Feb 03 2011

Blog 1: Introduction Kheran Panday

Hey Everyone!

I am a senior and an English major with an Econ minor, (yes my Econ classes are dead compared to my English classes). I love watching dramas like Mad Men, U.S of Tara, True Blood, Spartacus, anything that isn’t suitable for a child audience. One of my pet peeves is Cunyfirst’s existence, secondly would be questions that have answers staring one in the face that wast precious time in dire situations. The world is full of crap at the moment and crappy happenings, so my hero would have to be the common man/woman who has accepted the fate of her/his life but lives it like it is the only life worth living, basically a drone in any country who has no regard for the latest anything, but whose enjoyment comes from the constants in his life. Yes, that may have looked like a whole load of ¬†(____), but get used to it, we are spending a semester together and “I meant what I said and I said what I meant” (Dr. Seuss). Due to the dire crisis Cunyfirst has plagued our campus with I am currently just aspiring to get out of this College in one piece come June. After that I will aspire to take it one step at a time and make the best decisions I can make with my life, with that’s a post-bachelor’s something either in Law or English.

Don’t worry, I am looking forward to getting to know all of you as well as the class seems like a promising bunch ūüėČ

Cheers,

Kheran

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Dec 20 2010

The Non-consensual Depiction of Incest in Kathryn Harrison‚Äôs ‚ÄúThe Kiss‚ÄĚ

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Dec 08 2010

Reflections on 391W

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Discussing Autobiography in this class has introduced me to a profound way of looking at myself and what can be said about oneself with varied consequences. Text that really stood out to me were Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss, Tim O’Brien’s The Things We Carried, Linda Anderson’s Autobiography,¬†and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Anderson’s analytic work in particular really impacted me because it pieced apart the elements that go into Autobiographical writing, the process beforehand and the process after. Harrison’s work really created controversial debates for me that I am writing about in my paper and will forever influence my views on life writing and the consequences of choosing certain content. I was often taught to analyze the text and not what the author was possibly thinking or what of their life experiences shaped them to write what they did, however this class provided me with the authority to keep those things in consideration as it was non-fiction work, mostly.

O’Brien’s work taught me an extremely valuable lesson at the beginning of the semester, that it is the desired impact you carried from your experiences that you want your audience to take away with them, not the fixation with factual acuteness of events. His work as well created controversy as readers and critics accused him of violating the¬†privilege¬†a writer takes on when writing autobiography of being allowed to tap into a high level of trust and believability within their audience. However, it can also be argues that the writer is also connecting and opening themselves up to public scope, so how they chose to portray their stories should definitely be within their reigns.

Bechdel’s work along with much of the reading this semester dealt with trauma, but her handling of it was extremely sobering and nuanced as she reacted in an unfamiliarized way to her fathers death. She was unable to react and socially familiar way of crying and feeling extremely vulnerable or depressed and withdrawn. Bechdel’s memory of her father being the focus of her memoir challenged the traditional grieving process many people are used to in that she had private moments of violence or anger regarding her fathers death. She also explored her own connection to him not only textually but graphically. Her work allowed her to draw parallels between herself and father rather than fixate on his absence. She gives away at the beginning of the memoir that he is death, familiarizing the reader in every way with the concept of death and losing someone close to you and thus she defamiliarizes our traditional concept of death at the same time as her portrayal of her father isn’t entirely sympathetic, but realist and sobering.

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Dec 08 2010

Digital Biography

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“Underlying this question is, once again, the need to distinguish between the accumulation of data and the conscious act of organizing it and giving it shape that is at the heart of biography” ( Arthur 78).

Arthur pinpoints the misconception behind what digital biography is. It is definitely an accumulation of data or stored knowledge of our activities and proclivities, but it is without artistic portrayal or organization. Grafting this information and depicting it in an aesthetically consumptive light is the difference between autobiography and digital biography. Also, digital biography, like facebook for example is a generically stylized way of ‘biographing’ our information, there is nothing unique and individualized about it except for it being about one particular person. The artistry absent in digital biography lays in our ability to portray exactly and intentionally the way we want it seen and absorbed by a reader or viewer.

My experience with Facebook and Myspace go back to the latter part of my senior year in high school five years ago. My experience with it then is that I do not view it as any sort of definitive biography, but simply as a way to store information and key points in my life I may later utilize to actually create something meaningfully definitive about myself or my story. Facebook itself is constantly changing and so is the information I provide my profile with, it is still a wonderful tool to express oneself publically, but with immediate reactions from other users. It isn’t a scholarly space and if there is something artistically expressive and acclaimed on there, it is usually from an actual outside artistic event. It is crucial to reiterate Arthur’s point that the real art of life-writing lay outside the scope and control of digital biography.

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Dec 01 2010

Jamaica Kincaid & Natasha Trethewey

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Trethewey’s opening poem entitled “Theories of Time and Space” is very reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid’s “A Small Place” because they both address the reader in the second person. Kincaid also opens her book with second person perspective talking to her reader as though they were a tourist, aiding in insightful directions about what to pay attention to upon arrival. There is of course her sarcastic tone towards the tourist and simultaneously towards government officials in her island nation. Trethewey also does this with the first poem in her book, advising the reader what to bring with them on their journey to a place unspecified. A lot of her poems speak from memory, stirring together location and time into one constant, or backdrop. With this in mind, she focuses on the sentimental parts of her memory that evoke emotion. An example of this is in her poem “Genus Narcissus” where she describes bringing home flowers to her mother that will eventually wilt and die realizing that by giving them to her mother she’s saying : “ Die early, to my mother” (22). ¬†With the Narcissus flower, Trethewey combines the elements of time and location, describing a familiar walk home from school as a child and presenting a flower to her mother that invokes thoughts of death in the future. There is guilt presented in this poem through the above mentioned line, and irreconcilableness with her past. Kincaid also bares similar negative or dark emotions through her work as she criticizes throughout her book the failures of her Government and the foreigners in her country.

Another poem that focuses on location for Trethewey is “Pilgrimage”, which focuses on Vicksburg, Mississippi. Like Kincaid, there is a worried tone in her writing as both of them insinuate the unclear and troubled future for these places that they are attached to. Trethewey refers to the historic nature of this city and how death is memorialized there with living coming only to gawk at artifacts of the dead. Similarly, Kincaid focuses on the ruined past of Antigua and the repercussions of slavery and imperialism which still bare it’s affects in the present moment of her writing. Both these authors pose a question to the reader, which can be cited from Trethewy’s poem: “what is to become / of all the living things in this place?” (17-18). Their identities are tied to these locations and geographic places by problems that still reverberate their like racism and past grievances. They focus on their experiences in these places and what problems still remain there and how the past can not be let go of, nor will it let go of them. Trethewey metions this in the last line of “Pilgrimage”: “In my dream,/ the ghost of history lies down beside me,/ rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.” (36-37). History is more of a burden in this line and an oppressive force than just a story of what was or happened. Similarly, Kincaid uses history in this matter, depicting it as a source of what was wrong and is presently wrong with Antigua. Their identities are a forlorn writings about their past and their grievous personal and historical experiences.

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Nov 24 2010

Research Paper (First Half)

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Nov 17 2010

A Small Place

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Jamaica Kincaid takes on an immediately sarcastic and condescending tone which throws the reader off immediately. It throws one off because this is a work of non-fiction and Kincaid is virulently unpleasant in describing her ‘Antigua’ from the dual perspective of a tourist and her own history of her island nation from the start. She right away diminishes and belittle’s the point of view of a tourist. In a meaningful way she aligns this perspective with that of the English, as needing to feel better than someone else. The tourist is consumed with being liked in a far away idealized and exoticized land while the English are described as hating each other and hating England “and the reason they are so miserable now is that they have no place else to go and nobody else to feel better than” ( Kincaid 24). This implies a sort of oppression that Antigua has faced since before ’emancipation’. She even furthers this oppression with the statement: “For the language of the criminal can contain only the goodness of the criminal’s deed. The language of the criminal can explain and express the deed only from the criminal’s point of view” (Kincaid 32). Kincaid is stating that she has no other language to deliver her ¬†“jeremiad” (Rushdie) in, therefore English only illuminates the point of view of the criminal or the English people and still manages to control and oppress the injustice her voice embodies for her island nation.

There is a¬†sinewy bond she shares with her island through her tirade against it’s corruption. Her voice captures this, her identity is tied to the library she feels betrayed for and about. ¬†Kincaid movingly describes how Antigua has the world and the world’s needs forced upon it paid for by Antiguans and the misgivings heaped upon them, the empty promises.

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Nov 10 2010

“Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel

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Watson’s essay poses the concept that Bechdel’s autographic work Fun Home is a visual and verbal narrative that utilizes these modes of life writing in distinct ways to explore her relationship with her father and their congruent sexual identities. The allusory narrative writing technique Bechdel employs is parlleled by visual aids, but nonetheless requires recursive reading style where the reader must constantly bridge the allusions to the text. The comic sequence is a parallel to the text more than it is a definition of the text. It does not define these allusion which in turn define the relationship she shares with her father and her perception of him and of that bond. That Watson quotes Whitlock in calling the narrative ‘autographic’ is extremely pertinent in defining this subgenre of lifewriting. This terminology thus supports her quote of Chute and DeKoven as calling comics ‘cross-discursive’ because it is composed of two means of life writing that ‘remain distinct’, thus they are parallels that complement each other but both tell the same story in their own way. They remain distinct in their differing means to employ Bechdel’s story.

I definitely agree with this interpretation by Watson of Bechdel’s use of comics and narrative. Her description of their relationship as separate but definitive nonetheless accurately describes Bechdel. Bechdel’s graphics of her father reading Proust and her allussions to Proust have two very different implications in defining her fathers comparison to Proust that compel the reader to look outside the text and read Proust or to have background knowledge on the subject.

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Nov 03 2010

The Kiss

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The memoir opens with a very strong descriptive image of Harrison embracing her father. There seems to be a hidden affirmation of the kiss buy presenting her memoir with that specific memory. The novel itself has incited a lot of controversy due to her portrayal of the matter along with a lot of¬†bigoted¬†controversy simply because she is a woman talking about incest. Her language describing this scene is very provocative as it seems to dance around and mirror what a kiss would feel like between ‘unrelated’ individuals or non-familial relations. This hair-raising encounter sets the book off on a very unnerving tone. It emphasizes a certain anxiety that builds from the moment one begins reading the book after the first two pages. Harrison, by introducing this tone and building off from it gives an accurate description of the anxiety filled possession that overtakes an individual when they suffer from this kind of abuse. I belive, in this way, she meant to assert, exhibit, and purge this trauma from her pysche as means of dealing with it. It is always asserted that the individual who suffers from such molestation is indoctrinated by the perpetrator to believe it is not abuse. So the real question being posed towards the critics is how sensitive are they to the issue, because this book clearly demonstrates Harrison is still victim. Harrison in my eyes is still a victim.

Her relationship with her parents and with her mother definitely affected the relationship she has with her father. However, the timeless literary element of the ‘reliable narrator’ comes into play here as she routinely asserts their coldness towards her throughout her life. There a menial moments where she displays intimate encounters with her father or jaded moments with her mother. She cites this sort of abuse as trans-generational and perpetuating. Progressing her need for parental attachment which her father unquestioningly monopolizes and abuses. Therefor, Harrison finally feels the relationship she has been looking for all her life and sacrifices all she knows for it. However, there are other factors to deciphering how consensual this relationship appears and if it appears too much so acting in a damaging light to her work and fueling critics’ analyses of her memoir. Personally, I feel that she is still suffering from this trauma and abuse, her families emotional indifference towards her and their coldness played a significant role in her father’s abuse and her sense of consent towards it. It also raises the question of what kind of emotional satiation she retrieved from her abuse and how distorted was this justification by her.

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Oct 29 2010

Prospectus & Annotated Bibliography

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Prospectus

There is an extensive amount of ¬†non-fiction and fictional work written on the trauma of rape and the various contexts that it unfolds in. However, the sub-category of incest rape is a topic explored through Kathryn Harrison’s memoir¬†The Kiss. Her memoir opens with a very intimately described embrace between the narrator, (herself), and her father. The heavy use of imagery, first person narration, and the substantially limited use of dialogue create a very interesting description of how she ¬†has processed her trauma. Memoir’s are a genre of life-writing that includes a particular event or series of events that shape that individual’s perception of their identity indefinitely. What is particularly interesting about Harrison’s depiction of these traumatic incestual episodes are how she depicts them in a literary light. The details regarding the actual incident are very much avoided and the few mentions of them are intersticed¬†throughout the novel. She moves in and out of the present while preferably staying in the past. Her visitations to these severely traumatic episodes seem very cloudy and hazy spending a considerable amount of time focusing on the descriptions of the places where it occurs, how their non-physical relationship develops, and the agonizing psychological effect it has on her and her body. The interesting fact is that she avoids detailing the actual episodes of physical contact with her father and her¬†omission¬†of these details and subtraction of dialogue when referencing much of her past while choosing to stay in first person narration ¬†illuminates the credibility of the reliable narrator. This questioning of the reliable narrator further progresses towards whether her relationship can be perceived as¬†consensual or as rape taking into account her age. Her sexual vulnerability and the innocent bloom of her sexuality in these years suffice enough to support the idea that she was taken advantage of and subjected to sexual abuse in a non-consensual manner. Thus, the heavy first person narration, dense imagery, and the diminished dialogue are Harrison’s attempt to substantiate the non-consensual nature of her relationship with her father by retaining her sexual innocence as an overall attempt to obligate the development of a relationship with her mother. ¬†Harrison’s depiction of her trauma is not only an exorcism of the experience from her psyche in an attempt to retain sexual self worth, but also a means to bond with a reclusive and detached mother.

Annotated Bibliography

  • Alther, Lisa. “Blaming the Victim.” The Women’s Review of Books, Vol. 14, No. 10/11, ( July, 1997),¬†pp. 33-34. 29 Oct. 2010.¬†http://www.jstor.org/stable/4022726

Lisa Alther argues against the criticism Harrison receives and states quite bluntly at the end that “It is a well-known psychological phenomenon that those who react most fiercely against something are those who are¬†unconsciously¬†drawn to it . . . those so intent on suppressing and demolishing The Kiss be titillated by incest? (Alther 34)”. ¬†These comments made my Alther, while extremely controversial and well substantiated at that, seek to point out how critic’s may feel threatened by a honest narration of an often culturally suppressed and marginalized topic that is quite rampant. ¬†Alther’s statements can be used to support the idea that Harrison’s first person narration and direct depiction from her perspective of these events provide power in an extremely direct way to those who have suffered from similar abuse and that the criticism only arrises from a need to suppress the idea that sexual abuse within a family is a disregarded topic which is stifled for attention in terms of purging one-self of this trauma. Those who seek to suppress others seek to control and the critics that Alther refer to also mirror that desired totalitarian control that Harrison’s father demands of her. Thus, her article is a tool in recovering from trauma as it is the most direct way of revisiting the event, which is what trauma victims attempt to do in order to expel it.

Bolonik writes about Harrison’s confrontation with why she chose to write this memoir as she has already written an autobiographical text. She quotes Harrison as saying it ” . . . was the book I planned not to write . . . the memoir became the thing that I had to do as a human being and as a writer because I felt in some way compromised and also angry because I had unwittingly complied with the social imperative that you always hear about incest, that I made it up . Because calling the story a novel is essentially saying it didn’t happen” (Bolonik, 175). Here Harrison is quoted by Bolonik as trying to provide a testimonial to her experience of it. Simply speaking about it or not having it on paper as part of her work kept it as something arguably false and fabricated. This also progresses and moves in the direction of the idea that her choice of first person narration was an attempt to affirm her experience as something completely true and not made up.

  • Marshall, Elizabeth. “The Daughter’s Disenchantment: Incest as Pedagogy in Fairy Tales and Kathryn Harrison’s ¬†‘The Kiss’.” College English, Vol. 66, No.4 (Mar., 2004), pp. 403-426. 29 Oct 2010.¬†http://www.jstor.org/stable/4140709.

Marshall’s essay on Harrison’s memoir by analyzing and comparing it to the genre of fairy tales and the father-daughter relationship portrayed in several stories seeks to “underscore the ambiguous and contradictory lessons that differentiate girlhood from womanhood through her [Harrison’s] allusions to fairly tales” ( Marshall 404) in an attempt to explicate the incestual father daughter relationship that has been removed from western fairy tales and it’s history of villainizing the young girl moving into womanhood, or that liminal ¬†and transitioning stage. Marshall explains the history of incest in fairy tales and the villainizing of the daughter or princess as asking for such advance from her father just by simply coming into womanhood. Her essay is essential to explaining the purpose behind Harrison’s work in affirming the need for a woman’s perspective on this relationship and this story that has transcended generations and cultures.

Parker’s essay focuses on ‘counter-transference’ or as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “The transference by the analyst towards the patient of feelings and reactions similar to those aroused by significant figures (esp. parents) in the analyst’s early life; more¬†loosely, any emotion felt by the analyst towards the patient”, basically a displacement of emotion from one person to another due to the ability to relate to similar experiences. Parker was deeply affect by the events of Harrison’s memoir and how the process of writing such a memoir affects ¬†a writer who is a trauma survivor. Parker speaks about Harrison’s need from a parent to feel unconditionally loved by a parent and thus recognized in that way affirming their own self worth and thus a trauma memoir helps to affirm that basic human need. He also raises the point that a writer has a greater allegiance to justice and compassion simply because they are a writer and that the ethics of writing don’t come only from being able to relate to another individuals experiences, but from deep within culture, affirming a more intrinsic value to life writing. The idea of justice as being able to write earnestly and compassion being to evoke emotional value, thus not simply writing for the sake of controversy and sensational value, but to help move through the traumatic experience and relinquish it as Harrison tries to do.

While Wolcott writes negative and critically about Harrison, sighting her book as completely sensationalist and written for the monetary return on shock value, Alther’s critique of his views diminishes his opinions. Wolcott regards Harrison’s relationship with her father as consensual, but this is exactly the argument that can be disproven by the work written by Elizabeth Marshall and Lisa Alther. By highlighting his focus on Harrison being a legitimized fully capable sexual adult her ignores the fact that sexuality is a much more fluid and learned part of the human identity. Marshall points this stage out quite well. By quoting his key points, I will then proceed to disprove them by use of the other above cited articles, thus affirming my point that Harrison’s relationship with her father was a non-consensual relationship for Kathryn who was also pressured indirectly by her mother to become sexually involved with her father as a means to create a relationship with her mother, thus her writing of her trauma in it’s particular discourse is a means to expunge it by revisiting it as well as sufficing how she became pressured by both parents to subject herself to her fathers advances. Each of the previous cited articles work to prove how writing about sexually explicit trauma is not about exploitation of others and material gain, but more about expelling that abuse and detriment through the best means possible.

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