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November 2, 2006

This I Believe

Some of my students may choose this essay structure for their fourth and final project of the semester. I've had periodic conversations among friends about creating a group blog as an experiment in public writing (discourse), community-building, and dissensus-for-social-change (I just invented this term, smile). As an outgrowth of these conversations, Ambarish posted a quote from Arundhati Roy concerning the role of writers and artists in society? I responded at his site, but the notion of writers as artists intrigues me. In particular, I've been thinking about the performance aspect of writing in a public space where people who know me can measure my way in the world, face-to-face, with what I write about and how I write it.

The public display of writing as myself (not with an alias, not to an audience exclusively of strangers) has been of interest to me since I began the blog under Leda's clear perception five years ago. Five freaking years!! It seems impossible. I've fielded questions about "why" many times (hopefully becoming more clear each time, at least for myself if not satisfactorily so for readers), and blundered through more instances of social inetiquette than I care to recount. :-/

The one class I'm sitting in on (now that I'm DONE WITH COMPS!!!) is on Performance and Public Culture. It's the first course of its kind here at UMass and is filled with an eclectic and hilarious bunch of brilliant characters. I'm honored to be there, squeezed into a corner seated on a nested pair of upended recycling bins. :-)

As a marginal performer in the class (meaning I am under no requirement to perform - eat your heart out!), I've become more selective about what I say, when, etc. (Some of my peers may wish I'd had such discretion when I did have to perform. Self-tease, HA!) The class has exchanged some intense email (a partial response awaits in my draft file) about gender, when/where/how the performative can be questioned/challenged (formally - as in when expected, and/or informally - everyday, when not necessarily expected), and the extent to which politics must conform to what appears to be the dominant norm or strike out more radically in a different direction.

[Tangent: Grad Lounge. Glass of red wine. Miguel. "I was born at night but not last night." Dan tried to convince me that Einstein accomplished a lot on his own. Yes, but he was also stopped by his own limitations! "God does not play dice with the universe." Einstein saw relativity but could not go there by himself. We're only going to get beyond our limitations with each other. These guys are setting up the stage for karaoke, piano, poetry recitation, etc. Show starts at 7. So does my class.]

The point? Life is real. It happens now. I could have dissed these guys but they appeared. Gotta honor 'em. That's the risk zone. Allow myself (my plans, intentions) to be changed by their presence.

I'm thinking I'll write a "This I Believe" essay too. I've been getting closer to my own sense/definition of agency. Briankle complimented a sentence I wrote in a comps answer, something to the effect of "Agency requires freedom." Last week I wrote: "This I believe: the only transgressive zone in our de-authorized world is personal risk."

Time to make the case.

Posted by Steph at November 2, 2006 6:33 PM


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