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    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Cabin Fever

    Leave it to Henry Louis Gates to resurrect Uncle Tom's Cabin, one of my favorite all-time novels, from the swamp of denigration.

    His essay and Edward Rothstein's on the new Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin for which I've been waiting and over which I'm now salivating.

    The blurb:

    Declared worthless and dehumanizing by James Baldwin in 1949, Uncle Tom's Cabin has lacked literary credibility for fifty years. Now, in a ringing refutation of Baldwin, Henry Louis Gates Jr. demonstrates the literary transcendence of Harriet Beecher Stowe's masterpiece. Uncle Tom's Cabin, first published in 1852, galvanized the American public as no other work of fiction has ever done. The editors animate pre-Civil War life with rich insights into the lives of slaves, abolitionists, and the American reading public. Examining the lingering effects of the novel, they provide new insights into emerging race-relation, women's, gay, and gender issues. With reproductions of rare prints, posters, and photographs, this book is also one of the most thorough anthologies of Uncle Tom images up to the present day. 2-color throughout; 32 pages of color illustrations, 150 black-and-white illustrations.

    [Gates works with Hollis Robbins on the project (they also worked together on a great book of essays on Hannah Crafts's The Bondswoman's Narrative.]

    Oh, and he's giving a lecture on his work with the text at the NYPL on Wed, Nov 26!

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    It's Official: I'm Not A Feminist

    For a long time, I really thought I should keep identifying as a "feminist", even when I hated everything I saw of feminism, as a sort of rehabilitation of the term, or a claiming of it, or something.

    But now I wonder: when I say I'm a feminist, am I actually just dredging up a bunch of crap I don't want spread around. So, for the moment, I'm avoiding it.

    I don't want to link to the blogs that are making me furious right now, so I won't. Suffice it to say, I'm sick of the thoughtlessness, the pettiness, the racism, and classism that go unacknowledged and/or willfully misunderstood. I'm sick of the hypocrisy and the bizarre sense of ownership. I'm exhausted by the mind-numbing sameness and, frankly, intellectual emptiness, of most "feminist" discussion.

    I could discuss the burqa thing or the disturbing consideration of the "choice to wax" or the stupid Playboy-Pandagon thing, but all of those have been tackled with aplomb by bloggers I respect. I want to talk, briefly, about the whole "Amp's a sell-out!" controversy.

    I have a few things to say about that.

    1. Unless it is actually your blog, not just a place you enjoy commenting, then it's not your blog. All these ideas around the blogosphere about how it's a blog propreitor's duty to protect people from stuff they don't like - grow the fuck up, people. I've seen it in the past when someone didn't immediately ban someone who was an anti-feminist. And now this. Amp doesn't owe you anything. You should feel lucky that he entertains your complaints at the frequency he does.
    2. Maia was awesome in admitting how she'd done something for money that she didn't support politically. If you have not, you must be pretty wealthy or ascetic. It's a basic precept of capitalism that we all become complicit in our own oppression. It reminds me of a "real life" feminist group I was involved in (back in my youth) wherein one member wanted another member out because that member worked at Loreal cosmetics. Again: grow the fuck up, people.
    3. If you can't handle running in into porn, you may want to get off the internet. Because I don't think you'll like it much. The other option is to set your homepage to The Margins and never, NEVER click a link or check your email again. (I'm not saying you can't critique what you see.)

    (Right about now, Amp is going, "Why did EL jump to my defense!? Shut up, EL!" :) )

    Recently, a certain someone called the burqa issue a "flame war". Why? Because the uproar over something like Amp's selling his domain name, sadly, matches the intensity of people's critique of the appropriation of a burqa. Whether your waxing appointment is grounds for revocation of your feminist card warrants as much fevered commenting as the class considerations of a $40 wax. Seriously fucked-up priorities. So nothing looks bigger or more important than a petty "flame war".

    Okay, so am I really "not a feminist"? I don't know if I'm quite ready to say that because I don't want feminism, a movement to which I've devoted quite a lot of time and energy, to be totally stupid. But ... let's just say that, for the first time, I'm beginning to think that shedding the label wouldn't be much of a loss to me.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    On the new Walter Benn Michaels book

    I'll admit freely that I dearly love his Our America and have been known to use it to my own scholarly ends more than a little, but I have not yet read The Trouble with Diversity though everyone is talking about it.

    If you're curious, as I am, there's discussion everywhere. First, you may want to check out his essay in The Prospect, starting as it does with that famous literary exchange:

    “The rich are different from you and me” is a famous remark supposedly made by F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, although what made it famous -- or at least made Hemingway famously repeat it -- was not the remark itself but Hemingway’s reply: “Yes, they have more money.” In other words, to Hemingway, the rich really aren’t very different from you and me. Fitzgerald’s mistake, he thought, was that he mythologized or sentimentalized the rich, treating them as if they were a different kind of person instead of the same kind of person with more money. It was as if, according to Fitzgerald, what made rich people different was not what they had -- their money -- but what they were, “a special glamorous race.”

    Then, go enjoy the tangled morass of debate:

    Alan Wolfe reviews it and so does Scott McLemee, Jen Chau of Racialicious and her commenters put the jacket thesis through the paces, Prometheus 6 reads more WBM, Kevin Drum is sympathetic to WBM's argument, as is 11D, while University Diaries tallies style points (not without depth), and Discriminations's John Rosenberg talks multiculturalism.

    But best of all is The Valve's book event on it, with luminaries galore, including Walter Benn Michaels himself. And Russell Arben Fox of In Medias Res responds to The Valve's series.

    Questioning Feminism/Feminist Blogging/Feminist Activism?

    This whole burqa controversy: I've refrained from commenting ONLY because I didn't think I had anything new to say, beyond what bfp and Blackamazon and Bitch and AlBustaania and belledame have said, rather brilliantly,
    but I find it's eating me up.

    zp commented on my Five for Feminism post:

    This list makes me hate feminism. Or makes feminism look a lot like personal privileges accrued to white women. Maybe it's the question - what feminism did for ME that structures it this way, but still. What else is new?

    I am wondering more and more whether identifying with and even associating with (particular, not general) other feminists is really kosher anymore. I think my way of being "feminist" is actually, in many ways, counter to what the word even means anymore.

    What I've been noticing is how few feminist bloggers of color seem to be reaping the blog rewards. Like, for example, being invited to dine with former presidents or current candidates. Like, for example, getting book deals. Like, for example, getting on the *HOT* conference calls. Like, for example, getting invited to do articles for the MSM. Some of the white feminist bloggers who do get these invitations try to speak to issues for women of color (which is, 9 times out of 10 a total disaster, but not always) but women of color never seem to get the invites. (For that matter, white women who focus on issues of race rather than going over and over whether the Mommy Wars was a myth or the inconceivably distinct-but-usable oppression of women of color abroad, don't seem to get much play either.)

    A bunch of white folks were furious awhile back because Blackademic's Nubian/Kortney was getting "too much attention". I think that a lot of white bloggers linked to her as a sort of shorthand - here's the "black opinion" on that so I don't have to dig deeper, I'll just keep her on the blogroll - but it's not like you see her in the mainstream media. She hasn't been recruited outside the blogosphere. Nor have very many other women of color.

    I think there are a lot of white feminists out there who see the inclusion of women of color in "their" movement as a way of backing up their own ideas and projects. I think it's easy to think that way because tokenism is alive and well and, I think, trained. That's why the big feminist organizations hire overqualified woman of color after overqualified woman of color to fill entry-level admin positions. Somehow their work is legitimized by the presence of women of color, but too many might tip the balance, and no one, NO ONE, is willing to sacrifice a shred of their own career for what they claim are their politics. (This happens in academia too.)

    A lot of these white feminist bloggers who parlay their blogging into mainstream (read: paying!) careers aren't saying anything you haven't heard a million damned times in Women's Studies classes or, hell, in the rest of the world. If they were, if I felt that some of these women were saying something that only they could say, that was a new idea, I don't think it would bug me as much. But it seems like the ones who get "picked up" and "invited" are not saying anything nearly as interesting as, say, bfp. This isn't sucking up or pulling for my blog-clique: Bfp should be the one getting famous. Instead, it's a lot of the usual suspects shoring up their own importance with arguments originated by women of color or bastardized versions of those arguments.

    I think you have to put your money, quite literally, where your mouth is. If you're on and on about feminists of color getting their say, then maybe you should suggest their invitation instead of your own.

    And, you know, we've had Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem before. I don't understand why we would want to find young versions of them, who just happened to have been exposed to riot grrl and Chandra Mohanty.

    Writing that Five for Feminism thing made me really think about how much feminism has done for me, me, ME and whether I think that really made the world a particularly better place. Certainly, specific things that are associated with feminism might have helped, but what if a single issue group had done that work with an eye toward inclusivity? What if feminist "coalitions" are, in fact, a way of silencing certain ideas in favor of tired old ones?

    Seeing people defend themselves on this burqa thing doesn't seem different even though it's gross; it seems like the usual. And it makes me wonder. I mean, I understand that white folks are never going to be perfect, but how many times must we be told not to appropriate images like the burqa for our own agendas? It reminds me of last year when I read about white women protesting a women-of-color-only production of The Vagina Monologues- WTF? Why? What the hell kind of ethical platform do you think you're standing on? Who is helped by that protest? Come on!

    It's sad how white feminists are always, always, always gesturing toward women of color, religious women, queer women, poor women, women of the global south, etc, and this has been true for seriously 30 years, and STILL this crap is going on. Obviously, some people don't want to learn anything. I think we all know why.

    For New Yorkers' Eyes Only

    Not really, but the rest of you might not care much.

    1. Yesterday, this plane crash thing seemed like a big deal. I was very freaked out for a couple of hours. But now I feel like kind of a doofus for being that vulnerable to it. I mean, accidents happen! They happen everywhere. They're tragic of course, but they're not 9/11 all over again. But I was a basketcase. I wonder if I'll ever stop losing it when these things pop up.

    2. Have you seen Time Out NY's list of the 50 best blocks in NYC? It's weird because, even though I don't think my block is remotely worthy of inclusion, I now feel insulted because it didn't rank. Also, I think they were trying really hard not to overrepresent Park Slope and the West Village and Harlem, which is fine, but a little ... well, I'm skeptical.

    3. Finally, I know it could be better, but is there anything bad about this proposal? Because I feel like I may be missing something.

    Blogging Battlestar

    If you're obsessed as I am, here's a bit of a link farm on the topic.

    archive: s0metim3s has it's own link farm so check that first.

    Next, check out Dustdaughter's post (with a long comment by yours truly).

    Now, this excites me:

    Yes, on the season opener of Veronica Mars, she is introduced to the "swearing of the future" and, frakkin' hell, she uses it! But wait, there's more! In the second episode, she uses it again. Could "frak" be a permanent addition to Ms. Mars' vocabulary?

    Courtesy of Vader's Girl.

    (Oh, and on the V.Mars tip, apparently Samm Levine from Freaks and Geeks is a character this season.)

    And I love this blog, Galactica Station which transcribes articles from everywhere on the show.

    Film Frontier Reviews the first episode, if you want a "real" sci-fi fan's take.

    And, finally, a 76 comment BSG thread on Feministe.

    Ann Hulbert on The Illustrated Jane Eyre

    My partner, A, just read Jane Eyre for the first time this week. One of the great things about relationships is their potential for vicarious pleasure: I haven't read Jane Eyre for the first time in so many years, but I long for the satisfaction.

    So, in the heat of relived first reading, I found Ann Hulbert's delicious discussion of the new Illustrated Jane Eyre.

    Now, I must first say that I'm generally against "illustrated" anything. Even Blake. Give me some semi-unadorned typescript on an otherwise blank page, please. Though I like Dame Darcy's take on Jane Eyre, I'd prefer that to bubble up from the language (and I think it does). Also, though Dame Darcy's illustrations are gorgeous, they are gorgeous in a way that, I think, detracts from the incredibly cabin fevered feeling of that novel (and, indeed, of just about every novel of it's kind).

    I was telling A about this film version of Jane Eyre, which I can't seem to find online right now, but remember viewing as a child, in which the filmmaker chose to completely forego "the mad woman in the attic". I think s/he was trying to make it more of a children's tale, but, I mean, how is that the same book?!

    So, Ann Hulbert reminds me of something I'd forgotten:

    Brontë's guiding insight into life and literature, to simplify only somewhat, is that surfaces are suspect: Beware of assuming they are a reliable sign of the real passions within. Her own title page in 1847 (a facsimile of which appears in the Viking edition) was purposely misleading: Brontë adopted the male-sounding pseudonym of an editor named "Currer Bell" and presented the novel as an "autobiography." This immediately sparked debate about the real identity of the author. Subsequent biographical treatments of Brontë only added to the gallery of mythic personas.

    There's very little more interesting than these editorial forewords of the era. I'm mostly familiar with them as they appear before slave narratives, but this reminded me that they accompanied a great many works of literature whose claim was "a true story". And this case is particularly interesting because the conceit was used to "deceive".

    Brontë's most famous character, the "Quakerish governess" Jane, is a prime case of deceptive packaging herself. Out of a "poor, obscure, plain, and little" victim emerges a commanding—and demanding—narrative voice, proclaiming a right to bold self-creation almost as jarring today as it was a century and a half ago. A mistreated orphan at the start, Jane goes on to script her own dramatic fate—and to alter the destiny of her "master," Mr. Rochester, who falls under her spell. In a story tricked out as a melodramatic romance, Jane embodies a force that still deeply discomfits us: a female refusal to be valued as less than an equal, which blossoms into a fierce ambition to make her mark on the world.

    No doubt this is true, but not strictly. One of the things that makes the novel so enthralling is Jane's conflicted relationship to her own status as a servant. Simultaneously, Rochester's conflicted relationship to her status. She even (as A reminded me the other day) notes that, were she not his servant, the attraction between them would be less certain. The moment at which she ceases to be a technical "underling" is the moment that her spiritedness and command become mixed blessings, sometimes liabilities, to their relationship. It's only, as many feminist scholars point out, when Rochester is completely physically disabled, that she's able to marry him. But this is complicated by the fact that it, in some way, forces her into eternal servitude. Jane both fights and embodies what philosophers have called "slave mentality". And the erotics of slave-master take place in all their multifaceted and contradictory patterns in the text.

    In an era when everybody—from the Girl Scouts to guidance counselors to the Gossip Girl series—peddles the "you-go-girl" message, Jane Eyre is a book that evokes the struggle for self-definition as a truly harrowing one. This isn't a coming-of-age story about absorbing the counsel of wise mentors, overcoming temptation, and thus learning to "be yourself." As Edward Mendelson astutely observes of the novel in The Things That Matter, Jane sets about doing something much lonelier and harder. She insists on finding "her beliefs by herself," in her own way, as she weathers exile after exile, first from her past (a hellish home and school) and then from a future that seems, fleetingly, to await her with Rochester. She doesn't come to accept others' values as her own, as the protagonist of the traditional novel of education does. Instead, "[w]hat Jane learns," Mendelson writes, "is not how to act, but how to believe."

    While reflecting on the vicarious first reading, it made me realize part of why I love reading and writing literary criticism. It's corny, but I love great literature being made new to me again and again.

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    Weekend Homework

    1. The Welfare Nanny Diaries by Rinku Sen and Gabriel Thompson.

    2. Everyone's all excited about "neuroeconomics" these days. I am always skeptical about such things, but can't help but find it interesting, so Why say no to free money? caught my eye.

    3. I haven't seen the first episode of this season of Battlestar Gallactica yet, but am viewing it (Tivoed) at a friend's this evening. It's hard not to think about it and, therefore, want to read about it, but I'm trying to be a better spoiler-avoider. I was happy to see this spoiler-free Geeking out to Gallactica to quench my thirst for the moment.

    Five Things Feminism Did For Me

    I've been tagged with the feminism meme.

    1. I've been able to have meaningful intellectual, emotional, professional, and nonsexual relationships with men.

    2. It may seem small, but I am very grateful that I can choose to wear pants.

    3. Education. By that I don't simply mean being let in the door, nor do I only mean being taken somewhat seriously once in, I also mean that my perspectives and feelings about being a woman were (once I hit college) often validated.

    4. It wasn't until I was an adult and thought more about how fucking hard it is that I wondered whether it was truly possible for a woman to have a career and kids.

    5. There was never a time in my life when I felt that "getting a man" was reaching my potential.

    And bonus: 6. Feminism made it possible to see women in my life as fully human.

    I tag anyone who feels moved.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    What is Lost, Where I'm From, I Don't Know What to Call This Post

    As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a sophisticated urbanite. Now, it would seem that is what I've become, at least on paper. I am advanced-degreed, NYC-dwelling, coffee-addicted, with Flaubert, Fitzgerald and Shakespeare shelved near Benjamin, Fanon, and Foucault in my tiny, but unmistakably arty, shared-with-my-partner, apartment. My friends are mostly hip; some make films, some are dancers or actors but of the intellectual sort, others are literary or music critics, a few work in (liberal, naturally)politics, several write, many teach, one works at the UN, and the ones in law school are there for the "right reasons". I steer clear of chain restaurants. I avoid network television, reserving particular contempt for sitcoms. I am disappointed when great novels are made into mediocre films or musicals. I am self-importantly mystified by the popularity of most popular things. My appreciation for "pulp", my idiosyncratically eclectic music collection,
    my adoration of television drama, the time I spend reading conservative essays: these are all part of it.

    My uncle lives in a small town in Kansas and works, quite miserably, at a steel mill. Last year, he almost lost his job of 25 years because he smoked a cigarette furtively on the job behind some huge equipment, endangering his coworkers. Around the same time, my aunt almost lost her job as a meter reader because she was drunk on the job, driving the company truck through rural and small-town Kansas. She was barred from driving for six months. Both kept their jobs, for good or ill, through union intervention. Due to mutual alcohol-driven animosity and the marital problems caused by serious gambling debts, they divorced later in the year. My aunt got a night and weekend job as a supermarket cashier to pay off her share of the debts. My uncle remarried, to a waitress from his after-work bar, within months.

    When I heard about my aunt's and uncle's separation, I was shocked. But something else came up immediately: how could they ever find someone else to love them romantically? Both are seriously obese, both have chronic health problems, both are beneath broke. And, as is obvious, they are alcoholics. But also: their musical tastes are shared; Seger is a favorite. They don't read books and haven't since high school. They don't even read their 2-page local newspaper. I don't remember them having ever watched a film that wasn't a Hollywood comedy. What, I asked myself, would anyone see in them?

    I asked myself, "What if they weren't alcoholics?" And even if they got clean, I still couldn't get how someone who want to partner with either of them.

    I just saw my parents. I've been in grad school for 2 years now to get my Ph.D in English. I realized, in the middle of a conversation with my father, that he thought an English Ph.D was for creative writers. All of a sudden, it came to me that, not only do my parents not know what I personally do, they probably have never read a piece of literary criticism in their lives. And it was hard, in that moment, not to think less of them for it.

    When I say all this, I say so with a sick feeling in my stomach. I'm coming clean. I'm not saying that what I think is cool. It's ugly. I'm objectifying and condescending and judgmental of people I actually love deeply.

    I would not be the urban sophisticate I am today if it weren't for my parents. I was raised with an eye toward upward mobility, toward "getting out". Well, to be clear, that was mostly my father's influence. My mother was and is content with red-state life. My dad always told me, with no moral caveats, that I was "better" than everyone else around me. Of course, instilling in me this notion of superiority could only lead to one thing: at some point, I'd think I was "better" than him.

    I know my dad is extremely proud of me. He is neverendingly impressed with the fact that I am teaching at a college. When we come home, he can't contain his excitement over how "cool and bohemian" we are.

    I'm proud of my parents, too, but in a different way. I respect and admire what they accomplished, especially the hard work and sacrifice that it took them to make my upward mobility possible. But I also respect their unyielding commitment to ethics, even when this commitment interfered with their livelihood. I respect the importance they place on family. I respect their humility, yet I cringe and rage when I think back to some of what I watched them put up with.

    When I started college, I would bring them books that had broken me out and open, changed my life, and then I'd become frustrated and angry when they'd stop after the first couple of pages. I stopped doing this so indiscriminately. I love my parents and, in some ways, am probably closer to them than I've ever been, but our frames of reference are so different now. There is so much about me they don't know because so much of what goes on inside me is influenced by a learned cynicism and constantly critical perspective, not to mention books, books, and more books. And some of this I never want to show them, not (just) because they wouldn't understand it, but because it would actually hurt them. For example, my agnosticism would not just seem an insult after my carefully religious upbringing, but would actually worry them greatly for my future here on earth and beyond.

    The other day my mother was talking about her favorite writer, Janet Fitch. She was explaining how much she loves the way she writes, her insights, and then she said, "You'd probably think it was a bunch of cliches, but I like it." I wanted to die. I imagine, if she says so, she's probably right. I haven't read Fitch's work, but the last time I read something my mother and sister loved, I couldn't finish it fast enough. But I was enjoying the discussion, as my mother very rarely talks about these things and also because I love that my parents love to read. When she said that, I was stalled; I didn't want her to see me as a literary snob, but I am a literary snob. I didn't want that distance between us, but it's there and it will never go away. And, worse yet, she feels it too.

    I am a very envious person, as anyone who reads this blog at all regularly already knows. I envy the many (majority) of my friends whose families live only hours away in Jersey or Connecticut or Massachusetts. I am sad on long weekends when they go "home" because I can't. I also can't think of where I'm from, where my parents live, as "home" the way they can. It's a culture shock every single time I go back there, even though I grew up there. I decided a long time ago, before I left really, that that place was not "home".

    I envy that these friends did not have to move away from their families, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually, to reach what they felt was their "potential" and find a community that accepted them. I envy that they can say "red state" without that complex relationship: it's where I'm from, it shaped me, I love people there, it's more complex than coastal liberals give the area credit for, but I left there for a reason. I left there because I found it offensive, stifling, and miserable; I found the people bigoted and, frankly, stupid. I didn't fit in there, I never belonged, I always wanted to get away from what I called "this hick town," a phrase that I relied on to distinguish myself growing up but cringe at now.

    Growing up out there, I never anticipated this conflict. I just longed for the day (for me, I split exactly one week after turning 18) when I could get out and be someone else, not realizing then that I couldn't ever completely be Woody Allen because part of what made those types those types was the first 18 years, not just the here-and-now. I'd be Annie Hall, always with Granny May back there somewhere.

    What I've lost in both upward and outward (to the coasts!) mobility is a certain cohesivity that, though probably mostly fictional, seems to anchor the two worlds I can't fully inhabit. People and place, people and people.

    My sister, after following me to NYC, moved back to Colorado in a very short time. She realized that, at heart, that was "who she was" and that she "fit in" better there than here. I feel I "fit in" better here. But, in feeling that way, having grown up in a culture that glorifies the urban and the coastal, part of me still feels superior.

    I have read about similar feelings from immigrants, memorably in Anzia Yezierska. But Bitch posted this quote by Maria Lugones the other day and it really hit me:

    To love my mother was not possible for me while I retained a sense that it was fine for me and others to see her arrogantly. Loving my mother also required that I see with her eyes, that I go into my mother’s world, that I see both of us as we are constructed in her world, that I witness her own sense of herself from within her world. Only through this traveling to her ‘world’ could I identify with her because only then could I cease to ignore her and to be excluded and separate from her. Only then could I see her as a subject even if one subjected and only then could I see at all how meaning could arise fully between us. We are fully dependent on each other for the possibility of being understood and without this understanding we are not intelligible, we do not make sense, we are not solid, visible, integrated; we are lacking. So traveling to each other’s ‘worlds’ would enable us to be through loving each other.

    It made me cry and I had to post all this.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within

    From David Orr's review in the Times:

    The difficulty of teaching poetry to a lay audience can be summarized by a single, diabolical name: Robin Williams. Williams, as you may recall, played the free-thinking English teacher John Keating in the 1989 movie “Dead Poets Society,” a film that established once and for all the connection between learning about poems and killing yourself while wearing a silly hat. In the movie’s first depiction of poetical pedagogy, Williams as Keating instructs his students to open their textbook — a dry, dully diagrammatic primer by “Dr. J. Evans-Pritchard” — and then, with the insouciant panache of Lord Byron (or possibly Patch Adams) tells them to rip out the introduction! Yes! Riiiip! “Armies of academics going forward, measuring poetry,” cries the righteous Keating, “No, we will not have that here!” Instead, the class is told to embrace a philosophy of carpe diem, and sic transit J. Evans-Pritchard. Significantly, however, while Keating subsequently teaches his students how to stand on their desks, how to kick a soccer ball with gusto and how to free-associate lamely about Walt Whitman, he’s never shown actually teaching them anything about the basics of form — basics they’d need in order to appreciate half the writers he’s recommending.

    That and the fact that 95% of people went through a phase where they "wrote poetry" (this includes songs and raps), so everyone thinks poetry is just a glorified journal with extra cliches and loads of stilted metaphors.

    Anyway, I just gave my students an assignment which required them to select and view a film on education. And, frankly, I ended up feeling strange about it because many of them were about the Inspiring Teacher, a category I am far, far from inhabiting. I'm not going to ask my students to rip out pages from their books; I'd be happy if they just fucking read them. I'd imagine coming into my class after watching an Inspiring Teacher for two hours was a real letdown. Sorry students.

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    Good News for Hacker Chicks!

    It seems you may be able to infiltrate the techie-boys-club even if you don't want to pose for a calendar. Check these gals out.

    And note that Diana Eng, of Project Runway fame, is among the crew. Talk about ambition and perserverance.

    Help! It Just Keeps Coming!

    Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2006 12:59:35 -0400
    From: Katha Pollitt
    Subject: Re: invisibility

    I'm interested that you see 'regionalism" as comparable to racism.
    Dakotans have trouble getting served in restaurants? Do cabs not stop
    for them? Do they get longer sentences than other Americans for the
    same crimes? As a New Yorker, and thus hopelessly prejudiced, I really
    have trouble seeing the upper Middle West as invisible -- I feel I am
    constantly getting the message that that's the heartland, where the
    real Americans live, and that my NYCculture and values are alien and
    immoral. What strikes me as especially unfair is that because of
    the electoral college and the fact that every state has two
    senators,regardless of size, citizens of small rural states like ND
    have fantastically greater political clout than big states like NY. A
    voter in Wyoming has 71 times the weight of one in California. Who's
    invisible there?
    Taken together, small rural states control 44 senate seats, while
    having 11 percent of the population. Black people have about the same
    percentage of the population -- there is currently one black senator.
    Women, of course, are more than half the population, and are grossly
    underrepresented too.
    If we're going to talk about regionalism and invisibility these are
    facts that belong in the mix.

    Katha Pollitt

    I don't have the will, friends.

    Saturday, September 30, 2006

    More Critique of Katha Pollitt From the WMST-list

    If biological sexual dimorphism
    was just a social construction, we wouldn't be here. Reproduction
    counts for something. If some tiny percent of people are born
    biologically sexually anomalous, like the intersexed , why does that
    call biological sexual dimorphism into question? There are many
    genetic anomalies, like extra fingers and conjoined twins. But
    basically, people are born with ten fingers, and live in individual
    bodies. We don't go around saying, well, actually it's just the
    hegemonic discourse of digits that makes us think of people as having
    ten fingers. In fact, some have nine, some have eleven, some are born
    with no hands at all! Nor do we say, actually, physical individuality
    is another social construct-- look at siamese twins!
    What one does about genetic anomalies like intersex is a social
    decision, of course. But it's a different question than that of
    whether sexual dimorphism is a social construct in the first place.

    Katha Pollitt

    Yes, sperm+egg=baby, at least for the moment, though things just keep getting better. However, the fact that we are SO DEFINED by whether or not we most resemble those who carry eggs or those who carry sperm means that, socially, sex differences are constructed. What if we defined people into two groups based on another functional difference, say, ability to haul 150 lbs for a city block? We'd think that was bizarre. Well, why do we define people based on their assumed ability to play one particular procreative role? I mean, we carry groceries more often in our lives than we conceive children. [Well, there are probably some extremely rich ladies who lay around getting fertility treatments while their personal chefs buy groceries (or send their own assistants to buy groceries).]

    Also, those in disability studies might say that, in fact, the discourse about bodies is that everyone has ten fingers and toes and walks upright and has an individual, autonomous body. And that this is hegemonic.

    Get it?!!!

    On Fashion and Censorship

    Feminist bloggers seem pretty excited about Madrid's fashion week decision to "turn away underweight models after protests that girls and young women were trying to copy their rail-thin looks and developing eating disorders."

    "I think its outrageous, I understand they want to set this tone of healthy beautiful women, but what about discrimination against the model and what about the freedom of the designer," said Gould, Elite's North America director ...

    Until I started watching Project Runway, I'll admit that I didn't really see fashion designers as artists. They were kind of borderline to me. But now the idea of infringing upon their creative expression is anathema to me. Even if they wants walking clothes hangers. I know that it's only we Americans who seem to hold this as some ideal, but, well, I guess I'm holding onto our last shreds of goodness.