Archive for reading

The Hegemony of the Good Photograph: Or, an Excuse to Post More Sunset Pics

Posted in Small Epiphanies with tags , , , , , , on December 6, 2012 by chateaucone

Small Epiphanies: December 5

I have been immersed in and happily enslaved to language my entire life, from when I first started reading. No, from when my parents first started telling me and reading me bedtime stories. When I was a kid, long after bedtime, I’d hang off the side of the bed reading my book by a sliver of the hall light. During the day, when my mother would take the book out of my hands and make me go outside to play, I’d sneak the book out and go find a tree to sit in, or a bush to hide under, and keep reading.

Nothing made me happier than to discover that places in novels were real,  like Betsy and Tacy’s houses in Mankato and the Radisson in Minneapolis, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine from so many of Madeleine L’Engle’s novels right here in New York.

I fell in love with words. I love amok, and bereft. I love fragmented, and protean, and primeval. I love fetid.

I’ve read and written for so long that I’ve learned to trust my own sense of what’s good and what’s bad and when and why rules need to be broken. (Well, with prose, if not so much with poetry.) The relationship between language and power, between literacies and power, the power relationships within communities of practice–these are things to be manipulated and challenged.

My relationship with images is less complex, less developed, less confident. I tend toward, “Sunsets ARE beautiful. The cliche had to come from somewhere!” And I want to remember every one, so I keep taking pictures of them. And I think my dogs are the cutest, smartest dogs anywhere, so I keep taking photos of them too. I occasionally take an interesting photo, I think. Usually it’s by accident. But even then I’m not sure if it’s truly interesting, creative, outside, or if it’s the Hallmark version of alternative. Something already co-opted.

What’s really behind my photo choices? A lack of creativity? A lack of experience? I wrote for a long time, in good girl ways, in accepted voices and styles and structures, before I started to try to change things up, to do something (I hope) no one else was doing. Where is my willingness, my desire, to stretch genre boundaries, to break rules, to experiment, to challenge the hegemony of the good photograph in the ways I have challenged (I hope) the hegemony of good writing?

Is this how my students feel when I ask them to identify and then challenge the discourses that are writing our lives? Does my position of power in the classroom (that’s a lot of power) and in the field (that’s just a little power, but some, nonetheless) give me the room to challenge, to subvert, to make change, with only minimal risk?

The I of the Moment Writing, the You of the Moment Reading

Posted in The Blog with tags , , on September 12, 2012 by chateaucone

Can, and will, readers extrapolate from all the different Lizs narrating this project?

Bedtime Stories Liz—who couldn’t quite break the narrative. And the Liz who smoothed it over quite well by the end of the essay

Dear Biographer Liz, AKA doctoral student, dissertating Liz—who is having a good time playing with theory

Alternative Letters from Angel Guardian Liz—who is having a good time, too, although she then gets a bit angry, which you might not get from her writing, calmly juxtaposing fantasy identities for her birthmother with primary source material from professionals in the adoption field in the 1960s

The Chosen Baby Lizs–both of them–Little Liz reading the book, or having it read to her, and grown up Liz re-examining the book and confronting Valentina Wasson with her anger over the story and how it makes grown up Liz, with Little Liz inside her still, feel

And this Liz. Blogger Liz.

Will readers embrace that I am not limited to the Lizs represented here, all coherent and knowing only in the moment of writing I? That there are, for every Liz represented here, a million fragments of Lizs who have been left unrepresented?

Will they let Epstein’s wound stand open and bleeding? Will they look into the abyss of subjects?

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. But it is what I’m asking.

My friend SS admits that because of her participation in, belief in, indoctrination into, and place within, the academy, she automatically credits the analysis voice, the scholarly voice, the theory, over anything personal and creative, although she does acknowledge that she does so–she acknowledges her subjectivity. She connects most strongly to a scholarly discourse community, an academic discourse community, especially if told this is a “dissertation” and not a novel, or a memoir, or whatever else. Expectations.

My friend AP, however, reading the DB letter and Bedtime Stories, relates to the creative voice, finds the most authority in the creative voice. But AP is a poet, and thinks theory is bullshit.

I want AP and SS to keep “Bedtime Stories” and its refractions in their heads all at one time, and to give it all equal importance. Accept the contradictions and the gaps they create. But AP and SS will each come away with their own closure, their own choice of authoritative voice, their own conclusions.

How do I convince my readers that the unified voice, the “I” of any single point of my narrative, exists only at the moment I type it? And is no more reliable than that?

And make them want to stay, nonetheless?

I don’t know.

Can you be a p/s in the moment of reading anything? Or do you have to choose a place to stand?

Does the genre, does coherence, always win?