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.
On Monday Dr. McCoy put us into groups and asked us to discuss any remaining questions we had about Jazz, after we had finished reading the last chapter in class and finishing the novel. We began talking about who/ what the narrator was in the story, we came to the conclusion that the narrator was actually the book talking to us. At one point in the beginning of the novel when the narrator is introducing itself to us it says something along the lines of being used to not being used until after dinner, and when it is used the person often falls asleep before they can finish using it (I can’t remember the exact page we found this evidence on). Also when we finished reading the final chapter aloud it finishes with the words ” But I can’t say that aloud; I can’t tell anyone that I have been waiting for this all my life and that being chosen to wait is the reason I can. If I were able I’d say it. Say make me, remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now.” (pg. 229). As a group we believed that this was the book telling us that we are the ones with the power to change who we are the book will forever ever the same words it can never be changed, but the book can change us as people. Alpha had the thought that Toni Morrison writes black humanities. She puts stories that can help to show us the defaults in humans, and what we can do to change it. She is the modern day Sophocles, Dante.
Because Morrison wrote her Trilogy based on Dante’s divine comedy, I decided to do some research on how Dante’s Divine Comedy has been related to humanities. I found an article in the Wall Street Journal titled ” The Ultimate Self-Help Book: Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, written by Rod Dreher. The author said that calling “The Divine Comedy” a self- help book “is almost the point of blasphemy”, but he goes onto say that Dante believed this himself which was shown in a letter he wrote to Can Grande Della Scala, in the letter he said “to remove those living in this life from a state of misery and lead them to a state of bliss.” How Dante does this according to the author is he makes us reflect upon our own life’s when reading it, which I believe can also be said about Toni Morrison’s Trilogy.
Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer and activist that fights for what goes unnoticed in our justice system. But alongside this, Stevenson works to reteach American history… Stevenson forces his audience to remember the amount of black bodies that have been lynched and enslaved in our country’s history by demanding that we build them memorials and museums. One of the ways I was introduced to him was by watching this TED Talk at the museum I worked at last summer. It motivated me to rethink the ways that my education has been framed and I hope it will do the same for those of you who choose to watch it as well.
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:
In reading Maya Schenwar’s chapter from Locked Down, Locked Out in class the other day, the line “Hurt people hurt people” stood out to me in particular. I do believe that it is a line that is meant to grab people’s attention and get people thinking further about the topic of abuse, but when I read this line I could not help but think of Louis C.K. Continue reading “Life Advice From Louis C.K. ?”
Lots of you have probably heard of/read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Recently, Rankine earned a MacArthur genius grant. Here, Steven W. Thrasher interviews the artist about her plans and about the need to study whiteness, “its paranoia, its violence, its rage.” The conversation carries echoes of the ways Jazz deploys “The Thunder, Perfect Mind” and attends to “the Beast.”
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.
Researching the history of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) inclusion in television and movies has unearthed an interesting history. In particular, The Production Code of 1930 also called the Hays Code, made it voluntary for the exclusion of LGB characters. Specifically, the document said “Sex Perversion or any inference to it is forbidden”. This seemed a subtle way for people who considered same gender romantic relationships as deviant, to exclude the perspectives in their works. Though the guidelines were specifically made for movies, the same rules were adhered to when it came to television production. Fortunately, these restrictions have not been strictly adhered to since the 1960s, but the ideals behind them are still perpetuated.
It could be assumed that because of the limitations such rules reinforced, strategic characterization was used to portray LGB characters. Specifically, this is called queer coding. This is where creators hint that a character is queer*. This is a heavily used strategy especially among villainous characters in works. In an article by Samantha Allen*, Allen noted how Disney as a media enterprise has created villains that represent otherness in American society. In turn, many of the villains are queer coded as a means of comedy and a warning for children to not behave the way villains do and to be wary of those who do behave or look similarly. So either viewers do not see LGB characters or they see them as bad people. Furthermore, the reach Disney has with young children and their families illustrates how effective media can be in people’s formative years as a means of learning morals and empathy for instance. If children who are viewers and the few who grow up to be creators of their own media works, have these ideas as the foundations about LGB people, they will just continue perpetuate potentially harmful stereotypes.
Recently many works have counteracted the tradition of negative representations of LGB characters by including more dynamic LGB subjects. In turn we now have more engaging LGB characters of which some are even heroes. The reactions to the inclusion of lesbian relationships in popular shows just reinforces how impactful positive inclusion can be. For instance, the reaction to the lesbian characters Nomi and Amanita from the Netflix original series Sense8. Though their relationship is just one aspect of each of their dynamic and intersecting identities, them as a couple expressing their intense love throughout the show has garnered much appreciation from fans. Their fondness was shown through articles, fan based works* and blog posts. In addition to that, other television series have created such a following for their woman loving characters (wlw)* characters that they have popular songs dedicated to them.
Creators of similarly inclusive works weigh in on how their own works have helped them in understanding/coming to terms with various identities and on their effects on viewers. Creator of Steven Universe; Rebecca Sugar has noted how affective her work can be on young viewers. Sugar said in an interview, “you can’t wait until kids have grown up to let them know that queer people exist… If you wait to tell queer youth that it matters how they feel or that they are even a person, then it’s going to be too late!”. In her work for Cartoon Network, Sugar portrays the subtleties of the romantic and platonic relationships women can have with each other. Her work is especially significant because of the audience it draws being an animated work. Some think portraying gay and lesbian issues to children is inappropriate because people think they have to explain how gay and lesbian people have sex with each other. This idea is ridiculous because a child does not need such explanations to understand relationships. Just like they do not need to know that to enjoy any Disney film for instance when they portray heterosexual romances. Sugar realized how important it is to see these portrayals as young children so that it creates a foundation of understanding and inclusion.
Other creators share Sugar’s sentiments about the importance of showing positive portrayals of wlw in children’s media. Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino, producers of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra (LoK) show this well in the relationship between Korra and Asami in LoK. In response to negative reception of the final episode DiMartino wrote “we did it for all our queer friends, family, and colleagues. It is long overdue that our media (including children’s media) stops treating non-heterosexual people as nonexistent, or as something merely to be mocked”. In LoK’s finale, Korra and Asami shared an intimate look as they left for the spirit world. To clarify, that is not a euphemism for them dying, the shows canon includes the spirit world as a destination one can visit. Anyway, the reception from viewers who liked the shows finale were filled with resounding praise to the writers and animators for their work. The development of Korra and Asami’s relationship exemplifies how growth and change can be positive. It is essential that young children understand that these stages are not to be feared (especially young people discovering aspects of their sexuality).
As more creators include these perspectives in their works (whole and dynamic LGB characters, not just plot points) the more reflective it will be of actual people’s real lives. Thus providing esteem for people (when seeing themselves reflected in media), understanding for others and finally a step forward in unlearning prejudices we all hold that were reinforced by harmful representations.
*Queer: I use this word not only as a part of the definition of the tactics used but as a word to be more inclusive of identities. But I understand the history of the words usage and I’m sorry if it offensive to someone (sorry again).
*Samantha Allen article: Allen talks about how Ursula from The Little Mermaid is relevant and important to lesbians, so it’s worth a read.
*WLW (women loving women): I use this to be inclusive of bisexual women. But I understand everyone deserves their own space. Also, I’m not sure if the creators have specifically said the orientation of the characters but they have said that the characters are/have been in romantic relationships with other female characters.
I wanted to start a conversation about prisons in the United States. But first, I’d like to start with a little anecdote. A couple years ago my older brother used to hang around the wrong group of people. We live in the hood in Brooklyn and so part of this meant dealing with the culture of the hood. One day, my brother was hanging out with these kids on the train, skipping train cars, which is illegal, and got targeted by the cops. Under the impression that the friends my brother was with were carrying weed, he started running away from the cops. After tripping, a cop finally caught hold of him. Quietly, he said that my brother was lucky he hadn’t put “three rounds in his back.” Continue reading “How to Feel About Prisons”
After watching Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk about the dangers of the single story, and reading Hannah’s blogpost, I can’t help but think of the education profession in this country. My mother’s a fourth grade teacher, so I know how teachers and education as a whole is under siege by the right wing of this nation. After reading Hannah’s blogpost, I can finally signify why the modern Republican party is at war with our teachers, and is out to destroy education, such as Scott Walker defunding the University of Wisconsin public university sysem.
The Republican party has been taken over a single story. One about fearing minorities because of their difference to the average white American. Hannah discussed how easy to perpetrate fear is, and how unfounded it is, and I see that fear here. I watched this single story begin when Mitch McConnel declared in 2010 that he would make Obama a one term presidency, and proceeded to vilify and obstruct our President like no other President had dealt with. This single story about fearing minorities has grown into a novel where the hard right wingers are the only patriots and minorities and other political ‘dissidents’ like liberals are out to destroy America. Social politics dominate the party, and economic conservatives and moderate conservatives are being left by the wayside with accusations of RINO for not buying into the single story. The culmination of this single story is the emergence of the Donald Trump to head the Republican Party. His flaws would end any other person’s campaign, but I see that his base is deep in their single story where everyone not their political cult is out to destroy America. So deep that they will follow him without question because he speaks to their fear.
To give statistics: people who haven’t reached high school or college diplomas are more likely to vote Republican. That’s not stereotype, that’s statistical fact. As Hannah said, our children are impressionable, and can be shaped by their education. Education familiarizes children with the very differences the modern Republicans fear, and they come to respect our differences.. The Republican party in recent years has watched its base shrink as the older generation dies off and our generation, with our generally superior education, has risen into voting age. Their solution has been to purge our educational system and dumb down our schools, in the hopes that more children will grow up not understanding, and fearing difference that the modern Republican Party has made its enemy. Even worse, Republicans are attempting to redirect public school students to charter schools, which are public money funded, yet run by corporations, and are no better than public schools. Without good education, their single story of fear and hatred will be passed onto our children, and our next generation will be ruined. This is a deliberate choice by Republican leaders.
Given the political makeup of SUNY Geneseo, I’m preaching to the choir, but I must state that the Republicans are believing in a single story about fear and hatred of difference. The Republican Party is destroying our schools to commit their sins of ignorance on our children.