Week 9

We have so many texts in play this week! Here’s the list from the calendar to help us keep them all in mind:

How are they varied, and how do they speak to each other across those variations?

Some of the variations are sort of obvious: “A Modest Proposal” was published in England in 1729; “Bartleby the Scrivener” is American, from 1853; “Poetry is Not a Luxury” and the Boyer poems are American, too, from 1973, 2015, and 2014.

There are differences that are easily traceable to these texts’ historical moment and their national origins.

“The Market for Symbolic Goods” is the only theoretical text in the list.

Some of the other texts are poems, and some are essays. One is a short story, and one is a satire.

We might ask:

  • What do these forms afford each writer?
  • Which texts seem to have points of intersection between or among them?
  • What interpretive problems or questions do these texts raise, individually and together– and in what ways are those problems/questions most interesting to you?

You might use your blog post this week to practice putting texts in conversation with each other, noting the passages where they remind you of each other– maybe because they use keyterms that are the same or similar, or because they have a shared set of concerns. Write to explore the ways you can think of the texts together, thinking about the ways you might understand them better by thinking of them in this relation.

In proposing this experiment– and you don’t have to post this way; you could take a different approach to the texts– I’m thinking ahead to your thesis. In that project, you’ll bring together a set of literary and theoretical texts to answer the interpretive question you ask. And we’ll talk in the weeks and months to come about the tools literary critics have at our disposal for that kind of thing, but I bet you have some of those tools already. The blog is a great place to practice using them.

I am also interested to know which texts you like best.


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16 Responses to Week 9

  1. The two texts that intrigued me this week were Audre Lorde’s “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” and Anne Boyer’s “The Revolt of The Peasant Girls.” She asserts how, “For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change…” (Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”). Lorde discusses how poetry is not a form of writing women take for granted. Instead, it is used to give women a voice that foretells what their “hopes and dreams” are. Boyer is another writer who speaks out about the injustices women specifically what female children had to face. She declares how, “The president, upon hearing that we had taken up arms, sent us coloring books. The sheriffs’ deputies, upon hearing we were girls, tried to rape us. The others just killed us: but to tell that story in plural is to deny the intimacy of facts. The Intimacy of the Facts: DEAR FUTURE GIRLS” (Boyer, “The Revolt of The Peasant Girls”). Boyer discusses how the men in these young girls’ lives were not supportive of the fact that they wanted to be treated as fairly as men were. These girls appeared to be punished for speaking out, however Boyer ends the story with what appears to be a letter to girls in the future. Similarly, to Lorde Boyer shows us how powerful writing can be especially for the women who are punished for speaking out. Yes, I am aware that Boyer did not write this text in a poem format but the idea of women speaking up about their rights was a common idea among both texts.

    Even, when Lorde describes the emotion of a woman’s writing it’s an idea that overlaps with the injustice these peasant girls faced. We learn how, “Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of …is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep” (Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”). Lorde speaks about how powerful women are, and how the emotions we have is deeper and darker than most people know. This reminded me of when Boyer discusses how these young girls were almost raped by the sheriffs’ deputy for speaking out about their rights. There is more to a woman or young girl than we see on the surface, which is what both Lorde and Boyer touch upon in their texts.

  2. Venessa says:

    Jonathan Swift’s “The Modest Proposal” and Audre Lorde’s “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” are the two pieces that stood out to me and that I thought reflected each other, but in different ways. For Swift, the essay form structures his argument into chronological order and offers the persuasive effect of what and why. He gives a detailed description as to what the children of Ireland are producing and what should be done with them instead. The form of “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” is an essay as well and states each point and the impact it makes. By breaking it up in such a way, Lorde’s words are more defined and relate to each main idea. Swift is using satire to demand attention to the economic crisis that is happening in Ireland. He “proposes” that the lower classes should give up their children as meals to the wealthy, saying: “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and 60 wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie or a ragoust” (Swift, Lines 58-61). It is a call to the devastation that the lower classes are feeling with the economic situation going on at the time. People were starving and struggling to survive so they may as well offer their babies as food for some money. His piece is purposefully satirical to underline a serious issue that needs to be addressed. This relates to Lorde’s essay because that’s what she says writing should do. She says poetry specifically even though she is writing in an essay format, but Swift is a poet as well. I feel like the essay format was a way to make a firm stance on a deep issue for both of them. Lorde says, “Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom” (Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”). Writing lived experiences is what poetry does. People reflect on their situations and their struggles through poetry, but also through prose. Both of these poets are using prose at the moment to reflect on their current situations. They want something to be done about the circumstances they are in, and are using literature to make that statement. While Lorde is talking about women using poetry as their outlet for their experiences, and Swift is talking about Irish economic situations, both are using literature to express their sentiments, hoping to inspire, cause change, and make an impact.

  3. Deepika Khan says:

    For this week, we had a lot of different readings that are hard to connect to one another. The variety of work we read this week includes a short story, essays (including satire), poems, and a theoretical text. I can certainly see how Pierre Bourdieu’s “The Market for Symbolic Goods” (the theoretical text) can be applied to Herman Melville’s short story, “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street.” Considering Bartleby’s job is to scribe legal documents, he promotes the “autonomization of intellectual and artistic production” (Bourdieu 2) by literally writing down already existing material. Though all the readings were written during different time periods, the material of which each focuses on can oddly be applied to modern times. Now, which ways can that be? I don’t exactly know but I’m pretty sure women are still facing inequality, the poor are still thought of as less than, and the debate on art is still going strong. The texts that I liked best were Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is Not a Luxury” and Jonathan Swift’s satiric essay, “A Modest Proposal.” By stating, “Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives” (Lorde 1), Lorde asserts her belief that writing poetry must be a personal act, especially for women. For both black and white women, they possess the ability to combine the ideas of their white and black ancestors via “our poetry” (Lorde 1). Thus, the main point of Lorde’s essay is that “poetry is not a luxury … it is a vital necessity of our existence” as women in the literary world (Lorde 1). The other text that really caught my attention was Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay, “A Modest Proposal.” I’m not going to lie, I kind of dozed off for the first few pages because I thought it was going to be a boring historical text. However, by the time line 60 came around, I was gasping from shock. I did not know that the good doctor’s proposal for poor children would be to “stew, roast, bake, or boil” them so that they can contribute to the Irish economy (Swift 60). Swift’s satire was a thrill to read, partly because I didn’t know he wasn’t serious until a few lines after line 60.

  4. Kaitlin Margaret McDermott says:

    To be honest, I felt a bit lost with the readings assigned for this week. The connections between some are quite clear, I think: Lorde’s essay (is it an essay? a speech? a form of “poetry”?) and Boyer’s pieces, especially “The Revolt of the Peasant Girls” revolve around similar themes, championing the familiar/unfamiliar form of poetry; Melville’s short story links nicely with the theoretical text by Bourdieu; Swift and Melville’s protagonist share, in moments, similar tones; Swift and Boyer and Lorde (and probably Melville, though I don’t pretend to understand exactly how) each use their particular form (and its affordances) as a way of exposing injustice and silence and inequity.

    On this final point, I found myself considering the forms used by each author, but, more than that, considering the ways in which each author managed to use form as a means of determining his or her audience. For example, Lorde’s piece speaks of the power of poetry to speak into existence those ideas that have been buried, “ancient” within. The poem is not a literary form, so much as a political one — a means by which life itself is fought for and preserved. Her text specifically, though certainly not uniquely, succeeds in calling in a particular audience (women, more specifically, women of color), expressing a common unity that they may share. On this, she and Boyer connect. “Not Writing” is one of those pieces that I imagine people who fancy themselves as writers would connect with, because of the despairing yet sharp way in which Boyer satirizes the profession. Other piece, connects, I think, more explicitly to Lorde’s — ending (and, thereby, starting) with: “The Intimacy of the Facts: DEAR FUTURE GIRLS.” Again, the words themselves call in the desired audience (actors, in each instance), as does the form. This makes sense if you, like I, find ideas belonging to Lorde, such as that “Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom” compelling and true. Swift’s satire calls out a group, those inadequately providing for the Irish in times of grave despair — as satire, his relationship with audience is one more complicated perhaps than Melville’s relationship to a reader. In the latter, the narrator ends acknowledging the inadequacies of his incomplete account; both he and his reader lack closure (the magical word, it reappears), but that brings the narrator, the author, and the reader somehow closer together. In the former, though, Swift’s authority could act in a contradicting light. It’s doubtful, though I guess possible (but doubtful) that many readers would accept and support his text as a legitimate proposal; however, there is always the question present in satire of whether your audience will get it. The exaggeration and outlandish character of Swift’s piece roots it firmly in the satirical tradition for me (“for me” being the operative term). The form affords him the ability to speak on a difficult situation, to mock the conversations had and not had about solutions, but it is limiting too — it risks not reaching, or indeed, casting out a potential audience. All of these texts do, I think. So then, the question must become: Is that in itself a good of literature?

  5. The two pieces I found intriguing were “Poetry is Not a Luxury” by Audre Lorde and Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” by Herman Melville. Initially, they don’t seem two similar, but upon reading them I felt as though they expressed ideas that spoke across their variations. “For each of us as women, there is a dark place within where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, “Beautiful and tough as chestnut/stanchions against our nightmare of weakness” and of impotence” writes Lorde (pg 1). Lorde expresses the idea of the freedom of being a woman across her medium. Lorde talks about Poetry as a type of architecture, a way to fight and sustain oneself against the banal and cruel faucets of life. Lorde’s use of form allows her to express her ideas in action. While this is considered prose Lorde is known for her poetry and this reads as more of a prose-poem than anything else. Her approach to the topic is surpassingly intertextual with Bartleby the Scrivener. “For within structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive” writes Lorde an underlining tone within Melville’s short story. Bartleby is a character who refuses to live within the confines of society. After years of sorting what’s considered “dead letters” he adamantly (and passively) pushes back against a system that’s dehumanizing and oppressive. While Bartleby perishes under this weight eventually Melville tells a cautionary tale of living in a society that has no room for poetry, for art, for freedom of expression, or the sustainability of doing “nothing.” Melville imbues an ambiguously tragic ending to give the reader a feeling of dread and allows them to reflect on it’s meaning and if it could have been prevented.

    For Lorde however, it being a piece that’s rooted in non-fiction is what gives her voice such power. If we take her message about finding a place within us where are true spirit rises. Then the metaphor of Bartleby in conjunction to Lorde’s work becomes uplifting instead of depressing. Her appeal for poetry not being a luxury and its deeper meaning in regards to feminism can be seen by many, especially the ruling class of a predominantly white male patriarchal society as “mulish vagary” if not worse. Here, she is taking back what’s being ripped away from her and so many other women, her repeated push of poetry as not being a luxury, of necessity to dream, of survival of self,as her own reoccurring phrase of “I prefer not to” and it’s an utterly defiant one.

  6. Emily Abrams says:

    I find that some of the best pieces of literature are those that are deeply self-aware/self-reflexive of their form and audience(s), and may in turn impart unique commentaries on society. I see reading literature as a form of escapism or a pursuit of understanding the world as we know it, as it was, or as it could/should be. This is the perspective I keep in mind when approaching new texts. From this week’s readings, the best common thread I could find between Audre Lorde, Ann Boyer and Herman Melville’s pieces is that each add to the discourse on functionality. By this I refer to functionality of a text as shaped by the author and the topic of societal roles channeled through a text. Where Lorde and Boyer speak to the function of a textual form and the exigences of a writer to their larger audiences, Melville’s short story in a way inverts this to commentate on the individual’s role to a society at large, considering specifically when this role deliberately becomes difunctional by the individual’s own choosing.

    Central to Audra Lorde’s “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” is her lauding of poetry for its affordances: it puts into words new ideas that beckons readers to into a “revelation or distillation of experience” (1). Waxing poetic on the functionality of poetics, and by this I apply a positive connotation, Lorde’s argument is a rousing one. In a similar way, Ann Boyer’s “Not Writing” adds to Lorde’s argument on functionality by seemingly subverting the textual form and its affordances. I agree with Kaitlin that Boyer’s piece is quite satirical in how painfully self-aware she is of writers, their motives and exigencies in writing at all. She delivers a thought-provoking mosaic of the literary fields as she herself resists each category. In this sense, Boyer’s resistance to categorization directly underscores the functionality of a variety of texts and their affordances.

    Finally, in the case of Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” readers also can see an argument for functionality but specific to Melville’s perspective on the tensions between the individual and society at large. The engaging-yet-unsettling narrative implores empathy for the human condition in repudiating societal constraints. Bartleby’s refusal to perform his duties—his function as a worker—as defined by the corporate setting (and arguably society at large) unnerves the narrator, his employees, and the greater society. It is through the narrator’s empathy and tolerance for Bartleby’s bizarre insubordinations that Melville’s piece affords social critique and musings for a better society that accounts for the “miserable friendlessness and loneliness” of Bartleby’s poverty and even the “emptiness” of Wall Street (Melville 13). Readers may find themselves aligned with the narrator’s view, (un)consciously discomforted with the roles that society imposes upon workers/individuals. Functionality of a society and its protagonist (antagonist to society???) drives this piece, even though it diverges from Boyer and Lorde’s argument writer-centered discussions.

    For these three writers in particular, the common thread of functionality is useful to keep in mind, I guess, as we approach our own theses – what do we want our writing to do and how might we achieve such goals? This awareness of directionality with regards to form/affordances could be a useful starting point.

  7. Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, The Scrivener” and Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” have much in common – more than one might find on a first reading of each. Both stories belie their true meaning. Both stories make full use of the affordances of their particular form to this end. How so? “Bartleby,” for example, is presented as an anecdote told from an entirely first-person narrator’s perspective. Swift’s “Proposal,” on the other hand, takes the form of an academic essay. Two rather different forms, to be sure, but each of these forms affords each piece a level of reliability which makes us question just that.

    When reading “Bartleby,” we read a man’s first hand, autobiographical account of certain events. By nature, such an account is biased, and a biased narrator is an unreliable one. This is highlighted in the narrator’s presentation of himself: “…considering the undeniable good usage and indulgence he had received from me,” which is juxtaposed against what the narrator himself has told of events (Melville 17). Was it indulgent when he cordoned Bartleby behind a screen with nothing but a window to a brick wall as his view? No, I wouldn’t say such isolation is indulgent.

    How does this relate to Swift’s “Proposal?” Well, it’s no secret that Swift was a master of satire, nor is it a secret that “A Modest Proposal” is a well-known example of such satire. And what is satire but the directed use of exaggerated narrative unreliability? Swift’s essay uses its form to lend an air of educated, academic assurance – a presentation that might make a careless reader see it as a serious argument, and as a result find offence. When the reader starts questioning Swift and his essay, however, is when it effectively becomes satire. The unreliability of the text informs another reading: a reading wherein the apparent meaning is expressly different to the actual.

    In this way, both Melville and Swift use the affordances of their respective forms in each of their works to debase their own reliability, thereby defamiliarizing their readers from forms to which they are accustomed, and leading them to perceive those forms, and the world around them, in new ways.

  8. In talking about formal affordances (something I’m actually writing about for a paper in another class), I was struck by two of the works we read for this week: Lorde’s “Poetry is not a Luxury” and Boyer’s “The Revolt of the Peasant Girls”. The similarities between the two in terms of content are fairly obvious, but more interesting to me is the way that both authors seem to operate in between forms – while poetic in nature, they aren’t “poetry” in form as we know it. I know this is a somewhat controversial statement since poetry can take many forms on the page, but I think the blending of traditional narrative structure with the poetic elements works to great effect, and I can’t help but think this was by design.

    The poetic status of Lorde’s text is arguable, but I think this specific line solidifies her formal position. When Lorde states “Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom”, is that not what she talks about through the entire piece? She is identifying and calling for a revolution of ideas and thought, for people to claim their poetic roots of expression. If this is her motive then it’s easy to read this as a work of poetry. Going a step further, writing poetry in this non-poetic form is an expression of this drive, an “implementation of that freedom”. Lorde is providing a roadmap to the “literary freedom” directly on the page by twisting reader expectation of form.

    “The Revolt of the Peasant Girls” works much the same way. Honestly, to gush for a minute, I loved this poem (or whatever it is). The form is so interesting and unique, I’m a sucker for any writing that does weird stuff on the page that I’m not expecting. Anyways, Boyer’s poem also operates on this idea of freedom by taking advantage of the lack of “rules” for poetry. Contextually the work is about revolution and the fight for freedom (with capitalist undertones, I think? I need to read the thing like five more times before I get it). The whole poem rebels against poetic form, ending with a beginning, but still alluding to the future. The work in it’s form, screams that there is something uniquely freeing and even rebellious about poetry, and that and lengths can and should be taken to express oneself using the form.

  9. Audre Lorde’s “Poetry Is Not A Luxury” and Ann Boyer’s “Not Writing” were the two texts which stood out to me, amongst the texts that we read this week. Boyer’s “Not Writing” was a strong text, which was very direct. While her writing did have a pattern to it, by her constant use of repetition of “I am not writing..” her constant use of statements gave her simple words plenty of power. It showed that she wasn’t writing for anyone or anything but herself, every word was her own decision, instead of being the outcome of someone else’s decision. It seems like she’s saying that she’s not writing to please anyone, it’s her personal choice. From the statements she makes in “Not Writing” it’s clear that Boyer is using her work to make her voice heard, and as a female writer it speaks even more volumes, because you can also see it in the sense of a female not wanting to be silenced, and instead willing to fight back in order to have her voice heard. This is how Boyer’s piece connects back to Audre Lorde’s “Poetry Is Not A Luxury” because both women have pieces which indicate that they want their voices to be heard. In Lorde’s “Poetry Is Not A Luxury” she discusses that the way women are perceived should not limit them. Instead, she seems to be saying that it should motivate them, and that through their works, like poetry, in order to use it as a platform to honestly state what is happening to them. Lorde focuses on how poetry isn’t a luxury, instead it’s a outlet which allows women to speak about their experience, the past of what other women faced, and how that has shaped their lives. And Lorde also seems to indicate that although women have gained some power, the conversation shouldn’t stop. Instead, she continues discussing how old ideas can be renewed and reinvented to keep moving towards a goal for women, because once something is gained you can’t just stop there.

    So for me, I connected these works by Boyer and Lorde, because they were willing to constantly give a voice to women, and clearly show in their text, that women should not be silenced. A common theme which I saw throughout the texts was that as an individual you should not be limited, your rights should not be taken away, you should feel silenced. And sometimes even in places where we seem to have these rights and much of a voice, we still are silenced. I mean, if you look at our current political environment there’s a sense of people being silenced, kind of pushed aside. Are people fighting back? Yes. But in many public cases where we see someone take a stand, they lose credibility even if there is evidence. There’s also things that go on, which as the public we’re probably not aware of that also is done to shut these people down. So the texts this week, were refreshing to see. It was inspiring because it really encouraged you to not be bullied into a position where you feel like you need to back down. So I really enjoyed the readings this week, being able to reignite voices which may have felt that they were being silenced.

  10. The place of intersection in Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is not a Luxury” and Anne Boyer’s “Not writing” is the focus of power in writing. Both writers speak to writing as a tool to express power or not. Lorde speaks of using poetry as a means of declaring freedom. She says, “Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom.” as a way of enforcing the idea that Poetry is the tool used to create and act on awareness and thus instills the freedom given from said awareness. While Lorde speaks to the power of poetry in writing and implementing freedom, Boyer’s “Not writing” addresses the value of writing in documenting and recording the past. By not writing, the past and its importance is forgotten. Boyer describes this losing of the vital past in her final lines, “I am not writing a history of these times or of past times or of any future times and not even the history of these visions which are with me all day and all of the night.” In reminding how time, in general, is important in writing, Boyer’s use of “Not Writing” is the description of how writing is important to documenting the past for the use of the future.

    While together both Lorde and Boyer emphasize the value of writing in highlighting the power of writing in expressing freedom and documenting time, both writers also share a mutual focus on female writing, in the understanding of writing and how writing grants power to the female as a collective body. Going back to Lorde’s text, the connection between womanness and poetry as a means of expression being a necessity more so that an luxury. Based on Lorde’s Argument, it is a necessity of women to express and manifest thought. Without that expression, as Lorde puts it, is that relinquishment of freedom and power through writing that drives the woman. It is the decline of “womanness”. In association to Lorde’s text is Boyer’s text of “The Revolt of the Peasant Girls” which brings about that woman power through the function of a revolutionary war of girls against society. Both Lorde and Boyer are hyper-female writers who discuss in their texts the value of not only writing but the bigger value of woman writing

  11. Anne Boyer’s “Not Writing” and Audre Lorde’s “Writing is Not a Luxury” were my favorite readings this week. They both examine and discuss writing as a process, a reconciliation, and a necessity, that feel familiar, relevant, and true to me.

    Together, the readings seem to all be grappling— in their own way—with obstacles in relation to power, status, money, labor, society, rebellion, resistance, change, possibility, judgment, autonomy, recognition, and categorization. They speak to each other across their most obvious variations (of genre and form) by offering or proposing to serve as lenses of issues within society. Generally, each piece and the way it’s written, serves to educate, articulate, stimulate, dismantle, provoke, and/or illuminate its subject(s) in such ways that others may not have seen (and perhaps still don’t).

    I read “The Market of Symbolic Goods” as a lens through which to read some of the other selections, and by doing so find the terms I mentioned above to be evident. They all labor through their forms to tell a story, make a point, and affect a thought process—who is of value, what is the value, and who prescribes value.

    When Lorde states, “For within structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive,” she is pointing toward the overarching and overbearing structure that prevails (and is perhaps disingenuous) and needs reconsideration.

    Paralipsis as well as repetition is especially important in Boyer’s “What is Not Writing’” and the form works oh, so well here. Paralipsis affords the piece a clear lens of what ‘is not’ being written about, in turn, by her writing about it. Also, in Bartleby, I believe there are hints of paralipsis—in Bartleby’s ceasing of copying and writing.

  12. Khurram says:

    What is the purpose of labor? What do we make of the laborless? Is there even such thing as “laborless?”

    I think these are some of the questions approached in our collective readings this week. What do we make of work, or the inability to do or find work, when the society that demands we work to a purpose cannot accommodate our supply of work or our skills? Can we opt out of this kind of labor social contract?

    Yes, but with consequences. Take Bartleby, who prefers not to work, but becomes so idle when he makes that decision that the world uproots around him until it finally decamps him, which ultimately leads to his death. Or what of the Irish children in Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal?” They may not be opting out of labor, but they cannot be accommodated by their socio-economic standing. Yet they are still demanded by their society to serve a purpose. So becoming cattle is fine.

    How about the poet in Anne Boyer’s “Not Writing,” a piece that I think is supposed to inspire excitement and melancholy in its creator and its readers: look at all the possibilities of grand and intriguing stories if Boyer could labor; look at all she didn’t create and we didn’t read because she hasn’t written them, only written about not writing them.

    That last one is unsettling. I mean, so is eating children, but it speaks to this overarching theme of labor value, specifically in the arts, that Bourdieu writes about: that a genre of labor that cannot be judged on its own terms is instead judged as a kind of economic commodity, where laborless is purposeless because it isn’t producing value. It’s pretty inhuman. The labor has no autonomous value; it remains dependent on a goods transaction. Is Bartleby depressed? Doesn’t matter, he is a squatter who isn’t doing his job. Should children be eaten because society cannot provide the means through which they could be cared for? It’s simple economics, without contributing, they are instead a one-sided, growing cost. Can we appreciate the creative process or even the struggle that comes with writing? Only if it’s being written about, and even then, it’s inefficient labor: write what you’ve written about, not about what you want to write.

    It’s dizzying, this concept of labor that is so detached from fulfillment, or so dependent to something outside its own terms, that the act of not laboring, or even not laboring properly, is a grave problem. Audre Lorde points this out (check the quote in Allison’s post). What’s unsettling is that it’s a grave problem, not because of what it might represent to the person, but because of what it means to a separately defined, perhaps even inconsiderate purpose it should be fulfilling.

  13. Reading all of the texts from this week, I find that Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is not a luxury” and Anne Boyer’s poem, “The Revolt of the Peasant Girls” to connect with one another for their discussion on women and power. Personally, I loved reading Lorde’s piece, and found her words to express a sort of “I am woman, hear me roar” vibe that I found refreshing.

    Furthermore, when thinking about what both forms afford each writer, I think that poetry allows for a creative expression of feelings in a way that an article/essay lacks. Although if both mediums are used effectively, the author can effectively express oneself, I believe that poetry provides a far more entertaining reading that allows readers to be drawn in.

    The fact that Lorde writes an article on why poetry is not a luxurious pastime for women, suggests her desire to have the reader be objective to her opinions while not confusing the reader with poetic techniques. There are moments where a reader can tend to misinterpret a text (especially a poem) when trying to analyze its meaning. I think that by writing an article rather than a poem, Lorde allows the reader to separate poetic form (and what that entails) and try to fully absorb what she is trying to communicate to the audience.

    When reading both pieces together, I found that this notion of female empowerment and the tendency to have it suppressed was mirrored within both texts. In Lorde’s text, poetry is viewed as a tool for women to manifest their power that was been buried inside. In fact, Lorde considers poetry “not a luxury” but a “vital necessity of our existence” (Lorde Para. 8), which poses the question, why is poetry so emphasized? Lorde goes on to continue, “We see ourselves diminished or softened by the falsely benign accusations of childishness, of non-universality, of self-centeredness, of sensuality” (Lorde Para. 11). Those who diminish the value of female poets seem to be those within society that desire to keep female power suppressed. This notion of dominance and repression is in fact highlighted in the final lines of Boyer’s poem where:

    The president, upon hearing that we had taken up arms, sent us coloring backs. The sheriff’s deputies, upon hearing that we were girls, tried to rape us. The others just killed us: but to tell that story in plural is to deny the intimacy of facts. The Intimacy of the Facts: DEAR FUTURE GIRLS,
    (Boyer Para. 31)

    Once men find out that the rebellion is comprised of women, they are no longer taken seriously and threatened with violence. This deterioration displays the lack of power women possess, and even in a state where they attempt to retrieve it, they are dismissed and faced with brutality. This disregard coincides with Lorde’s attachment to poetry, in that it is the only outlet where women are presented with the ability to fight and voice their opinions. With this voice, women are finally able to express their power hidden within.

  14. Stacey McDonald says:

    It just so happens to be my good luck that the two texts that I find to be most in conversation with one another are also the two that I enjoyed reading the most, Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is Not a Luxury” and Anne Boyer’s “Not Writing”.

    I’m sure that it will not come entirely as a surprise to those in the evening section that Lorde’s piece was incredibly intriguing to me, as last week I expressed my interest in pursuing the silencing of the black female voice in literature as my the topic for my thesis, and one line that reconfirmed my interest in this topic was “The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us- the poet- whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free”.
    In terms of my thesis, I think that it would be interesting to discuss the deeper meaning of what Lorde seems to be saying, that in obeying the social norms forced upon persons of color, their abilities to find their own light are suppressed, and in turn they are apparently only able to fully explore that very light in a state of subconsciousness- their dreams. Well, Lorde is just not having it, and refuses to be silenced by the white fathers for any longer than she already has been, and this is her platform to speak up.

    What does that say about the priorities of our culture if very conscience of an entire group of people can only come forth in the most private of all spaces? It is simply appalling.

    To stray away from my thesis and allow my ideas to ferment a bit more, what I think connects this piece to Boyer’s “Not Writing” is Lorde’s statement that “…within structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive”. This is reminiscent of what I find to be at the essence of Boyer’s piece- that we should not be doing what is expected of us, we should be doing what we need to. Boyer seems to be primarily focusing on her feelings, on writing what her innermost self deems necessary, because while that may not satisfy the structures defined by profit, it will satisfy her. And isn’t it high time that women put their own needs above what others are demanding of them?

    Backpedaling toward this weeks driving question, I think each piece benefits from its form in a similar way, to either comment and reflect on their own personal selves or its ability to comment on society at large. For example, Lorde and Boyer, their essays (as well as Boyer’s short story), which read like diaries, afford them the right to project their innermost thoughts as a way of opening a door that our society had long ago sealed shut. Additionally, Swift’s satirical piece allows him to make a statement regarding the absolute hypocrisy that surrounded Ireland continuing to send crops and goods to England while a famine was amidst their country.

    This week has led me to circle back to our seminar question- what is the good in literature? And while I have long been interested in the use of literature to serve as a time capsule and a vehicle for social change, and I think that all of this week’s readings promote the statement that reading is, and very well should be, far more than a leisurely activity, it is a seed that must be planted early and grown over the course the time in order to instill a meaningful set of values amongst the readers that are to take the lead and become the next commentators.

    Now, if only everything I got to read for my classes was as inspiring and thought provoking as this week, I might not be having such a hard time keeping up.

  15. Jude Binda says:

    Two pieces from this week that stood out to me was Anne Boyer’s What is Not Writing and Johnathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. I found myself being drawn to these two not because a connection between them immediately jumped out to me but because they both have to do with economics. A Modest Proposal was the first satirical piece I ever encountered back in high school, or it was the first that didn’t go over my head rather. In it, Swift uses satire to make fun of the dynamics between the wealthy and the poor. In most major societies, the wealthy take advantage of the poor. Often times, the common folk are unable to express why they are unhappy with the way things are; they are just left with their sense of discontentment.
    Boyer calls into question what writing really means. I felt that she was trying to address the question of to what extent does the author’s intention mean. This is to ask, what happens when the writer intends something to be read one way and the reader reads it another way. Does intention matter or does the piece stand on its own once the writer releases it?
    Boyer and Swift are similar because they both have rather funny ideas being presented. Boyer talks about not writing. The curious thing is that she is, in fact, writing. She could not be conveying these things to us if she did not write them down. In the same odd way, Swift proposes his ridiculous idea to start cannibalizing children in order to appease the wealthy. Boyer has a strange paradoxical relationship happening between her words and her actions. Both texts cause the reader to feel slightly uncomfortable because of their independent underlying implications.

  16. Zara Diaby says:

    “The field of restricted production can only become a system objectively producing for producers by breaking with the public of nonproducers, that is, with the non-intellectual fractions of the dominant class.” This is what I believe Jonathan Swift was stating in his satirical essay, “A modest Proposal”. While I will not pretend to understand most of what Bourdieu is saying ins his essay, I can safely say that it seems to echo Mr. Swifts distaste for the pompous reaction to the lower class. They believe them to be nothing more than over populating rats that live on hand outs. While in Irelad tey have the reputation for being Catholic, living in a pious morally upstanding sort of way, while rejecting the very message they claim to live by, “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
    Now Bourdieu is writing about art as a commodity the over production for the ever-expanding bourgeois, I believe I could be mistaken, but it is no different from the ever growing consumption of the upperclass within the realm of Smith. The thought of you only being as good as your production value. A Marxist view, in an ever-growing capitalistic society. The Bourdieu article was a difficult read for sure. Much of it escaped me but I found my self thinking of Swift and his attitude towards the upper seats of society and his cheeky response to their complaints about poverty. He barbs at their inability to govern themselves properly, let alone the lower class. Again I make no claims to understanding the worlds in which they hail from , but the language used by the both of them seem to show a great distaste towards the upper class.

    On a side note, I loved the story of Bartleby. I have had the movie in my Netflix queue for ages and I have never gotten around to watching it. Reading it has made me look forward to watching it over the winter break! I have also resolved to add, “ I would prefer not to,” to my everyday list of quotes.

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