Writing Prompts for November 30

Models

Daisy Hernández writes, “I turned to my book shelves and started studying nonfiction books for the ways that other authors had mixed journalism with memoir.” What texts might you turn to as models for the techniques or form you’re aiming for with your project? What do you think you can learn from these texts?

Research

For Hollywood’s Eve, Anolik’s interviews with Babitz were a major source. She writes, “I was so ardent, and I was so crazed. I read the book and I just chased her. I pursued her for years.”

Anolik’s research was directly tied to her motive for writing—to create an antidote to the “focus on her relationships to sex and celebrity” central to most accounts of Babitz’s life. In addition to her interviews with Babitz, Anolik read books she read, interviewed other people in her life, tracked down short pieces she’d published over the years, examined photographs, read histories of Los Angeles and of feminism.

What kinds of research will your project entail? How does that research follow from your motives for writing?

Stance

Every narrator adopts a stance in relation to audience. Describing the stance of his most recent book, Little Devils in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, Hanif Abdurraqib explains his very specific choices: “I did not want the book to be propelled by pain or trauma or grief. I wanted it to be propelled by celebration and an understanding that people’s full lives are more than just what they’ve endured.” He makes a choice not to “escape the centering of whiteness” and, instead, to celebrate black culture. By implication, Abdurraqib eschews the default white audience that so much American writing assumes. (Analogously, Anolik eschews the traditional objective stance of the biographer and celebrates subjectivity instead.)

What qualities do you want to propel your project? What stance do you want to carve for yourself? How will your choices define your relation to your audience?

MFA Event: torrin a. greathouse

 

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwocOuupjsqEtHuh0gSUw2MvAKXG7iTa2pm

torrin a. greathouse

torrin a. greathouse (she/they) is a transgender, cripple-punk, MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. Her work is published in POETRY, Ploughshares, & The Kenyon Review. They have received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Effing Foundation, Zoeglossia, and the University of Arizona Poetry Center. They are the author of two chapbooks, Therǝ is a Case That I Ɐm (Damaged Goods, 2017) and boy/girl/ghost (TAR Chapbook Series, 2018), and the debut collection Wound from the Mouth of a Wound (Milkweed Editions, 2020).

Website: 

https://www.torringreathouse.com/

Twitter: 

https://twitter.com/tagreathouse

Poetry Foundation: 

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/torrin-a-greathouse#tab-poems

NPR Interview: 

https://www.npr.org/2020/12/28/946850500/poetry-escapes-the-beauty-bind-in-wound-from-the-mouth-of-a-wound

Excerpt from Wound from the Mouth of a Wound:

https://lithub.com/two-poems-by-torrin-a-greathouse/ 

Harvard Review of Wound from the Mouth of a Wound

https://harvardreview.org/book-review/wound-from-the-mouth-of-a-wound/

Wound from the Mouth of a Wound can be purchased online here: 

https://milkweed.org/book/wound-from-the-mouth-of-a-wound

Ian Hacking on the DSM

Ian Hacking is a Canadian philosopher who writes a lot about the history and politics of mental health and illness–how they’re defined, how those definitions evolve, and how they affect people’s lives.

In 2013, after the publication of the DSM V–the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual psychologists use to diagnose people–Hacking published “Lost in the Forest” in The London Review of Books. The essay is smart and readable. If you get a chance, read it before class. We’ll read some passages during class. It will be interesting to consider Forney’s representation of the DSM in relation to Hacking’s arguments about it–and the historical context he provides.

Climate Change Vocabulary on The Brian Lehrer Show

Hi everybody,

Here’s that segment on climate chge and vocabulary. Shockingly neither Julia Kristeva or Ariel Francisco comes up! Kidding aside, the research is interesting, and it’s not much of a stretch to say it’s all about figuring out how to make catastrohphic changes to the climate fathomable–or, in Kristeva’s terms, integrating them into the symbolic order. And surely poetry like Francisco’s has a role to play in that process too.

 

Julia Kristeva on Abjection

In his introduction to his book Stand-Up Comedy in Theory, or Abjection in America, John Limon builds on psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva’s theory about abjection and identity. He writes, “I mean by abjection two things. First, I mean what everybody means by it: abasement, groveling, prostration. Second, I mean by it what Julia Kristeva means: a psychic worrying about those aspects of oneself that one cannot be ride of, that seem, but are not quite, alienable–fore example, blood, urine, feces, nails, and the corpse.” Kristeva developed her theory of abjection in a book entitled Powers of Horror (1980). (See our Documents page for the full text. And, by the way, when Kristeva brings in nails, she means fingernail or toenail trimmings!)

Because Limon quotes Kristeva briefly, I decided we should go to the source. I give you two excerpts from Powers of Horror (out of order). We can consider them in relation to Minhaj’s and Notaro’s comedy–but also in relation to our reading all semester. If we buy Kristeva’s claims about abjection’s relation to identity, then how might it be involved in the autobiographical representation of identity–in Zauner, Baldwin, Brainard, or Francisco? In writing we’ll read later, like Forney and Babitz? Or any other autobiographers you’re interested in? To expand on Limon’s claim, we’ll need to dig into some Kristeva and do a little close reading.

1.

Food loathing is perhaps the most elementary and most archaic form of abjection. When the eyes see or the lips touch that skin on the surface of milk—harmless, thin as a sheet of cigarette paper, pitiful as a nail paring—I experience a gagging sensation and, still farther down, spasms in the stomach, the belly; and all the organs shrivel up the body, provoke tears and bile, increase heartbeat, cause forehead and hands to perspire. Along with sight-clouding dizziness, nausea makes me balk at that milk cream, separates me from the mother and father who proffer it. “I” want none of that element, sign of their desire; “I” do not want to listen, “I” do not assimilate it, “I” expel it. But since the food is not an “other” for “me,” who am only in their desire, I expel myself, I spit myself out, I abject myself within the same motion through which “I” claim to establish myself. That detail, perhaps an insignificant one, but one that they ferret out, emphasize, evaluate, that trifle turns me inside out, guts sprawling; it is thus that they see that “I” am in the process of becoming an other at the expense of my own death, During that course in which “I” become, I give birth to myself amid the violence of sobs, of vomit. Mute protest of the symptom, shattering violence of a convulsion that, to be sure, is inscribed in a symbolic system, but in which, without either wanting or being able to become integrated in order to answer to it, it reacts, it abreacts. It abjects.

The corpse (or cadaver: cadere, to fall), that which has irremediably come a cropper, is cesspool, and death; it upsets even more violently the one who confronts it as fragile and fallacious chance. A wound with blood and pus, or the sickly, acrid smell of sweat, of decay, does not signify death. In the presence of signified death—a flat encephalograph, for instance—I would understand, react, or accept. No, as in true theater, without makeup or masks, refuse and corpses show me what I perma- nently thrust aside in order to live. These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being. My body extricates itself, as being alive, from that border. Such wastes drop so that I might live, until, from loss to loss, nothing remains in me and my entire body falls beyond the limit—cadere, cadaver. If dung signifies the other side of the border, the place where I am not and which permits me to be, the corpse, the most sickening of wastes, is a border that has encroached upon everything. It is no longer I who expel, “I” is expelled. The border has become an object. How can I be without border? That elsewhere that I imagine beyond the present, or that I hallucinate so that I might, in a present time, speak to you, conceive of you—it is now here, jetted, abjected, into “my” world. Deprived of world, therefore, I fall in a faint. In that compelling, raw, insolent thing in the morgue’s full sunlight, in that thing that no longer matches and therefore no longer signifies anything, I behold the breaking down of a world that has erased its borders: fainting away. The corpse, seen without God and outside of science, is the utmost of abjection. It is death infecting life. Abject. It is something rejected from which one does not part, from which one does not protect oneself as from an object. Imaginary uncanniness and real threat, it beckons to us and ends up engulfing us. (33-34)

2.

There looms, within abjection, one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable. It lies there, quite close, but it cannot be assimilated. It beseeches, worries, and fascinates desire, which, nevertheless, does not let itself be se- duced. Apprehensive, desire turns aside; sickened, it rejects. A certainty protects it from the shameful—a certainty of which it is proud holds on to it. But simultaneously, just the same, that impetus, that spasm, that leap is drawn toward an elsewhere as tempting as it is condemned. Unflaggingly, like an inescapable boomerang, a vortex of summons and repulsion places the one haunted by it literally beside himself. (1)

Felicia Rose Chavez–November 17

The QC MFA Program in Creative Writing & Literary Translation will host Felicia Rose Chavez, author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, on November 17. See details below.

FeliciaChaveztalk2021

 

 

 

Felicia Rose Chavez is an award-winning educator with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom and co-editor of The BreakBeat Poets Volume 4: LatiNEXT with Willie Perdomo and Jose Olivarez. Felicia’s teaching career began in Chicago, where she served as Program Director to Young Chicago Authors and founded GirlSpeak, a feminist webzine for high school students. She went on to teach writing at the University of New Mexico, where she was distinguished as the Most Innovative Instructor of the Year, the University of Iowa, where she was distinguished as the Outstanding Instructor of the Year, and Colorado College, where she received the Theodore Roosevelt Collins Outstanding Faculty Award. Her creative scholarship earned her a Ronald E. McNair Fellowship, a University of Iowa Graduate Dean’s Fellowship, a Riley Scholar Fellowship, and a Hadley Creatives Fellowship. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, she currently serves as the Creativity and Innovation Scholar-in-Residence at Colorado College.

 

Website: 

http://www.feliciarosechavez.com/

 

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/writeantiracist?lang=en

 

The Rumpus Miniature Interview Project: https://therumpus.net/2021/06/the-rumpus-mini-interview-project-felicia-rose-chavez/

 

Latino Book Review of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: 

https://www.latinobookreview.com/the-anti-racist-writing-workshop-how-to-decolonize-the-creative-classroom—8203felicia-rose-chavez–latino-book-review.html

 

Excerpt from The Anti-Writing Workshop, “How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom”: 

https://www.goodriverreview.com/post/excerpt-from-the-anti-racist-writing-workshop-how-to-decolonize-the-creative-classroom

 

The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop can be purchased online here:

https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1552-the-anti-racist-writing-workshop

Brainstorming for a 2021 Edition of ‘I Remember’

Possible Editors and/or Commentators

Samuel Delaney

Jacqueline Woodson

Robert Reid-Pharr

Kazim Ali

Siri Hustvedt

Ariel Francisco

Kimiko Hahn

Paul Legault

Possible Essay Topics

  • Queer text ahead of its time in its portrayal of sex and sexuality
  • What do we choose to reproduce and how does construct our sense of history–who is remembered, how and why? Emphasizing race and gender?
  • Influential formal technique
  • Portrait of suburban, white America in the 50s and 60s
  •  The effects of the AIDS pandemic on American ar
  • Portrait of experimental / avant garde New York City artists in late 60s and 70s
  • Memory and the act of remembering
  • Examination of American masculinity in the 50s, 60s, and 70s
  • Essay that contexutalizes and challenges Brainard’s representation of racism

Marketing

 

Paratexts

  • Move Padget to foreword
  • Facing pages with creative translations, maybe funny?
  • Creative endnotes
  • Online mock encyclopedia / wikipedia
  • A series of essays at the end
  • New blurbs for back cover–updated!

 

 

 

…An intellectual is someone who tries to figure out what is true by means of the best processes available, and uses them in a rational, disciplined way to try to avoid deluding himself. . . . [C]onsider a general situation of looking for the truth: you have a pile of conflicting assertions about some matter and you want to know which are true. There are two basic games you can use, the doubting game and the believing game. . . . The believing game also proceeds by indirection. Believe all the assertions. .  .  . In the believing game the first rule is to refrain from doubting the assertions, and for this reason you take them one at a time and in each case try to put the others out of your head. You
don’t want them to fight each other. This is not the adversary method.

–Peter Elbow, “The Doubting Game and the Believing Game— An Analysis of the Intellectual Enterprise” (from Writing Without Teachers) *See our Documents page for a longer excerpt.

Doubting

  • Find internal contradictions
  • Find lapses in logic
  • Doubt even reasonable assertions
  • Look for imprecision
  • Look for mistakes
  • Uncover hidden (and not-so-hidden) assumptions and question them
  • Compare with your own experiences, reading, and observation to find places of dissonance with proposition
  • Consider negative implications of proposition
  • Consider what good may be accomplished by doubting
Believing

  • Don’t doubt any assertions
  • Enter into the skin of a person with other perceptions
  • Remain open; be willing to change your mind (at least during game)
  • Find ways to believe by metaphor, analogies, association
  • Find reasons that it makes sense to agree with the proposition
  • Consider positive implications of proposition
  • Consider what good may be accomplished by believing