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Epidemic, Microbes, and Consent in Clay’s Ark

In class on Friday, we primarily spoke about consent; its legal definition, the often obvious, but just-as-often tricky examples of how consent can be overlooked. From the most seemingly-innocuous examples (petting a student’s head in class) to the most intolerably sinister ones, the violation of consent is extremely dangerous. So far in Butler’s works Bloodchild and Clay’s Ark, we have seen almost-exclusively interactions in which consent is overlooked. For whatever purpose it may serve, good or bad, a nonconsensual act carries to the power to irreparably harm its victim, emotionally, psychologically, or, in this case, at the most fundamental part of one’s being.

In Clay’s Ark so far, Butler has provided several examples of nonconsensual interactions. The virus, microbe, or extraterrestrial organism which has been introduced is capable of binding with human cells in a way that changes them. In some ways, the humans are stronger and more perceptive. In others, as Meda points out, the organism is “sexual (498).” It produces a near-undeniable urge in its carrier for physical contact and sex with uninfected humans. Butler delivers us several examples of nonconsensual contact through these contact-based infections. In the past, Eli infect Meda’s entire family without consent, leaving them irreparably changed, and apparently killing some of them. Next, it seems the infected ones have chosen to stay together, infection only select humans in the smallest amount possible to keep themselves alive. In a way, as Eli and Meda tell it, this can be seen as a service to humankind, as it prevents them from uncontrollably raping and infecting everyone they come into contact with, causing an “epidemic” (500). This suggestion further blurs the definition of consent.

Because we get the present story from the point of view of Blake, a victim of this nonconsensual infection, and the past story from the point of view of Eli, the infector, we get to see both sides of the story. Eli knows that every time he touches someone he is dooming them, showing sympathy for his victims and an effort to minimalize his damage (480). From Blake’s perspective we get to see the genuine fear and pain of a victim who is non-consensually kidnapped and infected. Even as no character have, at this point, mentioned being sexually contacted, the irreparable changes of the infected victims serve as a metaphor for the irreparable changes, emotionally, psychologically, occasionally even physically that a rape victim undergoes. In this light, however sympathetic the infectors can be on a page to page basis, they are committing an evil.

The end of the section left me ambivalent. I was passionately rooting for the victims, Blake, Keira and Rane to escape their captors, while simultaneously terrified of the dangers that Meda and Eli warned may happen. The most compelling thing that Butler has done is gotten me to understand the motivations of Eli and his group, committing small evils so that they can prevent a mass apocalypse. Instead of flat, uncompromising villains, Butler has crafted a complicated enemy: one who is at conflict with themselves, but simply needs to commit these violences. The novel’s main villain so far, Eli, has alluded to the fact that he has tried desperately to end his own life, disgusted by what he has done to human beings, though the parasite will simply not let one of its hosts commit such an act (469-70). In real life, it would be simpler to imagine every rapist as a purely evil villain, but occasionally they are complex human beings, who abused their power to irreparably harm an individual. This evil is less comfortable to grapple with, but, understanding the damage they have inflicted, it’s still impossible to sympathize with. I hope that in Clay’s Ark there is possibility of preventing an epidemic without the need for further kidnappings, rapings, or nonconsensual infections, but Butler doesn’t seem to be finished dealing with the scary topic of consent.

When Harlem Was In Vogue chapter 1 thoughts

I may as well start with the disclaimer that I read this chapter mainly for content, seeing some connections to Jazz and Purgatorio; I think it’s safe to say that mentions of the Great Migrations naturally make my brain think to the concept of movement in both Dante and Morrison’s works. Besides that, however, I can’t say that I have any concrete connections– then again it’s only chapter 1. Read more


“But whites ascribed black women’s sexual availability not to their powerlessness but to a key tenet of scientific racism: Blacks were unable to control their powerful sexual drives, which were frequently compared to those of rutting animals.”

This blog is mainly dedicated to the term, “scientific” racism. I have heard the words race and racism countless times in my lifetime and have argued and interpreted the meaning to those two words. I took an INTD course my first semester at Geneseo about racial identity and families and have had conversations concerning the term race. While reading Medical apartheid, I came across a new term that I never knew existed. Scientific racism. As a biology major and science enthusiast, science is the study of facts concerning the atoms, body, etc. The actual definition of science is,  “a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws”. Truth? Fact?  What about racism is backed up and supported by science? defines and elaborates on scientific racism but it has been studied that race is not biological, therefore race has nothing to do with science. Racism is not and will never be backed up by science or any other subject.

Demand Opportunities: Risks and Rewards

Today in class we experienced our first demand opportunity. Our discussion initially consisted of sharing our own interpretations of what we thought was being offered to us. Several people expressed concerns about our lack of having a demand available at this exact moment in class. Others offered the solution that we should have our first demand be the ability to ask for demands at any time. Although this demand seems simple, in a way it opens a lot of doors for the rest of the semester and changed the dynamic of the course in my opinion.


In saying this, I believe that the course has changed significantly after this discussion of demand opportunities because as a class we are now better at coming to a collective consensus among all thirty individuals. While we discussed our ability to request a demand, I started to think of this experience as something deeper than simply wanting to make changes to the syllabus. The exercise not only reaffirmed our ability to have a voice in what pertains to our English education, but also taught us how to properly and respectfully come to an agreement among a large group of students. It was interesting to see all of the different points that were brought up about some of the vague characteristics of the opportunity we were given and how the discussion ultimately gave everyone clarity about the situation at hand.


Moving forward in the course, I feel very confident that the individuals in this class will be able to effectively and respectfully offer suggestions for demand requests. One important point made was the importance of having an anonymous forum to allow to disagreements to demand suggestions because often times it can be awkward to disagree with a classmate’s idea. This way there is a way to voice your opinion without having to feel shy or uneasy if you have a very different feeling toward an expressed demand. Today I noticed a lot of potential among the individuals in this course to be able to come up with interesting ideas as well as keeping everyone’s opinions and thoughts on these demands a matter of importance.  


When Dr. McCoy re-entered the classroom after our discussion, she brought up a thought provoking question about the exercise. She asked us that if she was at risk by proposing demand opportunities to her students. Immediately, I thought the answer would be yes. By giving students the ability to make changes to her syllabus and critique matters of the course, it puts Dr. McCoy in a vulnerable position. She may not agree with the demand and might feel uncomfortable disagreeing with our propositions. Or she could potentially be offended if some students voice their criticism regarding aspects of her teaching style. Even though she still maintains the power to veto any demand request that we make for her, Dr. McCoy certainly did put herself in a unique position within the classroom to allow for demand opportunities during any time throughout the course. To reflect on these inferences, I do have faith in the other individuals in the class and myself to be mindful and respectful with the content and frequency of our demands.

Revisiting Visual Schemas and Parable of the Sower

Earlier this evening, I was browsing The Rumpus and found a comic book review by Kevin Thomas of Butler’s Parable of the Sower:

Most of the class hasn’t read Parable of the Sower (and it’s not on the syllabus) but Thomas’ illustrations strikes me as a powerful reminder of a book I found deeply moving. I’m interested in the way he constructs the plot of the novel –from an introduction to Lauren Olamina to the establishment of Earthseed–as a visual schema, imbued by his own commentary. Obviously, his 9-panel comic only scratches the surface of a demanding and complex book (to use Beth’s phrase, Butler is not a gratuitous author), but he illuminates some important aspects of the novel, most notably the comment that “its [the novel’s dystopia] causes and effects are sadly plausible.” Thomas is correct:  I find myself thinking of the troubling, chaotic America Butler evokes in Parable at least three times a week. This is particularly true during weeks like these, where we are again confronted with a devastating intersection of environmental havoc and political instability.

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“Paying the rent” as a college student

In Friday’s class, we briefly discussed the concept of how people have to “pay the rent” in life. Dr. McCoy brought up an idea that would involve exploring how students pay the rent while attending school. After class, I started to think of ways that as a student I am undoubtedly “paying the rent” in regards to doing things that I would not necessarily do, but are obligated to because of certain circumstances. Students pay the rent in obvious ways such as attending class, completing their homework, writing papers, etc. But there are several other ways that we pay the rent that aren’t as obvious. There are certain social interactions that are necessary such as the natural human tendencies to want to make connections with other people. We are often thrown into situations in college where we are out of our comfort zone and feel a sense of duty to make the most of the experience we are given. While this experience is filled with both positive and negative attributes, paying the rent refers more to the negative aspects of college that we pay attention to. Sometimes you’re going to be doing group work with people you don’t get along with. Other times you will run into the exact person you are trying to avoid. Living on a college campus and attending school will often put you in very stressful situations that you would not encounter otherwise. But we all pay the price in exchange for several benefits such as receiving a college diploma and growing as a human being from these unique experiences. As long as paying the price ultimately rewards you with something you deem important, the small sacrifices made are worth it.

Parable of the Talents

I know that the semester is over, but I figured this would be an easy way to share this–

I started reading Parable of the Talents today, the sequel to Parable of the Sower, and most of the action is set in 2032. I found this on page 20, and was shocked to find a “catchphrase” that all of us have been exposed to in the media lately:

“Help us to make America great again.” It comes up at least once more in the novel too.

So I just wanted you all to remember what we individually said we could do after taking this class. I think we’ve got to commit to doing them, and this seems evidence enough to me. (PS the book is good! Sorry to make this a weird post– Happy summer!)


Looking Back and Moving Forward

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.

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Bank of America v. The City of Miami

I realize that classes are already over, but very quickly I want to share a piece of news I came across that relates rather deeply to the course. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Miami’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo and Bank of America. The suit alleges that the banks’  predatory lending practices violated the Fair Housing Act and targeted African American/Latino communities through subprime mortgages. You can read about the case and the Supreme Court’s decision in the following sources:

Cities Can Sue Big Banks Over Effects of Discriminatory Practices (NPR)

Bank of America Corp. v. The City of Miami (Supreme Court’s published decision)

Supreme Court Rules Miami Can Sue Over Predatory Lending (NYT)

There are certainly other media sources covering the case as well, but I felt these might be a good starting point to obtain a brief overview.  At any rate, from my cursory research the decision strikes me as a small victory for proponents of fair housing and lending practices (good news is hard to come by these days).

Many thanks to Alpha and Beth for facilitating a meaningful and compelling class this semester.

Thank You

As we wrap up the semester, our academics and work and lives start to boil over. I am finding solace in our final “Second Line” paper; I am looking forward to my own rebirth and stability after finals. I’m taking an opportunity to squeeze in a “thank you” to everyone in the course as we close up (especially if you are still reading the blog) and I wish you all to find courage and peace during this intense month and academic year; our peers (Alpha and Dr. McKoy included), discussions, readings, and this blog have been inspiring, humbling, and relevant.

Thanks, and happy finals!