Circling Back To/With The Dirge

Beth invited me to “loop back” to the conclusion in my Dirge essay and unpack it more on the blog, so in this post I am both circling back to the Dirge essay, and circling with it, as I explore the Dirge as a navigational tool that true to its etymology, provides direction through the often non-navigable crises of grief and loss in general. I write that the root “direct” “suggests that [the dirge] is grounded in the struggle of navigating the “liminality” of loss in general – the intangible “state of betwixt-and-betweenness” as author Joseph Roach discusses in Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance (37).” I contend that considering the etymology of the word “dirge” and its roots in direction, our course may “feel like a dirge” in that it is often a somber commemoration to the loss that is associated with the housing crisis, but outside of that lament it is also our map to help us navigate the crisis and the concepts surrounding it.

I think it’s important to explore the dirge within the context of this post and the act of circling back to old content. With Beth’s direction (see what I did there), I was reminded that it’s not only permissible but often necessary to circle back and revisit what may be “in the past.” Michael Lewis’ The Big Short appears to me as a functional dirge that maps out the often non-navigable housing crisis, providing accessible language and a way to unpack how and why this financial and humanitarian tragedy occurred. Lewis is obviously writing from a post-crisis perspective, but he circles back to help the reader steer through the murky “floodwaters” of the crisis and understand how they operate in order to remember for the present and future. The Big Short as a novel is an act of retrospect. It is a reminder that the crises of the past are linked to those that are happening now and those that may be bound to happen.

The bankers that were able to short the housing market effectively navigated the housing crisis in order to reap a profit. They had their own “dirge” or direction to aid them in making the right moves. While they dodged the floodwaters through their own research and betting, we as the reader need an avenue to avoid another “flood” ourselves. That avenue is Lewis’ work. As with other texts we’ve engaged with this semester, Lewis directs our sight to the road to take to understand, and thus avoid, a crisis again. The dirge then not only helps “make sense of” feelings and events that have otherwise been difficult to unpack, but in circling back it serves as a preventative guide. It provides a way to navigate the non-navigable, but is also a direction to reference back to. As we circle back both to and with the dirge, we must also always circle back to and with the crisis as Lewis has. It’s what may appear to have been fully explored always deserves more unpacking, and that the crisis itself can be our own directional dirge in understanding crises of the future.

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