Posts Tagged "words"

Source: the-rachelkaadzighansah



from mariecalloway:

“I got a little tired of this idea of an authorial voice of complete knowledge or perfect wisdom. I got really tired of being in readings and having people much older than myself saying ‘Oh, you’re so wise, you’re so full of wisdom.’ But I don’t know anything! What you’re reading is an imitation of what wisdom sounds like. And so I got very tired of that voice, because it really is just a voice. There are other ways to demonstrate the fact that you’re pretty much put down midstream. It’s like you’re being thrown and you have to make it up as you go along. I read a lot of existentialism when I was writing this book, but it doesn’t have to be high theory. You know it yourself. You’re so profoundly inconsistent from one moment to another. The shock of your life, for instance, is to be shown a letter you wrote from five years ago. You usually can’t even recognize the voice. I wanted to express that feeling of self-alienation or the sense of not really having a self at all. For so many novels, it’s like they’ve taken characters and got them on a pin. The point is to make them squirm, to ridicule them, to judge them, and pronounce this final conclusion, which is usually a faux liberal ‘Ahh…But no one knows anything in the end.’ Full of judgement, full of opinion, full of certainty, and I just found it quite suffocating.

Zadie Smith interview for Interview about her latest novel NW (viaanotheriteration)

I find this quote interesting mostly for the end bit: I feel like there are styles of writing that are just appropriative or violent or oppressive, that reproduce fucked up dynamics of perception, and it’s really hard to talk about it when it’s a matter of style rather than content.

But I don’t know that the alternative necessarily has to do with self-alienation, or that a self-alienated voice is the clear answer…

Like David Foster Wallace’s writing voice: the pleasure of it, for me, comes from the way he brings together verbal tics and gestures and a neurotic conversational voice all the while showcasing an immense brilliance (in his own words: “sort of like a smart person is sitting right there talking to you”), and so much of the fascination of the voice is watching the performance of an affective schizophrenia surrounding his own thought: sometimes he’s obviously amused by his own brain, sometimes he’s annoyed with it, sometimes he’s embarrassed by it, always he is extremely careful to apologize for it… when I first read it I felt like my experience of self-consciousness had never been so literalized.

And no one is more articulate about the faults of David Foster Wallace’s voice than David Foster Wallace’s voice — I wish I had my copies of his texts so I could show you, these truly dazzling performances of self-reflexivity — so smart about its own limitations.

But, at least in this one essay he writes, it’s a voice that doesn’t shut up and listen. It doesn’t decenter.*

Is it ridiculous to ask for the creation of an authorial voice that can shut up and listen?

(It doesn’t matter if you’ve shut up and listened in the past. This is part of the seduction of this voice: it performs having listened A LOT and experienced A LOT, and so that’s why it has A LOT TO SAY.)

What do I mean by shutting up and listening? I don’t mean budging under the weight of a more forceful or brilliant authority. I feel like many people are capable of that. And perhaps this is also what the dfw voice performs: it’s a voice that’s obviously been subjected to a ton of brutal self-punishing. It’s totally capable of being like: “That’s so right. You’re so right,” as long as the “right” words are being said.

What I mean is really trying to take in other perspectives as authorities, too, no matter how“well” or “poorly” they articulate themselves: even if they are angry and discomposed, even if they offend you while they say it and even if you are ultimately right to be offended by some of the things they say. I mean decentering yourself. I mean: I know that you are having a complicated and subtle reaction right now to what I am saying, but I don’t care how brilliant you are, or think you are, or want to make me think you are (is it helpful to suggest that there is probably a castration complex lurking at the bottom of all this): I don’t want to hear about your self-awareness right now! Or your self-alienation! Or your self-anything!

I’m wondering if there isn’t some relationship between this David Foster Wallace voice and liberal white Americanness: first speak, then apologize. Apologize for speaking, even. But then, keep talking.

Ella’s complaint: Whenever I have been present in a conversation about race, and there’s a white man in the room, it somehow always becomes about his feelings about race or about being called a racist.

This is a post celebrating my conversation with Jane about queer and race. I feel like we really decentered ourselves. A dfw voice might make a joke about self-congratulation right now, but I am post-that, I am post-dfw voice.

* This post is the baby of my own very complicated relationship with David Foster Wallace’s essay about Standard American English. I think it’s in A Supposedly Fun Thing but I’m not sure. Anyways, he relates a story about being a professor of writing at the University of Illinois and having a black female student. She writes in some kind of non-standard English, I forget how he racializes it: basically she’s not writing in Educated White English. He recounts his very complicated and distraught reaction to her writing, maybe he even praises it, and he recounts a conversation he had with her in which he explained that her writing would never be seen as legitimate unless she wrote in, and he capitalizes it, Standard American English. He analyzes the whole thing with great compassion. Maybe he even goes into the economics of it, the class analysis of it. He’s really sad about the whole thing.

But, like, fuck man, couldn’t you have at least quoted her writing in the essay? Instead of shielding it from our supposedly delegitimizing eyes? And also: is this what has made your writing the way it is, is that why you are so good at what you do, because you are afraid of the delegitimizing eyes of white people? Because you are really good at giving the punishing eyes of white people* what they want, because you are one?

* lol maybe I should call my best-selling woman of color memoir “the punishing eyes of white people” – really I am just riffing on this Eve Sedgwick quote – towards an anti-oedipal writing?

Source: somewhatgettingoverit

Why I am no longer a skeptic

I have come to reject skepticism as an identity. Shared identities like skepticism are problematic at the best of times, for numerous reasons, but I can accept them as a means of giving power and a voice to the disenfranchised. And indeed, this is how skeptics like to portray themselves: an embattled minority standing up for science, the lone redoubt of reason in an irrational world, the vanguard against the old order of ignorance and superstition. As a skeptic, I was happy to accept this narrative and believe I was shoring up the barricades.

However, it’s a narrative that corresponds poorly with reality. In the modern world, science, technology and reason are central and vital, and this is widely recognised, including at the highest level. On any major political decision, the technocrat speaks louder than the bishop, or anyone else, for that matter. Sure, Bush and Blair were noted god-botherers, but if you seriously think that, say, Gulf War 2 was their decision alone, or that that “God wills it” would have convinced anyone they had to convince, then you’re subscribing to a cartoon view of history. Such decisions are always calculated, reasoned, and backed by dozens of accommodating scientific experts.

Science has a high media profile and a powerful lobby group: in the midst of a global recession and sweeping government cuts, science funding has generally held up or even increased. Hi-tech corporations have massive wealth and influence, and their products are omnipresent and seen as ever more desirable. In fact, the world today would be unthinkable without the products of science and technology, which have infiltrated into almost every economic, political and social process. We live in a world created by and ever-more dependent on science, technology and reason, in which scientists and engineers are a valued and indispensable elite.

That’s right: the nerds won, decades ago, and they’re now as thoroughly established as any other part of the establishment. And while nerds are a relatively new elite, they’re overwhelmingly the same as the old: rich, white, male, and desperate to hang onto what they’ve got. And I have come to realise that skepticism, in their hands, is just another tool to secure and advance their privileged position, and beat down their inferiors. As a skeptic, I was not shoring up the revolutionary barricades: instead, I was cheering on the Tsar’s cavalry.

[…read more]

Source: plover.net

Bomani Jones on the Trayvon Martin tragedy:

“Pop quiz: if Trayvon Martin were 25, would you care to know his name?

If he had just been released from prison two weeks earlier, would you care that he was dead?

Why do you care so much about what happened to this one particular young man?

I ask because so much of the outrage surrounding Martin’s shooting has to do with his age. He was 17, shot on the way home from buying a bag of Skittles and an iced tea from a corner store. The imagery is striking — this young, skinny kid, far away from home, shot dead by a vigilante while returning from buying candy for his little brother. It tugs the heart strings, and it gets attention from even those “tired of talking about race.” A boy died, and there appears to be ample reason to believe that he got shot for, literally, trying to mind his own business. It’s the rare case where race is an unavoidable variable, probably the catalyst for everything bad that happened, and there is no polarizing effect. That’s what happens when kids get shot. No one wants to be the one to condone a child being stalked like prey. It’s an easy case to get behind.

But if our victim wasn’t so pristine, not a babe in the woods, are we having this discussion?

[…read more]

(via kittensgoham-deactivated2012041)



One of the cool things about the internet, and about tumblr especially, is the way that it allows for the quick propagation of all sorts of antiracist, antisexist, antihomophobic, etc., ideas.  The appearance of sites like Color Lines, Jezebel, Racialicious, Feministe (sites which vary greatly in quality and ideological orientation), among others, have all been really important in popularizing antioppression ideas in general, and in producing a class of people able to problematize and critique oppressive discourses, especially those that can be found in popular culture.

One of the not so cool things about the internet is that it has helped to produce a class of people who are, relatively speaking, quite comfortable in their general anti-oppression stance.  Anti-oppression discourse, nowadays, isn’t even about a politics (i.e. working collectively to change the world you inhabit) as much as it is about style—about speaking the right language, using the right terms, expressing outrage at the right moment, etc.  Unlike previous generations of people discussing anti-oppression ideas, we who are members of this class don’t need to go to long, drawn-out meetings or to join activist groups in order to satisfy our desire to be against oppression.  The discussion, in many ways, comes to us—just follow the right people, read the right blogs, etc.  Anti-oppression, that is, arrives to us with the slick, polished ease of a commodity.

Without even talking about the billions of people who cannot access this kind of discourse precisely because the very late capitalism that provides us with cheap-ish computers and internet access needs to keep their wages incredibly low in order to do so, I’ll end by saying this: I believe that there’s a difference between producing evidence of oppression, explaining oppression, and fighting oppression.  One can produce evidence of oppression without being able to explain why oppression happens.  My problem with the Jezebels and Racialiciouses of the world, as well as with a lot of stuff I see around here, is that they glorify their own capacity to produce evidence about oppression without explaining it.  Or if they do explain it, the explanation tells us very little: it relies on the fact that we know oppression is bad and the fact that it feels good to know that.  This, I think, is why sarcasm works so well on Jezebel and various other liberal feminist blogs—it allows its reader to ignore the lack of analytical depth by allowing her to substitute the feeling of Knowing Better Than Someone Else Does.

You might think that people who analyze oppression professionally would at least think about the question of who benefits from oppression, a question that necessitates at least a critical view onto capitalism.  The problem is, of course, that those who produce evidence of oppression professionally have a class interest in not explaining or learning to explain who benefits from oppression.  Folks like (Racialicious founder) Carmen Van Kerckhove have found creative ways to make a living off of talking about race (and talking about talking about race) without explaining much at all save the fact that racism exists, a fact that we seem not to be able to be reminded of enough.

But the fact that an entire industry has emerged to produce evidence about oppression without doing much at all to fight it should tell us something about where we’re at in terms of capitalism.  Anti-oppression has become a commodity, too, and “we” are part of the machine by and through which that commodity is made and consumed.  I’m not trying to trivialize or downplay the existence of oppression—oppression exists, and exists on a scale any in ways I am not even in a position to know or speak about.  But I am trying to begin to understand how capitalism has enabled people—especially upwardly mobile, college educated people like me—to generate an anti-oppression discourse that allows many of us to feel as if we are doing much more to fight it than we actually are.

dammmnnn! good post, real good post

Source: lowendtheory

terry eagleton playing with my heart

Ideology is essentially a matter of meaning; but the condition of advanced capitalism, some would suggest, is one of pervasive non-meaning. The sway of utility and technology bleach social life of significance, subordinating use-value to the empty formalism of exchange-value. Consumerism by-passes meaning in order to engage the subject subliminally, libidinally, at the level of visceral response rather than reflective consciousness. In this sphere, as in the realms of the media and everyday culture, form overwhelms content, signifiers lord it over signifieds, to deliver us the blank, affectless, two-dimensional surfaces of a post-modernist social order. This massive hemorrhaging of meaning then triggers pathological symptoms in society at large: drugs, violence, mindless revolt, befuddled searches for mystical significance. But otherwise it fosters widespread apathy and docility, so that it is no longer a question of whether social life has meaning, or whether this particular signification is preferable to that, than of whether such a question is even intelligible. To talk about “significance” and “society” in the same breath just becomes a kind of category mistake, rather like hunting for the hidden meaning in a gust of wind or the hoot of an owl. From this viewpoint, it is less meaning that keeps us in place than the lack of it, and ideology in its classical sense is thus superfluous.

Ideology, after all, requires a certain depth of subjectivity on which to go to work, a certain innate receptiveness to its edicts; but if advanced capitalism flattens the human subject to  a viewing eye and a devouring stomach, then there is not even enough subjectivity around for ideology to take hold. The dwindled, faceless, depleted subjects of this social order are not up to ideological meaning, and have no need of it. Politics is less a matter of preaching or indoctrination than technical management and manipulation, form rather than content; once more, it is as though the machine runs itself, without needing to take a detour through the conscious mind. Education ceases to be a question of critical self-reflection and becomes absorbed in its turn into the technological apparatus, providing certification for one’s place within it. The typical citizen is less the ideological enthusiast shouting “Long live liberty!” than the doped, glazed telly viewer, his mind as smooth and neutrally receptive as the screen in front of him. It then becomes possible, in this cynical “left” wisdom, to celebrate this catatonic state as some cunning last-ditch resistance to ideological meaning — to revel in the very spiritual blankness of the late bourgeois order as a welcome relief from the boring old human nostalgia for truth, value and reality.

[…HOWEVER…] The case that advanced capitalism expunges all traces of “deep” subjectivity, and thus all modes of ideology, is not so much false as drastically partial. In a homogenizing gesture ironically typical of a “pluralistic” post-modernism, it fails to discriminate between different spheres of social existence, some of which are rather more open to this kind of analysis than others. It repeats the “culturalist” error of taking television, supermarket, “life style” and advertising as definitive of the late capitalist experience, and passes in silence over such activities as studying the bible, running a rape crisis center, joining the territorial army and teaching one’s children to speak Welsh. People who run rape crisis centers or teach their children Welsh also tend to watch television and shop in supermarkets; there is no question of a single form of subjectivity (or “non-subjectivity”) at stake here. The very same citizens are expected to be at one level the mere function of this or that act of consumption or media experience, and at another level to exercise ethical responsibility as autonomous, self-determining subjects. In this sense, late capitalism continues to requires a self-disciplined subject responsive to ideological rhetoric, as father, juror, patriot, employee, houseworker, while threatening to undercut these more “classical” forms of subjecthood with its consumerist and mass-cultural practice. No individual life…can survive entirely bereft of meaning, and a society which took this nihilistic road would simply be nurturing massive social disruption. Advanced capitalism accordingly oscillates between meaning and non-meaning, pitched from moralism to cynicism and plagued by the embarrassing discrepancy between the two.

terry eagleton part two

…Ideology is supposed to be decisive; and in the cynical milieu of postmodernism we are all much too fly, astute and streetwise to be conned for a moment by our own official rhetoric. It is this condition which Peter Sloterdijk names "enlightened false consciousness" — the endless self-ironizing or wide-awake bad faith of a society which has seen through its own pretentious rationalizations. One can picture this as a sort of progressive movement. First, a disparity sets in between what society does and what it says; then this performative contradiction is rationalized; next, the rationalization is made ironically self-conscious; and finally this self-ironizing itself comes to serve ideological ends. The new kind of ideological subject is no hapless victim of false consciousness, but knows exactly what he’s doing; it’s just that he continues to do it even so.

[…Irony, political humor, satire, etc,] is more likely to play into the hands of the ruling powers than to discomfort them, as Slavoj Zizek observes: “in contemporary societies, democratic or totalitarian,…cynical distance, laughter, irony, are, so to speak, part of the game. The ruling ideology is not meant to be taken seriously or literally.” It is as though the ruling ideology has already accommodated the fact that we will be skeptical of it, and reorganized its discourses accordingly. The government spokesman announces that there is no truth in the charges of widespread corruption within the Cabinet; nobody believes him; he knows that nobody believes him, we know that he knows it, and he knows this too. Meanwhile, the corruption carries on…

The capitalist who has devoured all three volumes of “Capital” knows exactly what he is doing; but he continues to behave as though he did not, because his activity is caught up in the “objective” fantasy of commodity fetishism. Sloterdijk’s formula for enlightened false consciousness is: “they know very well well what they are doing, but they carry on doing it even so.” Zizek, by contrast, suggests a crucial adjustment: “they know that, in their activity, they are following an illusion, but still, they are doing it.”

(Ideology, in other words, is not just a matter of what I think about a situation; it is somehow inscribed in that situation itself. It is no good my reminding myself that I am opposed to racism as I sit down on a park bench marked “Whites Only”; by the acting of sitting on it, I have supported and perpetuated racist ideology. The ideology, so to speak, is in the bench, not in my head.)

— from terry eagleton’s ideology

For the fundamental power of this image [that theater offers] of “another life” is that we do oversee it as we live it empathetically. In this respect, I would differentiate the power of theater and the power of film: film envelops us and puts us into its world more or less as we are visually within our own. In this, film and prose fiction are similar: they give us, by different means, the illusion of an unmediated experience. For this reason I suppose most people think of their lives — if they have reveries in this vein at all — as being like films and novels rather than plays. These are the media, at once intimate and spacious, with almost unlimited power to imitate our experience of being present in the world: the daily texture of life, the “aroundness” of space, the continuity (or the return or the lapse) of time, above all the shape we think of our life as accumulating (its crises, its ups and downs, its chapters, the slow composition of its destiny), all given the dignity of significance by an imaginary orchestra or a sympathetic narrator (oneself, of course) who understands everything about us that the world has misunderstood.

This is not the sort of “other life” offered by the play. We are more apt to say that an evening or an experience was like a play (people “create scenes” in restaurants, at parties, etc.). Obviously, I am making no categorical claims about the limits of film, fiction, and drama, or what they can or should do. Plays may very effectively imitate whole lives…and films regularly invade the dramatic province for their plots. I mean, simply, to isolate characteristics of the forms that encourage certain kinds of fiction and degrees of illusionary involvement. Theater, especially since the advent of the novel, is by and large the form designed for the brief chronicle: the crisis, the turning point, the consequence of the act or the non-act. Theater is swift (even Chekhov is swift). This swiftness has nothing to do with clock time or the suspense of the plot, but only with the fact that everything happens through the actor. This is the swiftness of condensation, of life raised to an intense power of temporal and spatial density.

[…] Thus one witnesses a play as an event in the real world as well as an illusion of an unreal world, and its realism is not simply the descriptive realism of either cinema or fiction but the weakly disguised reality of the actor and the raised platform on which he stands. The intimacy of theater is not the intimacy of being within its world, but of being present at its world’s origination under all the constraints, visible and invisible, of immediate actuality.

- Bert O. States, “Actor/Text” from Great Reckonings in Little Rooms: On the Phenomenology of Theater

[haha i love this guy! reading this book is like reading a book from my alternate universe self in grad school. he makes a lot of bold claims and analogies with not much to back it up besides wild enthusiasm and a few choice quotes off the shoulders of giants. very much my style.

i got it at myopic bookstore in chicago but it can be found just as cheap on the internet, if you’re into this sort of thing]


“I loathe blogs when I look at them. Blogs look to me illiterate, they look hasty, like someone babbling. To me writing is a considered act. It’s something which is a great labor of thought and consideration. A blog doesn’t seem to have any literary merit at all. It’s a chatty account of things that have happened to that particular person.”

Paul Theroux discusses blogging, travel writing, “Three Cups of Tea,” and his new book “The Tao of Travel.” Read the whole interview at The Atlantic. (via theatlantic)

Your blog has no literary merit.


chatty accounts have merit, and it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s “literary” or not.

— i have 292 drafts. this is one of them. i didn’t publish it because i keep thinking about it. i do believe that chatty accounts have merit, and i believe in “eliminating the distinction between high brow and low brow” — but there’s something to be said for the “literary,” also.

i think it’s a bit of a defense mechanism, being like “no! my blog matters, dammit!” because truthfully, i could be spending all of this time and energy on refining my words and grooming them for a larger audience. i guess that’s the main benefit of taking the high road (artistically): more exposure, more criticism (from people who will deal with the work at hand, instead of your person).

so i do yearn for the literary, for that distinction of being “published.” i would like to write that book, or that play. to preach equal parts euphoria and rage, to stir emotions in people, to reach for artaud’s impossible theatre.

but i also understand that my words are technically being published here. i have an audience (hello!), and i receive both positive and negative feedback…

and i really do believe in the power of the chatty account. we are fueled by conversation, gossip and anecdotes; introspection, diaries; these are our human means, which must tamed and caged on the page for public consumption.

—You know what, I just reread the Paul Theroux quote, and he sounds like a dumbass old man.

(via genericlatino)

Source: theatlantic




sure you wanna come here? [Trigger warning for rape]

[Double trigger warning for rape]

That’s absolutely disgusting but that sort of abuse of power happens everywhere. What about that police officer here who was forcing women he stopped to give him oral sex? That was handled as an internal investigation within the police department and his ‘disciplinary action’ was getting transferred to the motherfucking Fire Department. And then we elected the Police Chief who presided over it all the motherfucking mayor.

There is, literally, no place on earth where women are safe from sexual assault. There is, literally, no person we are safe with. We are raped by cops, friends, family, lovers, and strangers, in small towns and big cities, in places we “shouldn’t have been” and in our own goddamn homes. Women move through the world like it’s a battle zone, because it is for us. We know the risks and somehow we still get the fuck up out of bed every day, still go to work, still go out at night, still trust and love the people in our lives. It is a miracle that we do this. But our only other choice is not living! And make no mistake, rape is a crime of hatred by which the rapist attempts to make us all, even those of us who have never been raped, stop living. The goal is never the rape itself, the motivation is sexist hate and the goal is the annihilation of the freedom of all women.

I don’t know what all this means or what to do about it. I just know that it gets my back up to no end to hear about one more motherfucking thing we’re not supposed to do, one more place we shouldn’t go, one more “safety tip”, one more way we can supposedly protect ourselves, one more way we need to constrict our lives because we are under attack daily. Because we can’t truly outwit or outrun or “just avoid” a world that is completely motherfucking hostile towards us. That hostility needs to be systematically dismantled through feminism — yes, feminism, hallelujah!! the only body of thought that contends that women matter!! — and only then can we ever truly be safe.

This recently happened in Chicago as well: a female crack addict was raped by a Chicago police officer, his semen was found in her, she had a head wound, and her blood was on his baton, but he was acquitted because she couldn’t accurately describe the interior of his car (despite him ADMITTING in court that she had been in his car??) and because she gave 2 conflicting times: between 3 and 5 AM. This is enough to acquit a rapist? I couldn’t give you an accurate time if a cop was raping me, and it would be even worse if I was under the influence. So ladies, try not to get too near police officers too I guess.

abuse of power happens so frequently, that police officers’ defense lawyers* can use precedents that excuse their clients because (because) their actions happened in the line of duty. they reframe it, trying to make it seem not like an abuse of power, but of a man struggling with the power, and doing the job so thoroughly that he was moved to sexual assault.

or they downplay it, try to make it seem like it’s not that big of a deal, and besides, think of all the good things this cop has done. why convict him on this one “mistake”? and the defense lawyer emphasizes that — it was a mistake, whoops!

and cops get acquitted, or fined, but rarely punished “to the full extent of the law.” because they’re a little finger on its arm (duh) (stop hitting yourself stop hitting yourself)

amanda (hangtough) once made a good point about rape: it’s scary not because the men who do it are animals, or because they’re taken over by some unknown outside evil, but because they’re people. and it’s just something that a person is capable of. a friend could rape you. your husband could rape you. these are the people who rape.

rapists’ lawyers try to humanize them as much as possible, tricking the jury into thinking there’s “men” and then there’s “rapists,” this strange separate species that you would recognize immediately on the street. it’s a horrible misconception that they can take advantage of, and a lot of ‘em get acquittals.

*i know all this because of the law books i’ve been editing

a person rapes. a person in a position of power has been lended the extra disguise of uniform, the narrative of “good guy” (and there are a lot of white middle class people who still follow that narrative). i understand that there are good cops out there, but i’m wary of all of them. even though i’m law-abiding and pale, and especially because of the cases and the precedents that i’ve edited. precedents!!

(via autofluorescence-deactivated201)

Source: bunnyriver

what was your honors thesis about? is that classified info...or worse, did i already ask you this?

oo thanks for askin darlin

i wrote about the melodramatic gesture — and its power, its essence! — and how we can successfully translate 19th century melodrama (which antonin artaud called the only true theatre that ever was) into modern “naturalist” theatre. i concluded that pinter’s got it. i wrote a thing just now summarizing it but it was not as clear as i wanted it to be. so here’s a part of my introduction:

…Melodramatic tradition, with its “grandiose” gestures drawn in thick black lines, runs a risk of becoming nothing more than a presentation of dead, empty signs. Elsewhere, when it has been translated into anything outside of its original context, only its most external, physical, and rote characteristics are maintained. The true nature of melodrama is, in fact, what the melodramatic gesture signifies, rather than the sign itself: something “grandiose and ineffable” outside of the world of the play. We may see the melodramatic gesture, not as Brecht saw it, as the face of an archetype, nor as Brooks sees it, as an action which reveals moral codes underneath forms, but closer to how Artaud saw it: as dream-text, as ambiguous, as something which comes from the outside then worms its way inside like a plague. It is this life of melodrama, that which gives the melodramatic gesture its resonance, that Pinter uses to unfurl The Homecoming.

In The Homecoming, something billows out from beneath its landscape of silence – something excessive. Melodramatic gestures in The Homecoming aren’t visually recognizable as traditionally melodramatic, but they are condensed melodrama, translated into a new space of excess – that of the excessively mundane. Instead of quoting the melodramatic gesture directly, which would threaten to drain the gesture of its original potency, Pinter allows it to take on the form of the “commonplace” gesture. In this new form, Pinter’s smaller gestures are able to signify the deep wells of metaphor of the original signs.

Such a feat might not be possible if it weren’t for the fact that the entire play is contained within an extended melodramatic arrival. Pinter can only condense the melodramatic gesture and inject it into a “real” space by making the entire play pivot on a “homecoming,” one that is never fully received, always left open. The Homecoming operates on the threshold; it consists of a constant arrival […]

The melodramatic gesture does more than gesture towards meaning – it arrives at meaning. This conception of the melodramatic gesture carries with it a few new implications: one, that it does not merely reveal inherent truths, but brings them in from the outside; two, that there are multiple parties involved in the making of a melodramatic gesture (the person making the gesture and the person “receiving” or interpreting that gesture); three, that the melodramatic gesture changes both spatial and temporal understandings of the play in which it occurs. Rather than the melodramatic arrival being just another gesture, every melodramatic gesture operates on the level of arrival.

If that arrival is not contained, it is we who must receive it.

and here’s a line from “the homecoming,” to illustrate more succinctly (lol):

RUTH: You’ve forgotten something. Look at me. I…move my leg. That’s all it is. But I wear… underwear…which moves with me…it…captures your attention. Perhaps you misinterpret. The action is simple. It’s a leg…moving. My lips move. Why don’t you restrict…your observations to that? Perhaps the fact that they move is more significant…than the words which come through them. You must bear that…possibility…in mind.


dude how cool is that

ok one more excerpt from my thesis cuz i’m reading through it now (it’s been stagnant in draft 7 since last june; i want to finish editing it sometime this year to make it even clearer and more acceptable for publishing):

…it is not so much that a melodramatic gesture “reveals,” but more so that it guts. Melodramatic gesture is crucially a physical thing, not abstract. It involves the observation of insides, but more importantly, their intersection with the outside; the observation is active and violent, not passive and removed. Instead of it revealing cleanly, like peeling aluminum foil off a flank of meat, the melodramatic gesture plunges inside, pulls out the insides, displays them through a chaotic breaking of the external form. Theatre as a plague – the hidden aim of melodrama –  reveals through chaos and contingency. Melodramatic gestures do not point cleanly. They cannot signify plainly like words, preferring to use their large, seemingly unequivocal movements to signify the mess underneath.

all this is why i get so excited when i see dramatic poses and explorations of physical forms on tumblr.com.

the roots of queer subcultures/identities (in 50s-60s usa)

…powerful creators of social definitions in the 1950s such as medical men and political leaders now declared with unprecedented vehemence that those who could love others of the same sex were beings apart from the rest of humanity: They not only loved homosexually; they were homosexuals. As insistent and widespread as that view now was, many women who loved other women believed they had little option but to accept that definition of themselves. The choice of love object determined more than ever before a social identity as well as a sexual identity.

The dichotomy between homosexual and heterosexual was not only firmly drawn but, since homosexuals were of great interest to the media as sick or subversive, knowledge of homosexuality was more widely disseminated than at any previous time in history. Since one who loved the same sex was “a homosexual” and shunned in “normal” society, it became important to many who identitified themselves as lesbian to establish a separate society, a subculture, both to avoid exposure such as would be risked in socializing with heterosexuals, and to provide a pool of social and sexual contacts, since presumably such contacts could not be obtained in the “normal” society at large.

It is not accurate to speak of “a lesbian subculture,” since there were various lesbian subcultures in the 1950s and ’60s, dependent especially on class and age. […] But despite differences, what [they] shared was not only the common enemy of homophobia, but also the tremendous burden of conceptualizing themselves with very little history to use as guidelines.

[…] With little help from the generations who went before them, they had to find ways to exist and be nurtured in an environment that they had to build outside of the larger world that they knew disdained them.

- An excerpt from Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America by Lillian Faderman (bolded parts where i went “ooo”)