For the purposes of this post, I split my writing into three sections: Paternal Power, Jaws, and Ghosts. These sections function largely as organizing principles, and are by no means the exclusive focus, or outside source discussed, in each section. I conclude with a brief discussion of how I would add The Devil in Silver to a course’s curriculum.
As I’m working, or more accurately–struggling–through my essay, I want to take a moment to reflect on my project. I’m having particularly hard time writing this essay, and I’m not entirely sure why that is. I’ve read all of the texts more than once, annotated, accumulated notes, outlined, revised, returned to the texts, and started many, many drafts, and for weeks I’ve been struggling with what most people would consider “writers block.” I think over the past several months, and especially in the last 6 weeks, I’ve started writing my essay, made it about 3 pages in, and realized that I’m either rambling or going about the essay the wrong way, or that I’m not talking about what I need to talk about–so I start over. I’ve done this countless times. Each time I re-read the texts, check my notes, take more notes, and try to make a more complete outline–but I’m still struggling to get my thoughts on the page. I’ve tried writing in different mediums. I’ve tried writing in MS word, the blog, in a notepad application, by hand in a notebook, on a whiteboard; I’ve even tried writing the entire essay as a powerpoint–with no success. In the past few days I managed to break through this stagnation and make some (relatively) decent progress on my essay, but I also recognize the necessity of being honest with myself: my essay isn’t going to be the epitome of undergraduate scholarship like I hoped and planned. It won’t even be the best essay I’ve written in college. But this realization yields a somewhat encouraging irony: my interest in this project stemmed from a desire to contemplate the modes of resisting the neoliberal drive to a “perfectible future”–that is, I came into this project hoping to gain insight into such questions as how we humans can understand experiences of pain and imperfection as part of the human experience, and in what ways we can (re)visit these experiences that neither make light nor accept these issues, but instead help us better understand how we can engage with these problems. This is one of many questions I’ve been thinking about as I approach my work. In my essay, this question plays a role in my examination of history and the ways we can reconsider the individual’s place in cultural memory. The irony then, is that the idea of the “perfectible future” is a point of skepticism in my essay, and I’m having a seriously difficult time producing not even a perfect essay, but simply what I consider an acceptable essay–so at this point, I’m focusing on the process of the project rather than the product. I’ve accepted that the final product isn’t going to be what I wanted it to be–I’m okay with that. I’ll do the best I can do with it now and return to it with a fresh mind after spending some time away with it. But at this moment, I want to spend some time reflecting on the process–what I learned, what challenged me, what changed me–because although the product is not yet going to be what I want it to be (and may not be for some time), I still got a lot out of this experience.
*A brief note: my intention is to have two main sections to my essay–what I have posted here is the introduction to the first section. In my final draft, something will definitely come before the summary paragraph (which currently is the first paragraph) but I thought that would be much easier to write once I have everything worked out. I’m planning to have a complete draft of the first section done within the next two weeks. I have a good chunk of it done now, but at the completion of a draft I usually discover a much more logical way to organize the essay, so I’d prefer to present the body of this section in one large chunk to avoid any overly disjointed, incoherent writing. I also expect this section to change quite a bit by the end, as introductions usually do.
I.The Devil in Silver chronicles Pepper’s stay at New Hyde Mental Hospital, a horrendously underfunded psych unit that is home to a monster that the patients call the Devil; the Devil, a patient by the name of Mr. Visserplein, lives at the end of Northwest 4, a hallway of New Hyde, behind the silver door. The Read more
This project takes as its launching point several claims about power and contemporary subjectivity: first, that the legitimization of authority and power now takes place through biopolitics, a form of power “in which the vital aspects of human life are intervened upon for the purpose of rationalizing regimes of authority over knowledge, the generation of truth discourses about life, and the modes through which individuals construct and interpellate subjectivities between a sense of self and the collective.” Read more
Here’s the bibliography for my research this semester; I read every text on this list, but not every text I read made it onto this list. These are the sources that I think will either find their way into my essay next semester, or alternatively, influenced my thinking enough to include them, even if I don’t think they’ll make it into the essay (“The Subject of the Plague” is a good example of the latter). And then there are some sources I probably forgot. If I remember any, I’ll add them. The only text on here I haven’t finished is Love by Toni Morrison—I’m putting it on hiatus for finals week but I’m going to finish it over winter break. In addition to this bibliography, I’m hoping to post a prospectus or abstract illuminating how I see my final essay taking shape, as well as what I currently see as the first few pages of that essay. Read more
After a helpful discussion with Dr. McCoy regarding my last post—specifically my comment about Tupac in The Devil in Silver—in which Dr. McCoy suggested that I consider similar strange intertextualities as “ghostly allusions,” the specifics of my research project have seemingly fallen into place. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of these “ghostly allusions,” so I went home and did some research on the significance of ghosts in literature; I found a dissertation titled “Ghost Novels: Haunting as Form in the Works of Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Michael Ondaatje, and J. M. Coetzee,” and although the essay focused on ghosts as a postmodern reproduction and repetition of images created by various visual technologies, its focus on the theoretical discourse of ghost narratives and hauntology was supremely insightful, and synthesized many sources that I otherwise would have had to labor over on my own.
If this post has a thesis, it’s this: I have thoughts about Victor LaValle’s novel, “The Devil in Silver.” There isn’t much sophistication yet. I’m 170 pages into the novel (412 pages total), so a lot of my contemplations regarding the novel examine recurring themes and motifs that I’m waiting to see play out over the course of the novel. For this post, my goals are multifold. First, I want this post to be a progress point for my work on “The Devil in Silver;” I want to articulate my ideas about the novel so I have a clear record of the ideas I’m working with, and so I can add, revise, and re-articulate these ideas as I get farther into the novel. I think one of the most challenging aspects of my research thus far has been reinforcing to myself the fact that it’s okay to create posts that don’t articulate fully developed ideas. I haven’t been open to making posts that demonstrate what I’m thinking at this point—which is the very purpose of this semester’s research. As a result, the information on my blog in no way represents the volume of research I’ve performed this semester. In this vein, I hope this post will be a stepping point in the right direction—explaining what I’m thinking, even if my thoughts aren’t complete. I’m also trying to do a better job of thinking through the novels without my lens of biopolitics and neoliberalism—I don’t want to miss useful information because I’m so focused on one aspect of the story. Consequently, this post will deal with ideas in which the connection to biopolitics isn’t yet made explicit.
I’m taking this blog in a bit of a different direction; rather than the explorations of novels I said would come next, I’m using this post to share part of my current annotated bibliography. My reasoning for doing so is twofold: first, I’m struggling a bit with writing my post about Apex Hides the Hurt, and I’m hoping that by rehashing the ideas I’ve worked with, I’ll be able to better articulate what I’m trying to communicate (after writing and editing this post, this proved true). And second, this post will give readers a better idea of what exactly I’ve been doing since the beginning of the semester. I found writing this post incredibly helpful, so I think moving forward I’ll be sure to do annotated bibliography posts for the essay I’ve read/will read in addition to my posts about the literature. Read more
This is my first blog post for my English senior honors thesis: Biopolitics and the Neoliberal Subject. For my project, I explore illness narratives and the construction of the ill-body in contemporary African-American literature, and the critical conversations surrounding these narratives. More specifically, my thesis seeks to answer this critical question: In contemporary African-American literature, how does the construction of illness and the construction of the ill-body destabilize and ultimately counteract the biopolitical agenda of the neoliberal regime? Currently, this question acts as a guiding force for my research; the wording of the question may evolve as I conduct my research, but this critical question keeps me grounded in what I am seeking to discover.