Burning the Old Year
Source: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995)
I had revealed to them, though I didn't know it then, the great payoff of literary study: It estranges us from our normal habits of thought and perception, nullifies old conceptual maps, and so propels us into uncharted regions, outlandish and bracing, where we must create, if we are to thrive, coordinates more capacious, more sublime than the ones we already know. The uncanny—not truth, beauty, or goodness—is literature's boon.
. . .
Shelley articulates literature's invigorating disorientation: "Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar." But the result of that alienation is not only an aesthetic rush; it is also a moral life. In shocking us into awareness, poetry urges us to relate to the world in fresh ways. The problem is, How do I connect my own mind, relatively familiar, with what is before me, enticingly bizarre?
Shelley answers: Imagine what it's like to be what you perceive. To accomplish that connection requires "a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own." I take that to mean that the more distinctly we imagine the plight of another, the more empathy we feel, and the more beauty we appreciate. As Shelley put it, "The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause."
. . .
Walker Percy once wrote that our educational system has lost the "creature," treating specimens, whether Shakespearean sonnets or dissected frogs, merely as "examples" of ideas—of Poetry or Anatomy. We don't see the particular for the general, the trees for the forest. Percy recommends that biology teachers bring sonnets to class, and English professors, frogs: to stun abstraction, ignite the concrete.
I'm too cowardly to tote amphibians down the hall. But I continue to hope that during a Monday-morning class, when the weather and the mood are right, I can chant Keats's reverie of the "murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves" and a drowsy student will jerk awake. Green-blue bugs will buzz eerily in his head. Suddenly nothing is right. Something has happened.
Clearly, the fact that law schools have produced an enormous oversupply of people with law degrees over the course of the last generation has an extremely significant gender component. These statistics raise all sorts of questions, and in particular this one: To what extent has legal academia’s over-expansion depended on the exploitation of the career aspirations of women in particular? Note that there’s all sorts of evidence that egalitarian gender practices in regard to law school admissions have had a remarkably muted effect in regard to making law less of a male-dominated profession (For example, 35 years after women started going to law school in numbers not much smaller than men, 85% of the partners and 95% of the managing partners at large law firms are men).
Have law schools managed to expand far beyond the actual economic demand for law degrees in large part because of an always unstated and usually unconscious assumption that comparatively large numbers of women law graduates would drop out of the profession within a few years of graduation? One of the very few longitudinal studies of law graduate career paths suggests strongly this is the case. This study of the University of Virginia Law School class of 1990 found that while, 17 years after graduation, 98.7% of the men who responded to the survey were working full-time, approximately 63% of the women respondents who had had at least one child were not practicing law full-time. (By contrast, there was literally no correlation between the number of children a man had had and the likelihood that he would be employed full-time).
The key issue here is the sense of what cannot be analyzed or explained. A major act of interpretation gets nearer and nearer to the heart of the work, and it never comes too near. The exciting distance of a great interpretation is the failure, the distance, where it is helpless. But its helplessness is dynamic, is itself suggestive, eloquent and articulate. The best acts of reading are acts of incompletion, acts of fragmentary insight, of that which refuses paraphrase, metaphrase; which finally say, “The most interesting in all this I haven't been able to touch on.” But which makes that inability not a humiliating defeat or a piece of mysticism but a kind of joyous invitation to reread. - George Steiner
Out there walking round, looking out for food,
a rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack
plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,
barely getting by,
no food out there on dusty slopes of scree—
carry some—look for some,
go for a hungry dream.
Deer bone, Dall sheep,
bones hunger home.
Out there somewhere
a shrine for the old ones,
the dust of the old bones,
old songs and tales.
What we ate—who ate what—
how we all prevailed.
November 9, 1938
I've read the story carefully and, Frances, I'm afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You've got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.
This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child's passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway's first stories "In Our Time" went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In "This Side of Paradise" I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.
The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he'll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.
That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is "nice" is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the "works." You wouldn't be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.
In the light of this, it doesn't seem worth while to analyze why this story isn't saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,
Your old friend,
F. Scott Fitzgerald
P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.
I am starting to experiment more with Twitter. Perhaps I am just 800 years old, but for some reason it just always confused me. How am I supposed to keep up with it? Do I just go to the site all the time? Can't it just be a part of my Google Reader along with everything else? There are so many things to read!!
I just discovered Tweetdeck.com,which is helpful--you can organize tweets into columns that you define. And, I'm starting to look into using both Twitter and Tweetdeck as professional development tools. I can follow specific peeps that I like (Jim Burke, what!). And, miracle of miracles, I'm starting to get hashtag chats. I know, I know, welcome to the future, Vanessa. But, it was HARD.
Anyway, #Edchat is something that everyone seems to love and recommend, so it's one of the things I'm starting with. Now, if I can just remember to actually log in sometimes, I'll be golden.
There are about 70 education chats working for specific focuses. There are several hundred hashtags used to identify education-specific tweets. #Edchat continues at noon and 7 p.m. Eastern each Tuesday with different topics. The topics are determined by a poll including five topics that is posted each Sunday and remains open until Tuesday. The No. 1 choice becomes the 7 p.m. topic, and the noon #Edchat covers the second-place topic. A team moderates each #Edchat to keep things moving and focused.
The rankings are based on five general categories:post graduate success (32.5%), which evaluates alumni pay and prominence, student satisfaction (27.5%), which includes professor evaluations and freshman to sophomore year retention rates, debt (17.5%), which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates, four-year graduation rate (11.25%) and competitive awards (11.25%), which rewards schools whose students win prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Rhodes, the Marshall and the Fulbright or go on to earn a Ph.D.Their full methodology is here.
To meet our insatiable appetite for coherent meaning, we unpack a whole scene out of a sensation, say, or make sense of a sudden movement of a limb by inventing a cliff down which we are falling. The fact that we can make a sort of sense out of whatever is served up to us is an interesting sidelight on the question of the relationship between the real and the rational: whatever we can rationalise may seem real to us, and whatever seems real to us we try to rationalise – with impressive rates of success. The division within our (mind-constructed) dreams between the ‘I’ that is making sense of what is there, and the ‘there’ that is made sense of – so that we can even wait tensely for what happens next – is particularly striking.From "Notes Toward a Philosophy of Sleep," by Raymond Tallis in Philosophy Now
In despair, Manfredi decided to try to call attention to the peril facing Italian culture by turning his own collection into a flock of “sacrificial lambs.” He took pictures of the museum’s collection and sent photocopies—a brick 1,000 pages high—to Italy’s culture minister and to the president of the Campania region, around Naples. The package was a ransom note. If he didn’t receive assistance, he warned, he would set the pieces on fire, one by one. “It’s simple,” he told me. “If nobody cares about the art that’s inside the museum, then I’ll burn it.” In February, he started the burning with one of his own creations: a series of five life-size, full-body posters of Mafia fugitives, which had been displayed in the Italian pavilion of the 2011 Venice Biennale.
Stöfhas’s painting is the fifth work Manfredi has put to the torch, and the fourth in less than a week. Inside the museum hang the remains of a painting of a flower by the French artist Séverine Bourguignon: blackened crossbars, with fringes of canvas peeling back from the edge of the frame like flesh around a wound. Another work, a wood sculpture by an Italian artist named Rosaria Matarese, now consists of two chunks of carbonized wood, one impaled by a large blackened nail. Of the others, only ashes are left.
Before destroying a piece, Manfredi gets permission from the artist. Stöfhas is watching her painting burn via Skype from Germany; her face is visible on the screen of a laptop held aloft by one of the museum’s volunteers.
. . .
In the age of YouTube and Twitter, Manfredi’s protest has resonated across Europe. Artists in the U.K., Germany, Hungary, and northern Italy are burning their works and sending him videos in solidarity. “Maybe this was the spark,” Manfredi says. “Remember, revolutions need fire, like what happened in Tunisia. That fruit vendor set himself on fire, and then everything exploded.”
Some parts of the body are protected. Women wear a chest plate, made of plastic, and shaped like breasts, as if women wear perky Victoria's Secret bras while they fence, instead of sports bras that flatten them. Even in the Olympics you can see these rounded cups through the lame and jacket.
As a poet, sometimes I feel this way, that I've geared up like a poet, but that my lines about motherhood, about sex, my method of engagement, my very words, have flagged me as a woman poet, and then I'm standing there with plastic breasts that are the same size and shape as every other woman poet.
But if our breasts matter at all, our breasts are different.
Poetry is dangerous. It can be. We don't typically use the word danger. We use words like risks and stakes. The risks of the poet and the stakes of the poem. But danger is implicit, sometimes explicit.
I've always valued the danger in poetry. I might value it above all else. Be it a weakness or a strength, it is a symptom of my fighting heart which led me to fencing in the first place.
Lacan and Lynch
For Lacan, a link exists between impossibility and what he calls the real. Within every symbolic order, the real occupies the place of what cannot be thought or imagined - the position of the impossible. The real is not reality but the failure of the symbolic order to explain everything. When seen in this light, the impossible is not materially impossible but rather logically impossible as long as we remain within the current social structure. In Seminar XVII, Lacan claims that "the real is the impossible. Not on account of a simple stumbling block against which we bang our heads, but because of the logical stumbling block of what announces itself as impossible in the symbolic. It is from there that the real arises." What is impossible in the symbolic order is, in the real, perfectly achievable. It is in this sense of the term impossible that Lynch's films allow us to experience it actually taking place. They thus provide a fundamental challenge to the ruling symbolic structure, forcing us to see possibilities where we are used to seeing impossibilitities. - Todd McGowan
the ways that educators, especially teachers, can begin to make the instructional practices and routines in their classrooms more open to collegial conversation and collective inquiry, or more "public."
I think it's important that, as new teachers, we are doing all we can to participate in and to foster these sorts of learning environments. Even though[g]ood teaching, skilled instructional leadership, effective administration all require a willingness to invite conversation, inquiry, and collaborative analysis of the everyday patterns of one’s practice.
We certainly need to encourage structural implementation of these conditions in our schools, districts, and states.to effectively create change for students, this can’t be an individual action, but rather needs to be deliberatively fostered by organizational systems which put in place conditions designed to support educators in this process of deprivatizing—or making public—their work.
For instance, such conditions might include:
- creating time for professionals to talk with one another as part of their work day.
- ensuring that professional development is built around opportunities to observe practice, have conversations about it, and then safely try it out.
- making it safe for professionals to admit areas in which they are engaged in their own learning and development.
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