Notes Towards Day 18 (Thurs, Nov. 8): Various Silences

Anne Dalke's picture


"I wish you wouldn't interpret my silence as silence." It means that I am being my natural self. It means that I am comfortable around you, that I trust you enough to engage my way of knowing, my way of speaking and interacting.....My silence is rich and meaningful. My silence is reflection, meditation, and processing. My silence is trust and comfort. My silence is a sensory carnival. My silence is brimming with the things and people around me — and only in that silence can I really know them, appreciate them, “speak” to them, and learn from them. Speaking is an unnatural process for me."

I. 
coursekeeping
Sasha & Esty will structure our silence
HSBurke is up for Tuesday,

when we will discuss an essay by Adrienne Rich, from her collection On Lies, Secrets and Silence (she is a poet and essayist; my dead best friend!); and an essay on "Freedom's Silences" by Wendy Brown (a political scientist @ Berkeley who has affiliations in rhetoric and gender studies; you have "met" her already, because Sweeney quotes her in Reading is My Window; she talks about how "confessing injury" can attach us to that injury, and cautions against the "fetish" of "breaking silence"). I also have not forgotten about Released: 5 Short Videos about Women and Prison!

By 5 p.m. on Sun, the second 1/2 of you (3 "J's"--jo, Owl, Uninhibited--, Michaela, and the "S's"--sara, Sarah, Sasha, sdane & Sharaai) have postings due --afterthoughts from this week, or questions anticipating next week; the other 1/2 of you should read these (and if you want, respond) by Monday @ 5.

Next week is full--even fuller than usual!
* You know that Barbara's colleague Howard Zehr
will be here to give a talk Thur. @ 7,
and to join us @ The Cannery on Friday (help to distribute these posters, please....)

* There are also a number of fascinating events associated w/ the
"What Can a Body Do? exhibit, which brought us Christine Sun Kim:

* On Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 4:30 pm in Stokes 102,
Haverford College, Mark Osteen of Loyola University Maryland, will give a talk about "Listening to Autism," drawn from his recent memoir, One of Us: A Family's Life with Autism (2010).

* Same day, 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m,
starting at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery @ HC: Blind Field Shuttle, a non-visual walking tour led by Mellon Tri-College Artist-in-residence Carmen Papalia. Space for this immersive, experiential art event will be limited to thirty participants. Let me know if you want to join the first group; if you want to join the second, reserve a spot by emailing hcexhibits@gmail.com
Participants are asked to wear comfortable walking shoes and not to bring bags or any other items they would need to carry. The walking tour will be followed by a Q & A with the artist.

Papalia, who is visually impaired, leads a non-visual walking tour where participants tour urban and rural spaces on foot. Forming a line behind Papalia, participants grab the right shoulder of the person in front of them and shut their eyes for the duration of the walk. Papalia then serves as a tour guide – passing useful information to the person behind him, who then passes it to the person behind him/her and so forth. The trip culminates in a group discussion about the experience. As a result of visual deprivation, participants are made more aware of alternative sensory perceptions such as smell, sound, and touch – so as to consider how non-visual input may serve as a productive means of experiencing place.

* On Friday, Nov. 18, we have the opportunity to have breakfast @ 9 a.m. w/ Rosemarie Garland-Thomson in Haffner; we have invited her to talk with us about Staring: How We Look (#s, place?).

* She will also talk about "the conservation of disability" @ HC @ 4 that afternoon (when we will just be leaving The Cannery...) and participate in a gallery reception and informal conversation @ 5:30 @ the Cantor Fitzgerald.

These events are all on our 360 calendar.
Distribute posters....? Count for b'fast....?? Where

Finally: we will take 10 minutes @ the end of class, to begin next steps in our activism/final projects....

II. @ 2:45: From Tuesday
* useful to slow down and read w/ help from one another,
naming what you don't understand (in order to understand it!)

* re: Jo's questions about why write the way that Baleav wrote?
& why take the time to read it? two (family) stories in response...

* one of my daughters attended Sarah Lawrence, where they have a year-long first-year course;
she did well the first semester, in an African-American literature class, but then told her teacher that it was a waste of time to read literature/criticism...and got herself instead a placement in h.s. for African-American boys; she read the novels w/ the class, but rather than writing about them as texts, she used then as entres into projects about learning structures segregated by race and gender

so: you can (of course!) decide that carefully reading complex (literary?
lit crit?) texts is not worth your time; that other things are more valuable

* but you are making a choice/there is a loss....
my second story is about my son who, in middle school, thought Spanish
was "stupid": why didn't it work like English, which worked just fine?
his teacher told me, in conference, that he "would just not leave planet Earth"

learning to read academic papers is like learning another language;
like learning Arabic, it enlarges your world--requires time, surrender,
but will give you access to codes you may not know, will be glad to have;
I want to keep working with you, to give you some of that access...


hard for me to be silent @ the end of our class on Tuesday, when I wanted
to "wrap up" our reading; there was one particular point I wanted to make:
to highlight the fact that Balaev's "Trends in Literary Trauma Theory"
is both built around a conversation--and asks for further conversation.

She starts by saying that reading trauma novels upsets the prevalent understanding of trauma
as a "speechless fright" that destroys identity, dissolves and shatters the self;
the conventional understanding has been that trauma stands "outside representation,"
that although the event is ever-present, intrusive, repetitive,
because the brain can't properly encode/process what happened,

it's also forever unknown and unintegrated.

It's that prevalent understanding that underlies the notion of transhistorical trauma,
of cultures--her example is African American culture--passing trauma across the generations,
recreating it for those who weren't present.

But Balaev only describes that conventional understanding to overturn it
(this is a common structure in academic arguments). She argues that reading
different examples of "trauma fiction" teaches us something else
:
that the "unspeakability" of trauma is not epistemological or neurobiological, but cultural.

Baleav's claim is that--while trauma disrupts a previous formulation of self and world--
that disruption leads to an adaptive reordering of perception,
with characters reorganizing themselves in relation to a new view of reality
(this is where place, as a site w/ value, comes into play...).
Trauma challenges fundamental assumptions about social relationships, and/but/so
drives characters into a "profound inquisitive state"....
not frozen, fixed, but curious!


If we were taking more "time" w/ this text (which we aren't!),
the next step would be to think along w/ her--what evidence can we add
(other novels we've read, experiences we've had)? Then to think "against"
her--what reasons (from reading, or experientially) do we have to doubt what she has said?
Next: who else can we put her into conversation w/? Who else have we read in this course
who speaks w/ or rubs up against her? (several of you did this, speaking of Rigoberta Menchu....)
Finally: of what use is this idea to you/your work/your life?

The model here is conversation: begin by really listening--making sure you understand
her words--then thinking w/, then pushing back, then adding to, and only then judging use-value.

III. @ 3:00: another exercise in close reading, this time in groups of 3 (count off by 6);
Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrier,
read through the lenses provided by Tillie Olsen-->
"natural" and "unnatural"; "hidden," "censorship" and "foreground"; finally, "political" silence,
the "dance" between
being imposed and chosen: the polarity that engages both positions.
Take about 10 minutes to talk through these ideas....do you understand
these different kinds of silences? & what distinguishes/links them...?

Next, use these terms as a way of analyzing "what happens" in the 2
fictional chapters by Kingston: what kinds of silences are these?


"No Name Woman"
"You must not tell anyone" (3).
"The emigrants...must try to confuse their offspring...who ...threaten them...always trying to name the unspeakable" (6).
"It very well could have been, however, that....." (9).
"Another, final reason for leaving the crowded house was the never-said" (12).
"I have tried to turn myself American-feminine. Chinese communication was loud, public...but at the dinner table...no one could talk....A complete moment of total attetnion is due everyone alike....but my aunt used a secret voice, a separate attentiveness" (13).
"The villagers punished her for acting as if she could have a private life, secret and apart from them" (14).
"...the family broke their silence and cursed her" (15).
"But there is more to this silence: they want me to particiapte in her punishment" (18).

"A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe"
"I don't think she said anything" (189).
"His version of the story may be better than mine because of its bareness, not twisted into designs" (189).
"When I went to kindergarten and had to speak English for the fist time, I became silent. A dumbness--a shame--still cracks my voice in two...." (191).
"My silence was thickest--total--during the three years that I covered my school paintings with black paint" (192).
"There were other quiet Chinese girls...but most of them got over it sooner than we did. I enjoyed the silence" (192).
"It was when I found out I had to talk that school became a misery, that the silence became a misery" (193).
"After American school, we...went to Chinese school....The girls were not mute. They screamed and yelled...." (194).
"I felt the weight and immensity of things impossible to explain...." (198).
"You are a plant...That's all you are if you don't talk...you can't have a personality" (210).
"We have so many secrets to hold in" (212).
"The adults get mad, evasive and shut up if you ask" (215).
"I thought talking and not taling made the difference between sanity and insantiy. insane people were the ones who couldn't explain themselves...." (216).
"And there were adventurous people inside my head to whom I talked....how often I went away to see these free movies" (220-221).
"I had better not say a word, then. Don't give them ideas. Keep quiet" (228).
"...a song that...translated well" (243).

Come back together to share?
Or post what you learned/still want to learn/ask on Serendip....?


IV. @ 3:30: get up, find the people you want to do your final project with,
tell each other what form you think this might take;
make a date to meet and take your first step--

I'm expecting that by Ths'giving, Jody, Barb and I will be
asking you for a short proposal; we will meet next week
to talk about our goals/expectations for these projects
(once we know, we'll share!),

but @ this point, you need a starting point; for ex, the Perry House
folks may want to break into several "working groups"
(history, consciousness raising, institutional intervention....)

Uninhibited, couldntthinkof... and sdane didn't join us last night;
U&c are interested in working w/ Perry House initiative;
but no posting/word from sdane: tell us what you are thinking?

great example from Erin of a "next step": As [ishin and I] talked a little more about we want to do, we decided to start from interviewing each other on this topic. Even though we both share the Asian identity, we have different backgrounds and growing and education experiences. We would like to start the broadcast project from our interviews and really figured out what kinds of questions would be inspiring and appropriate to ask when we reach out to other people who share Asian identities on campus.

Groups:
randomness