I left class on Friday with no shortage of ideas for blog posts, prompted by Beth to consider why Patricia Smith would elegize Luther B (a dog) in several poems across Blood Dazzler. The poems tell a story of how the “Rottweiler, bull, whatever” (30) Luther B is left chained to a tree in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, struggles to survive and eventually “ascends” (69), assumed to be towards heaven after dying; however, the dog’s owner evacuated her home, and a poem from her perspective shows her belief that Luther B would have escaped the chains and easily ridden out the storm.
There is a lot to unpack in these poems, but I want to focus on the overall importance of the elegy – why a dog deserves an elegy, and why the story of a dog deserves to be told in Smith’s collection of poems about Katrina. I was also inspired by themes of dogs and progress in David Byrne’s album “American Utopia,” so I apply Byrne’s perspective on what dogs can represent and relate it to the importance of Luther B’s elegy. Read more
Joseph Roach mentions in “The Segregation of the Dead” what Joseph Addison calls “the Confines of the Dead,” the boundaries which “separate life from the afterlife,” and elaborated on their physical manifestations in cemeteries (48). Roach describes the omnipresence of the dead both in their spirits and in their physical remains, the latter of which oversaturated their intended grounds and “literally overflowed into the space of the living” (48). And despite this overflowing, Roach notes the social engagements of life around death: “burial grounds often provided the most convenient public spaces available to merchants, mountebanks, jugglers, and their mixed audiences” (48).
This led to a class discussion regarding the place of the dead in normal life, and where they physically and metaphorically lay in regards to other events happening in the same area.
I then remembered an element of my childhood that I had not thought about in several years – my elementary school class would clump together several late June birthdays, mine included, into a class-wide celebration for the end of the school-year, annually hosted at Greenwood Cemetery. Tents were pitched and food was catered on a clear field near the administrative buildings, where venturing too much further would find headstones, obelisks and civil war monuments. Read more
From the very first moments of When the Levees Broke, I was struck by the contrasting imagery shown in its introduction. The introduction to this film in the place of our class serves to transition us from from the fictional apocalypse of The Day After Tomorrow to a documentary about true devastation in When the Levees Broke. Beth, in her careful planning of the course, decided to have us watch these two movies back-to-back in class while slowly working through Joseph Roach’s chapter “Echoes In The Bone,” so as students we should be asking ourselves why this juxtaposition is important.
I want to focus on the introductions to these two movies, analyzing how the types of footage and styles of cinematics compare between and within the two movies, the importance they have inside their respective movies, and how this relates to Roach and our class. Read more
In Solnit and Snedeker’s Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, “Snakes and Ladders” is a New Orleans map which geographically locates and symbolically categorizes acts by civilians and law enforcement into ladders – “acts of rescue and solidarity” – and snakes – acts of “sabotage of survival” – in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (128-129). Discussing this map, Solnit points to the gross abuse of power by law enforcement, and their attempts to maintain control of a dismantled city through horrifying and unethical acts of harm ranging from police shootings of unarmed citizens to the abandonment of prisoners in a flooded prison. Read more
J. Cole dropped one of my favorite albums of 2016 in 4 Your Eyez Only, with powerful storytelling and interesting perspectives on racial tensions, having a family in a crime filled life, and being remembered, and so I anticipated his documentary with the same title, which aired on HBO last Sunday night.
Most of the album is told from the perspective of James McMillian Jr, a pseudonym for one of Cole’s real life friends, and the album is meant to be a kind of life story and eulogy for James’ daughter in the event that he dies from his crime filled lifestyle. The documentary does not follow this same story, but instead tackles similar themes in our world through interviews and short music video segments.
I watched the documentary Monday morning on HBO GO (for free, thanks to Geneseo) and I was immediately struck with parallels to this class that I did not at all expect beforehand. I felt these parallels strengthen even further during class that same day as we talked about shelter and watched the “This Old House” Detroit episode, which also drew callbacks to the Frontline episode “The Old Man and the Storm.”
Here are just a handful of the connections I found between the documentary and the subject matter of this class. Read more
For the past several years I’ve been interested in the fear of forgetting history. This was sparked by my father’s hoarding of newspapers, embodying the human hunger for knowledge and unwillingness to let go of history not yet acknowledged. Knowing the amount of information stacked in New York Times piles around our apartment aroused my interest in the hoarding of history, as well as the connection we feel to physically keeping remnants of our personal history and the history unknown. Read more
I had planned upon revisiting this abandoned draft after beginning A Mercy and realizing that the novel took place in colonial America, but yesterday’s class reinvigorated my desire to finish the post and push it out, as we have just finished A Mercy and it’s not quite too late to post it.
In my other English class about modern western drama, we had read George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” a play that examines a bet between two professors of phonetics, Higgins and Pickering, to produce a civilized woman from the ‘guttersnipe’ Eliza. The play is meant to be a comedy with an underlying social commentary. Read more
While thinking about progression in The Turner House last class, I remembered an analogy that I had stumbled upon before even starting the class. I found this analogy in a horror game called “ANATOMY.” At $3, the game is a surprisingly eerie and tense interactive story, revolving around finding and listening to cassette tapes in an old and dimly lit low-fi house, which teach you about, as described by the indie developer Kitty Horrorshow, “the physiology of domestic architecture.”
A topic of discussion during last Friday’s class was Joseph Roach’s interpretations of Bataille’s claim that “violence is the performance of waste” (41). We mainly focused on “violence” as the natural definition of the word pertaining to physical destructive forces, and how ‘people with little’ felt inclined to this violence towards ‘people with more’ who live wastefully. I found this violent inclination towards those who unnecessarily waste interesting, as my Environmental Psychology class revolves around how America promotes such wasteful actions. I choose to interpret the word “violence” less as a physical attack on a specific thing, such as an effigy, but instead as a slow degradation of our planet as attacked by the unnecessary wasters.
I first want to address how my interpretation of “violence” applies to Roach’s three interpretations of Bataille’s claim.