Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two versions of an event

This is interesting

Version I:

Many nights, Mike [now out of prison] and Steve drove around looking for the shooter, the guys who were part of his crew, or women connected to them who might be able to provide a good lead. On a few of these nights, Mike had nobody to ride along with him, so I volunteered. We started out around 3:00 a.m., with Mike in the passenger seat, his hand on his Glock as he directed me around the area. We peered into dark houses and looked at license plates and car models as Mike spoke on the phone with others who had information about the 4th Street Boys’ whereabouts.

One night Mike thought he saw a 4th Street guy walk into a Chinese restaurant. He tucked his gun in his jeans, got out of the car, and hid in the adjacent alleyway. I waited in the car with the engine running, ready to speed off as soon as Mike ran back and got inside. But when the man came out with his food, Mike seemed to think this man wasn’t the man he’d thought it was. He walked back to the car and we drove on.

Version II:

First, let me say as plainly as possible: at no time did I intend to engage in any criminal conduct in the wake of Chuck’s death. … Most important, I had good reason to believe that this night would not end in violence or injury. …

After Chuck was shot and killed, people in the neighborhood were putting a lot of pressure on Mike and on Chuck’s other friends to avenge his murder. It seemed that Chuck’s friends were expected to fulfill the neighborhood’s collective desire for retribution. Many of the residents in the neighborhood were emphatic that justice should be served, and the man who killed Chuck must pay. But they weren’t actually doing anything.

Talk of retribution was just that: talk.

In the weeks following Chuck’s death, his friends occasionally drove around, ostensibly looking for Chuck’s killer. But these drives, like the talk of the residents, also came to nothing. This was so because it was common knowledge that Chuck’s killer had fled right after the shooting. These drives seemed to satisfy the feelings of anger and pain; they were a way to mourn a dear friend, and showed people in the neighborhood that Chuck’s friends were doing something.

One night, when Mike could not find anybody else to go with him, I agreed to drive. I felt ambivalent, but I went because I knew these drives were about expressing anger and about grieving, not about doing actual violence. I had talked Mike down from violence in the past, as did many other women in his and his friends’ lives.

These accounts are clearly contradictory. If version 1 is correct, then version 2 is an attempt at making it seem like the ethnographer did not commit a criminal act. If version 2 is correct, then the ethnographer wrote up her story in a misleading way. If it was common knowledge that the shooter was not in town, then why did Mike bring a gun to the Chinese restaurant and almost shoot someone?

Campos writes:

If black lives matter, why did no one care that Goffman may have come close to participating in the murder of a young black man? Why was someone who recounted driving a would-be getaway car rewarded with a big book contract and a TED talk that has been viewed almost one million times?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

85. Toner

This book by Ron Silliman (Potes & Poets Press, 1992) and autographed by the author is divided into symmetrical 7 line stanzas over 67 pages, with three stanzas per page. It has blurbs by Kathy Acker, Kevin Killian, David Melnick, Jerome McGann, and Hank Lazer, on the back cover. Then, on the first page, another blurb by McGann, and others by Jed Rasula, Nancy Scott, Barrett Watten, and Keith Tuma. It is part of the Alphabet, Ron's long series. This would be volume T.

I read it at one sitting. The punctuation disappears after a while, then there is a long section in ALL CAPS, then it's back to no caps, no punctuation, and then the punctuation appears again.

It is a diary of a sort, a series of semi-disconnected fragments of observation--again, like much of Ron's work of the 90s. This is not my favorite of his, though his characteristic wit shines through.

Trigger Warning

Here is a comment I put on someone's facebook feed about a trigger warning. I had objected in an earlier comment to a tone of earnest condescension:

Look, I would use language like this in a warning, if I needed one. "Look, this course is about racism, so we're going to be looking at racist material that's going to make all of us squirm." Or, "This course is about sex and violence, in part, so we are going to see vivid descriptions of sexualized violence. You're going to need to take responsiblity for your own emotional reactions in dealing with this material. You can talk to me about this if you want, or simply find your own solution." What triggered my reaction was the necessity for a mealy-mouthed apologetic earnestness. The tone has to be right, and has to have an educational message of its own. For example, what tone would you use to warn a colleague about something that might be upsetting? How would you address that person as an equal, even accounting for the fact that not everyone is a hipster?

I am Mayhew again

Lorca's Modernist Self-Unfashioning

The premise behind the book on Lorca I am now beginning to write (which will be the third in my Lorquian trilogy!) is strikingly simple: what would happen if we decided to read Lorca from the perspective of the “postmodern death of the subject”? This is a provocative proposal, since Lorca criticism has long been unapologetically biographical. At the end of my talk today, after listening to my arguments, you can, of course, return to more conventional ways of looking at Lorca (if you really want to). I only ask that you entertain my modest proposal as a thought-experiment with some potentially interesting implications, not only for Lorca, but for a larger consideration of poetic modernism and postmodernism.

My title, “Lorca’s Modernist Self-Unfashioning,” with its obvious homage to Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning, poses the question of how Lorca became Lorca. In other words, what enabled a young writer to make the jump from the writer of juvenilia to the mature artist. I situate this jump in his first major work: Poema del cante jondo, which he completed in 1921. His literary self-fashioning entails its opposite: a dismantling of the self, or a self-unfashioning. From my perpective, furthermore, this dissolution of subjectivity runs parallel to that of other modernist writers, like Kafka, Pound, Borges, and Pessoa. My book will sketch out comparisons with numerous other writers as well. My larger argument is that the death of the subject that we attribute to postmodernism has its origins in modernist poetics, and that Lorca is best understood in this way—rather than as an example of subjective plenitude whose biographical vicissitudes completely and unproblematically account for his work.

My approach is grounded (I hope) in the best and most traditional Lorca studies. My respect for the textual and biographical spade-work of scholars and editors like Andrew Anderson and Christopher Maurer remains undiminished. The question, rather, is how to understand Lorquian poetics in light of both philology and poetic theory. I don’t believe these approaches to be incompatible, but certain hermeneutical assumptions persist in Lorca studies and almost nowhere else. Few other authors are read with such biographical servility and hermeneutical naïveté. The first step in my thought experiment, then, is to break Lorca free from the biographical imperative.

Borges advised us to distinguish between Walt Whitman, the semi-divine protagonist of Leaves of Grass, and Walter Whitman, “el pobre literato que lo inventó.” I propose that we introduce a similar distinction for Lorca, separating the Lorca myth from its self-conscious fashioner. Borges is a highly relevant figure here since he is one among many modernist writers who began to question the centrality of the self, in essays like “La nadería de la personalidad.” Fernando Pessoa’s creation of heterónimos is another angle of approach to the modernist dissolution of personality. Still another is Vallejo’s dramatization of the dissolution of the autobiographical self in poems like “Piedra negra sobre piedra blanca” and “El momento más grave de mi vida.” Theories of dramatic poetry and poetic objectivity in Pound and Eliot might lead in still another direction. I am not claiming that all these modernists flee from unitary notions of subjectivity in identical ways. In fact, what is suprising here is the multiplicity of approaches to a central problem.

Before I present my possibly controversial argument that Lorca, too, belongs in this conversation, I need to contrast my understanding of modernist poetics with a simpler (and only partially correct) notion of modernism as a unitary movement with a certain heroic view of the literary genius as privileged subjectivity. This may be somewhat of as strawman view. (Does anyone really believe this anymore in its simplest form?) But it tends to lurk in the background, especially when what is at issue is the contrast between modernism and postmodernism. I am not denying the existence of a prophetic mode of larger-than-life heroic subjectivity in modernist poetics—in Rilke or Juan Ramón Jiménez, for example. To some extent this view results from a subsequent lionization and canonization of the “great moderns” that occurred after the heyday of historical modernism itself. What I am saying is that this orphic or prophetic mode, with its very familiar grandiosity and ambition, is only one facet of modernism, and that even when it occurs it entails a certain separation of the poetic self into more than one self.

But what about Lorca? The publication of his extensive juvenilia has provided us with a goldmine of material—lyric poems, prose effusions, and dramas—from which to interpret his mature work. This is unfortunate. For many writers, maybe most of them, we lack this extensive archive…

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Time Design: Fall 2015


8-11:30: Exercise (1) / Research (1).

1-5: Class prep, grading, (office hours: 1-2).
Clean office.

House cleaning (1)


9:30-10:45: Spanish 453. Learned 2115.

1-2:15: Spanish 424. Wescoe 4012.

2:30-5: Research (2).

5: exercise (2).


8-11:30: Exercise (3) / Research (3).

1-5: Class prep, grading, (office hours: 1-2).
House cleaning (2)


9:30-10:45: Spanish 453. Learned 2115.

1-2:15: Spanish 424. Wescoe 4012.

2:30-5: Research (4) /meetings
Clean office.

5:30: poetini


8-11:30: Exercise (4) / Research (5).

p.m.: house cleaning (3) / music

Friday, August 21, 2015

Crippling Self Doubt

When I am not writing regularly I suffer from crippling self doubt. Once I open up a document and start working on it this disappears. I am able to do it with virtually no transition time. I simply do it. All my past successes count for nothing if I am not working right this moment (or have worked within 24 hours)) And the doubt extends to all other areas of my life too. My sense of self is profoundly affected. I cannot even give you good advice on getting your projects done.

I am not recommending this attitude. I am trying to change it, in fact. Let's just say that for now the solution will be to write.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

5k Dream

I was to run a 5k race. I was in some kind of huge tent. The first problem was that I had already run 5k that morning (as I had in real life that day right before I had that dream. The second problem was that I had the dog with me, and was responsible for it. Would she be able to keep up with me? I didn't have a leash. (I had been taking care of this dog for about 12 days this month, also in waking life.) The dream stopped before the race began.