I wish I could say that when I posted all of my blog posts in one day this semester (including a few several days past the deadline), it was the first time. I wish I could say with confidence that I know I will improve if I am given the same assignment next semester. Normally, I would say these things, but I said these things last semester and look where we are now. Last fall, in a different course I took with Dr. McCoy, we were given an almost identical assignment, except that there was not a mandatory deadline for the first blog post. Last semester, I managed to get only one blog post up in October, which was not followed until November when a group of my peers and I posted the traditional collaborative blog post. The last eight went up on the day of the deadline. This semester, I had told myself I would know what to expect—same professor, same classroom, similar assignment. Because of the mandatory first blog post deadline, I was able to get my first post of the semester up in February on the day of the deadline, I believe. Then, I mapped out the rest of my blog posts on Google Tasks to give myself concrete deadlines even though they were based on a floating one. I also opened drafts on the actual website rather than in a private Word document on my computer, which I do think helped somewhat. But evidently, something was still missing because for the second semester in a row, I did not post my final eight until the due date, and even then, I posted two of them past the deadline. This is quite unlike me.
I’ve been feeling like I regressed this semester in some ways. The blog posting is definitely part of it, but I have also felt a general reluctance to take risks in this course. To be perfectly honest, I have been most concerned that, in trying to voice a thought or a question, my words or phrasing will betray me, and my well-intentioned thought will come across the wrong way. It is as if I feel a fear to take risks, but the more I think about this, I think about how much this fear has the ability to hinder growth. It makes me think of the whole idea that, when speaking about difficult issues, sometimes getting uncomfortable is necessary because it means you are there, you are discussing what needs to be discussed, and while it is difficult, it is necessary to spread the word and set the example for others.
Dr. Lytton Smith, a guest lecturer in our course on Steve Prince, came into my medical anthropology class on Wednesday, April 24, to teach us how to write engaging illness narratives. Personally, I love reading illness narratives because they read like stories, which they are, of course, but the creative aspect adds a much needed personal element to stories that could potentially be distant or dry. An engaging illness narrative compels the reader to care about the subject of the story, or at the very least, feel a bit personally invested. Similarly, art or any other type of individual expression that is presented in an engaging way can completely change someone’s perspective.
Why does this matter?
Dr. Beth McCoy has asked us this question numerous times in reference to our work this semester, how it relates to Steve Prince’s art, and how it relates to the issues happening now, whether they are global, national, or right in our own backyard. At the beginning of the semester, Dr. Olympia Nicodemi presented a lecture to us during which we practiced graphing and marking coordinates, and we learned a good deal about perspective. In a mathematical sense, perspective is about drawing three-dimensional objects in a two-dimensional plane. It was truly amazing how a rectangle can look like a square if you look at it at just the right angle and then shift your gaze.
Perspective is everything. Either you make a solid attempt to see something new, or at least open yourself up to seeing something new, or you can choose to blind yourself to this new perspective, even though when you finally do see it, it blows your mind. I used all of the connections I was making between this course as well as my other courses to craft blog posts this semester, and if I had not conscientiously thought to do this, and taken notes, and held tightly onto ideas even if they were just passing through my mind, I would not have gained all the new perspectives I did when looking critically at Steve Prince’s work as well as the work of all my peers and the significance of it.
Most of my other courses this semester have mentioned prejudice in one way or another. In my medical anthropology course, we spent several class periods discussing migrant farmworkers and the trial that each and every one of them undergoes in some capacity to come to the United States. We discussed the Triqui people, specifically, and the racism they face so regularly that they are starting to believe the things these people say about them. In my class on the sociology behind Capitalism, I’ve learned about some major injustices against people of color, and how Capitalism encourages an unfair distribution of power and wealth, especially at the expense of people who have been historically oppressed. In Renaissance English, some of the texts we read were by women writers, specifically Aphra Behn and Margaret Cavendish, and a large part of our discussion on these class days was stuck on the challenges they faced getting published and gaining respect for their writing as women, and how this was reflected in the way they wrote their stories. I even helped write some program notes for some of the instrumental organizations on campus conducted by Dr. Leah McGray, and one composer, Richard Wagner, was known in part for his anti-semitic writings. We continue to play his music and attempt to reconcile the fact that he was known to be so openly prejudice with the fact that he also composed brilliant pieces with which we do not want to part.
When the Baby Dolls of New Orleans get all dressed up and walk in Mardi Gras, there is a tacit understanding that their expression of art will be interpreted by everyone just a little differently. In Dr. Kim Vaz-Deville’s Walking Raddy, Sarah Anita Clunis states, “As Baby Dolls, these women were standing in their power and at the same time acknowledging their objectification and fetishization” (279). This reclamation of what was lost to them is what dressing up as Baby Dolls means to these people, and while the perspectives of others may differ, everything is okay as long as we have these conversations about our perspectives and respect each other’s opinions. In Steve Prince’s “Kitchen Talk” lecture, he told us that, while he has his own interpretations of his art and he creates each piece with his own intended meaning, he understands that as soon as a work leaves his studio, it is no longer entirely his own. Prince’s perspective will never be completely the same as mine or anyone else’s, but he still listens to and appreciates each and every perspective he encounters. This semester, our class had many difficult conversations, and although they were challenging, we emerged from the discourse more educated, more sensitive to each other’s opinions and perspectives, and better suited to have these indispensable conversations in the future.