Notes Towards Day 23 (Tues, Nov. 22): Alchemy of Race and Class --and Ideology of Style?


I. Coursekeeping
really grateful for thinking-w/ re: campus workshop and Parkway partnership;
we will be carrying this work forward, activating some more campus discussions
about Class Dismissed in the spring--stay tuned for invitations to be involved!

looking over the last few weeks of the semester--
nothing new here, but many details to spell out:

* there's no more writing --or even postings!--  due
until Dec. 4th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving break
(though of course you are always welcome to visit the forum w/ your relevant thoughts....!)

* over break, do please read ALL of the novel Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
(a lot, but very compelling!); next Tuesday, we'll begin our discussion of that work,
and it's very hard to discuss 1/2-a-novel...
this is our attempt to enter a space beyond the classroom,
and think about global class divisions...
give yourself time to enter that world,
to read in large chunks of time, not fitfully

* next Thursday, we'll be joined by my daughter Marian, author of a 'zine
about class privilege (which I'm having copied, and will distribute next Tuesday!)

* your final paper for the class, due the Sunday after (Dec. 4th), will involve "de-classifying"
your writing for this class, going beyond the weekly 3-pp. papers you've been writing for Jody&me.
What would you  like to say to the whole Bryn Mawr community --or to the whole world??--
about issues of class and education? What new format might you play with, to say these things?
Mar's zine may give you some ideas--and you should plan to publish this on Serendip.

* we'll have one more week, after that, for "mopping up/finishing up" our conversations (haha),
with Patricia Williams, Chris Cleave, Marian Dalke--and about class and education generally

* we will also have one more gathering, during reading week:
5-7 p.m. Sun, Dec. 11, w/ pizza and your final performances
about the "uses of a liberal education": What role does it play in class mobility?
How might it function differently, in this regard, than it has historically?

Jody, Sarah, Jomaira and I will supply the pizza. You need to organize yourselves into
small groups (of 2-5 people), to prepare 5-10 minute (?) presentations,
reflecting on y/our experiences over the semester--and (in a provocative 
and entertaining way) encouraging further exploration on the part of others in the class....

For some inspiration, see the record of final performances from
"making sense of the universe" last fall: they included a mockumentary, an
improvised "recreation" of the class, an invitation for the whole group
to "madlib" in response to prompts from one of our texts, a musical
collaboration representing key ideas from the course from different
cultural vantage points, a "turtles all the way down" series of questions,
a slam poem, apower point presentation making the course "visual"...
a mixture, in other words, of performances and interactive group activities...

* your final portfolio is due by 12:30 p.m., Fri, Dec. 16
(when all written work in due, college-wide) --
you will collect together all your written work (postings and papers),
expand and edit one of your papers from the semester,
and write a guided reflection about your learning-->
we'll discuss that in your final conference (you each have one
more scheduled, during the next two weeks)
and during class after Thanksgiving break

Questions about any of this course-keeping??

II. from our rich diablog this week (on seeing through others' eyes...)

Martin Luther King: I learned how to interact with strangers in a nice and pleasant way.
Also that by us coming to their school and this being their first year, we took them to
places that they have never been before
on campus, and taught them new things
about their school.

Zora Neale Hurston: Something I learned is that you can be apart of a community even
if your new to it yourself. It becomes old to you once you share it with some other
new people
coming into the area.

Maya Angelou: Something that i taught somebody in life is how to never worry about what
people are saying about you....

nbnguyen's response: This is the thing I really want to learn from you. If you have time, please
tell me how to do that...I am easily influenced by people's opinions. I try to be perfect so no one
can criticize and look down on me. But I know, it's quite impossible to satisfy everybody's wants.
Sometimes, I am not brave enough to make decisions for fear of mistakes and criticisms....
I wonder how you learned this skill....

to be picked up again in a week, when we will begin to think together how we might
go on learning from one another.....

III. your other blog posting was about doing research papers based on qualitative interviews,
which you (generally!) found demanding and very satisfying, both because so individualized
and responsive to other individuals....

The paper wasn’t just about collecting what they were saying but trying to piece together
what to do with this understanding, to create a message that would give these encounters meaning

jschwartz15: The most important task with this paper for me was staying within the confines of my data.

thamid: Our sources were not what we read from scholars, but rather our own questions we made
for our interviews. I also liked that we created our own question to analyze and make a claim towards
... based off of what was collected.

msolson: This was a much more individual experience, because I needed to come up with all the
steps on my own.

melal: almost all my interviewees answered those questions in a way that I didn’t expected them
to answer, which means that I had to try change my claim.... I really rethought many questions. I
used to believe that I knew answer to these questions... I realized that actually I regarded my own
assumptions for many problems as the truth.... when I asked questions to my interviewees, I was
also asking myself at the same time, which helps me to reflect my own thoughts and try to answer
my own questions.

Chandrea: It was so nice to not have to look for a reading and cite authors and squeeze quotes
into my paper... I didn't have to do that this time because my source of reading was my own self!
I took my own notes and I was able to make a profound claim all on my own, not based on some
other scholar who had the idea first.

Freckles39: my writing is finally growing to reflect/catch up with my expanding thoughts
(plus a story about an interviewee who asked no longer to be included

IV. Patricia Williams' writing picks ups, of course, on these interwoven threads--of writing w/
yourself as the source: as your thoughts are expanding, how might your writing "catch up"?

"Since subject position is everything in my analysis of law .... I will try to write ... in a way that
bridges the traditional gap between theory and praxis .... I hope that the result will be a text
that is multilayered -- that encompasses the straightforwardness of real life and reveals
complexity of meaning .... I am interested in the way in which legal language flattens and
confines in absolutes the complexity of meaning inherent in any given problem; I am trying
to challenge the usual limits of commercial discourse by using an intentionally double-voiced
and relational, rather than a traditionally legal black-letter, vocabulary" (p. 3, p. 6).

"What is 'impersonal' writing but denial of self?... denial of one's authority ... is ruse ....
And the object of such ruse is to empower ... beyond the self, by appealing to neutral,
shared, even universal understandings .... But the cost of such exclusive forms of discourse
is ... at  the expense of one's relation to others; empowerment without communion .....

...the other thing contained in assumption of neutral, impersonal writing styles is the lack of risk ...
we have lost the courage and the vocabulary to describing [the personal] in the face of the
enormous social pressure to 'keep it to ourselves' -- but this is where our most idealistic
and our deadliest politics are lodged, and are revealed" (pp. 92-93).

So of course I'm curious how you, as readers, handled this writing complexity--
what was your experience like, reading Patricia Williams' "double-voiced, relational" text?

use this range of responses to guide you in finding a single passage in the text
(anything from a sentence to a story) to illustrate-or-challenge what we've said so far

get into pairs (with someone you still haven't talked w/ much yet...)
and tell each other what you are seeing:
what are the (racial? class-based? stylistic?) layers in this passage?
what are questions that it raises for you?

bring it back to the large group:
what are we learning from-and-with Patricia Williams?

Anne's quotes
"a purely class-based analysis does not comprehend the whole problem ...
I use ... the term 'black' in order to accentuate the unshaded monolithism
of color itself as a social force" (p. 257).

"That life is complicated is a fact of great analytic importance" (p. 10).

"children are taught not to see what they see" (p. 13).

"I received the first edit ... my fury had been carefully cut out .... The active personal had
been inverted in favor of the passive impersonal .... I could not but wonder ... what it would
take to make my experience verifiable" (p. 47).

"All reference to my race had been eliminated .... a consequence of an ideology of style
rooted in a social text of neutrality .... doesn't that render my story too unempirical and
subjective to pay any attention to?" (pp. 47-49).