling....Is this what this book is about? The atrophy of feeling?...I felt sorry for James Corrigan....I feel as though the Jesus Christ connection must have been planned....How do we feel for a "hero"--> wearing the Superman shirt--> to be seen crying and not portrayed in a "heroic" way. Does that upset us?

S-o-o: let's think together about "genres"
(and their relation to "genders").
Which do you prefer?
What's your "generic" taste?

A clan or sept; a number of families united by the ties of a supposed common origin, a common name, and common religious rites. Hence employed to designate any similar aggregation of families.

Kind; sort; style.
A particular style or category of works of art; esp. a type of literary work characterized by a particular form, style, or purpose.

Kind, sort, class; also, genus as opposed to species.
the general gender: the common sort (of people).

What genre is Jimmy Corrigan?
Is there any relation--if so, what is it?--
between his genre and his gender?
Between his genre-and-gender,
and the generic predilections and
gender positions of his (presumed) readers?

[(? a. Fr. apologie), ad. L. apologia (APOLOGIA), a. Gr. defence, a speech in defence, f. away, off + - speaking.]
The pleading off from a charge or imputation, whether expressed, implied, or only conceived as possible;
defence of a person, or vindication of an institution, etc., from accusation or aspersion.

Cf. [a. Fr. apologue, ad. L. apologus, a. Gr. account, story, fable, f. off + speech.]
An allegorical story intended to convey a useful lesson; a moral fable.

Is this graphic novel an "apology" or an "apologue"?
Is it speaking in defense or to teach (offensively)?

reading instructions:
not equipped to sustain successful linguistic relation w/ pictographic theater
principles and rules intuitive
entirely novel form of imaginative drama
paramount end of aesthetics--> represent rich experience
comic strip highest achievement! --> from cave paintings
look to whenever stimulation/pageantry/distraction/solace is needed
resonance--> empathetic vs. profiteers from business of life

technical explanation --> exam
stop if female
if male --> miserable, unhappy, suicidal, avoiding
are men more visual/less readerly? need it laid out?
(cf. Japan, where ALL like comics?)

key story is grandfather's abusive father, longed-for, absent mother
contemporary story is about absent father, overpresent mother
(repetition: broken leg, horses, black women)
begins/ends w/ mom's trysts --> "loves" her/fails w/ all women

final apology
armored man--> metaphor!
staff--> weapon and crutch

My Notes, from Gus's Fall '04 lecture:

problems w/ discussing straight masculinity:
so pervasively present, orients so much of our understanding of the world
appears not different, so harder to analyze
related to Michael Warner's ideas about crafting the self
emotional range: bleak and bleaker

a few framing issues and concerns:
graphic novels (Maus) boom genre, new category
first written, published as comic book, in installments
addressing conventions of superhero comic book:
what is its relation to this tradition?
"Smartest Kind of Earth" satiric re: heroic rhetoric
what is its relation to superhero tradition?
what is it doing to that conventional form?
(tape of Chris Ware accepting an award:
"you can see I'm not very good @ this...why i should stay home...")
packaging of book: sense of humility, self-deprecation
paper bound apologue, whole book act of apology
(vs. allegory: lesson, moral, fable--
what is the moral of the fable?
inevitable mess that you make when you try to say "I am"
average guy...who is extrordinary
escapism: death of superhero, own escape

nature of putting on a mask
what is Jimmy looking for? to project self onto?
what is he actually in search of?
something Oedipal going on here?
looking to rearrange relation with women?
search for identity: self reflecting, rarely speaking
very passive: active arrival w/ father
identity: no father figure
what keeps him from embracing his dad?
what are obstacles to realizing identity?
grandfather, "it's too late"
36 years old
fantasies; not going to be realized: too much history
bears the burden of a deeper past
what type of father would tell him who he's slept with?
what makes the medium of comics important?
could be done as a novel, film?

angle that comics allow indication of masculinity?
process differently if you see images instead of reading?
(clause, qualifiers, derferrals, submissive)
self-deprecating: don't take it seriously
genre itself self-deprecating: ironic tension between form and content
bring gender into discussion: is that a gendered gesture of performance?
association of comic books: expectations: tragic, sad
unmasculated man in hero's spot
very confusing: what is happening
disconcerting: how to read, not a logical layout
makes reader feels as lost as Jimmy is
male character is not masculine
categories of comic book characters:
predetermined play w/ stereoytpical roles
forces reader to re-live comics you read, associations
why can't this be masculinity?
geared toward experience?

sets him up to perform gender for us, he fails
is that not masculinity?
not stereotypical muscled guy, highlights ideal
is story being presented as one of masculinity?
being disappointed in who you are? as a man?
first scene important, never returned to
really directed toward emasculating failure?

historical narrative:
great grandfather's presence--of that narrative of masculine brutality
shapes our impression of how this is about masculinity
earliest Corrigan in story is still present
every generation delineated by his experience
model of difficulty of father-son relations: paternity fathers teach sons how to be masculine/man
scene of testing/failure
lot about race in both narratives
plays into sense of his being confined, trapped
effect of discovering another child, of different race?
important to talk about daughter, see if there is a superhero narrative
an orphan/ standard plot of redemption
what is plot trying to make us feel?

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