Author: Taylor Knowles

War and Paradise

As I was astounded by how little work has been done regarding Morrison’s Paradise, I looked up my thesis regarding the women’s scenes in “Save-Marie”, and eventually landed on an article discussing some quotes from Morrison herself, regarding the novel’s conception.

As it turns out, Paradise was not the original title- “Paradise just hit bookstores, but Morrison wanted to call it War. It begins with a six-shot staccato sentence: ‘They kill the white girl first.’ Explains Morrison, ‘I wanted to open with somebody’s finger on the trigger, to close when it was pulled, and to have the whole novel exist in that moment of the decision to kill or not.’ Knopf feared the title War might turn off Morrison fans. ‘I’m still not convinced they were right,’ she says.”

Additionally, Morrison was interested in why “Paradise necessitates exclusion.” This, coupled with her interest in naming the novel War, seems to me particularly interesting given the militant clothing and possessions of the women in the end of the novel. Morrison possibly was pointing to the human desperation to get into an exclusionary paradise, and the idea of such a place in and of itself creates violence. This violence appears to be done by those who disagree with one another on who exactly is to be excluded. Thus, the men kill the convent women because they deem them “other,” and redefine Hell based on what they believe is undesireable traits; this violence seems to foreshadow future violence as the women come back prepared to “shoulder the burden,” down in “paradise”.

I think the main idea is that Morrison explores the violence associated with the idea of exclusion.

The short article can be found here:

http://www.swarthmore.edu/Humanities/pschmid1/engl52a/engl52a.1999/morrison.html

Scapegoats

scapegoat

/ˈskeɪpˌɡəʊt/

noun

1.

a person made to bear the blame for others

2.

(Old Testament) a goat used in the ritual of Yom Kippur (Leviticus16); it was symbolically laden with the sins of the Israelites and sentinto the wilderness to be destroyed

verb

3.

(transitive) to make a scapegoat of

In class, Prof. McCoy had us reread the line from Ruby which states, “their T-shirts, work shirts and dashikis soak up cold like fever,” pointing to the fact that this group was not only distinctly male- it also included members across all age groups (3). Morrison intentionally created a scenario where the violence being enacted is done in such a way as to label an innocent group guilty for events within the community, aka picking a scapegoat. Read more

The Danteum

As I’ve been sick at home with Bronchitis, I decided to do some research into other forms of adaptations of Dante and his Divine Comedy, and came across the Danteum. As you’ll see in the many links I’ll have pasted below, the Danteum was Giuseppe Terragni’s proposal to Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, to build a monument in honor of the Poet in time for the upcoming Esposition of 1942 in Rome. Read more

Slavery and the Prison System

Ever since we read the article in class, and made the connections between the prison system and slavery, I’ve been interested in reading further into this. And so in the process of researching, I found this awesome article detailing how slavery and prison can not only be described in like terms, but also how the two two institutions are directly historically connected.

Following the Emancipation Proclamation, the South was a violent and turbulent place for people of color, particularly because of the various laws, such as Jim Crow Laws, that were enacted to virtually halt all reform that might have been possible. Reformation following the Civil War was a failure. Technically slavery was abolished, but the oppression that previously supported the institution remained, making it nearly impossible for freed African Americans to exercise their rights to the same political, social, and economic freedoms as their white counterparts. The article discusses how, while the African-American population went from one situation of intense oppression to another, a new institution replaced slavery as the hands on the plantations- the Convict Lease Program.

The Convict lease program brought a new way for freed slaves to be once again taken advantage of. The incredible and terrible influx of new oppressive laws in the South brought mass imprisonment to a new level, and as the article explains- “mass imprisonment was employed as a means of coercing resistant freed slaves into becoming wage laborers. Prison populations soared during this period, enabling the state to play a critical role in mediating the brutal terms of negotiation between capitalism and the spectrum of unfree labor. The transition from slave-based agriculture to industrial economies thrust ex-slaves and “unskilled” laborers into new labor arrangements that left them vulnerable to depressed, resistant white workers or pushed them outside the labor market completely.” And so thus, many victims of Jim Crow south went from one form of slavery to another, and those who didn’t had almost an equally difficult time assimilating.

Here’s the article if you’re interested in reading and learning more:

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/gilmoreprisonslavery.html

Women and Mental Illness

In class today, I brought up the dichotomy of two forms of protection utilized by the women in Morrison’s works- those with mental walls, and those wielding physical weapons. It seems to be the case that the “strong Woman”, even Hillary Clinton, has been subject to adjectives like cold, and crazy. Those who have put up these psychological walls are looked upon poorly, the feminist movement taking the brunt of this blame. On the opposite side is those who choose to wield weapons like knives, guns, and pepper spray to protect themselves. This takes little to no blame (aside from gun control advocation as a whole) as people understand women to be physically disadvantaged, and in need of such protection. And so it follows, that society thinks that women do not need to protect their minds and autonomy, and become defensive of their right to exist mentally equal to men; but they should protect their physical vulnerability. And this could easily carry into a discussion of rape and the vile concept of women “asking for it” based on clothing choice, but that is a lengthy and heated discussion for a different post. I found this interesting because it is 2016, and women still need to put up these walls, to carry these weapons; if society has not grown past the gender inequality that transcends race, religion, nationality, etc, how can it hope to make it past the plethora of other instances of inequality as well?

In addition to this, I found an article discussing the differences in the instances of mental illness in men and women, written by Jason and Daniel Freemen. They cite the Center for Disease Control in stating that women are far more likely to suffer from illnesses like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and insomnia than men. Whereas their male counterparts more often suffer from alcoholism, violent tendencies, and anti-social personality disorder, which are markedly more prone to displays of their issues. They cite stigma (like that of the “crazy woman” persona), lower pay, higher body expectations, and difference in home life responsibilities as reasons why women may tend to keep their illnesses to themselves, whereas men may have more freedom to express themselves without as great a cause for worry. Think about it, what sounds more like an illness: Alcoholism, or Bipolar Depression? Each is a serious mental illness that requires extensive treatment, but one carries more of a “sickness” label than the other. This is not to say that men can’t have depression and women can’t be alcoholics, but the instance of each illness is more prone to the opposite gender.

In a research study by the US National Library of Medicine, Medical professionals discuss specifically African American Women’s beliefs concerning mental health, it stated that “They believed that an individual develops depression due to having a “weak mind, poor health, a troubled spirit, and lack of self-love.” These women also identified stigma as a significant barrier to seeking mental health services.” This attitude is a learned behavior, meaning that it is likely rooted in cultural beliefs and child-rearing practices, which have taught much of the African-American population, like all women but African American women specifically here, that the only way to survive in a world that they are born into pre-stigmatized, is to build walls and remain strong, even when in truth they should be seeking help. And such is the ultimate stigma to mental health, regardless of gender or race- people are terrified that once they allow themselves to be labelled ill, they become less of a person. And this is an especially painful concept to Women around the world, and the African American community, and by no means should be this way. Mental illness deserves recognition and kindness, just like any other physical illness. Its like considering someone to be less than who they are, just because they have fought and survived cancer.

 

~Here are some articles discussing mental illness, women, and stigma:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/10/19/the-stigma-of-mental-illness-and-women-s-health.html

http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/

~This last one addresses specifically African American Women’s views on mental health:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2854624/