The Laugh of Medusa

First off I would like to apologize because I was unable to get the link to Infection in the Sentence to work, so I was only able to read The Laugh of Medusa. So if anyone was able to make the link for Infection in the Sentence work please post about it.

That being said, The Laugh of Medusa brought up a few issues for me. It starts off by claiming thatg women have been driven out of writing. This led me to the question: how are women driven out of writing? If women are absent from writing, then is every representation of women in writing an inaccurate masculine portrayal?

The author also claims that there is no typical woman, so as a result they have “inexhaustible” imaginations. This made me wonder if there is a typical man? Is there a typical woman in writing?

She goes on to say that “woman must write woman. And man, man.” This is similar to a previous question that I posed, but is this statement true? Can men only accurately portray men in writing? Are women only capable of portraying women?

A prevelant theme of this essay is that through writing, women can become actualized as individuals. The author claims that women must write in order to reclaim power that has been denied from them. She goes as far as to say that women don’t own their body if they do not write without censorship. What do you make of this? Can writing help one understand themselves? Does writing give someone conrol over their identity?

Finally, I found it a bit odd the way that the author compared writing to sexuality. I was wondering what you all thought about that.

Repression and Power in Sexuality

These readings have brought up many questions for me. I have a lot of little ones leading to a few big ones, but in general, I’d say take you pick, and we’ll see where the conversation leads us.


First, I’d like to examine sex as “intercourse”:

Foucault examines the relationship between sex and power/oppression, saying that now (which is to say, in the mid twentieth century) people were beginning to talk about sex in the context of rising up from oppression, as if it were a political cause.

I’m wondering to what extent we may have moved past this. To what extent is our perspective about sex and sexuality and our willingness to talk about it rebellious? To what extent do we still carry Victorian taboos? Since our generation is (for the most part) the children of the sexual revolution, are we still being rebellious when we have an open attitude about sex? Can sex be seen in an economic/political sense at all or, as Foucault suggests, must we look more to the “felicity” which is a part of its character? Do you suscribe to the “repressive hypothesis” in examining the history of sex, and, to what extent?

All of this is leading me to what I see as the big question: How do our changing attitudes about sex affect the way we read and write? What insight can it give us for literary interpretation? How might literature (or should literature) use what we know about sex to change common perspective?

Secondly, what about sex as “gender”?

Those of you who are men and reading this, to what extent do you notice gender stereotypes in which the woman is subordinate to the man in literature?  To those of you who are women, same question. What disparity, if any, do you anticipate?

While there is an “essential” difference between man and woman in a physical sense, do you believe there are certain non-physical qualities (character traits, etc.) that actually are much more representative of one gender than another. If this is the case, is literature simply presenting characters who represent the real world? Should authors strive to upset preconceived gender notions? Is that approach a more realistic reflection? To what extent is realistic reflection desirable? Where does authorial intent come into play, when the same work can be read as oppressing women pointing to the folly of a society which subjugates women?

Which brings me to my main question: How does our knowledge of gender roles affect the way we read and right? How might literature be a means of change? Should it be?


Finally, can we ever reach a point of understanding where questions of sex and gender are moot?

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Before I actually read Anzaldua’s piece From Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, I read sfbull5’s post questioning the essay’s relevance to our class. So when I started reading the essay, I went into it wondering what it has to do with literary interpretation, and looking for answers to that question.

I can’t really say I found an answer, but I did come up with a number of questions in the process. First of all, what if we apply literature to the idea of the new mestiza? Anzaldua says that “the future will belong to the mestiza”, and speaks of a “new story” that she will create: “…yet I am cultured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet” (2214). This notion of the future belonging to the mestiza makes me think of current literature/art/media as a type of mestiza in itself. In today’s world, almost every form of expression is globalized, shared and exchanged by way of the internet. Ideas and culture blend together and bounce back and forth from one corner of the world to another, essentially creating a new, inclusive and ever-changing breed of art and expression. So rather than asking how the essay applies to literary interpretation, what if we apply literature to the idea of the mestiza?

What are your thoughts on the essay itself as literature? The segment we read mixes Spanish and English, and is organized into sections with bilingual headings and various quotes. What are the effects of this unusual format, which is unlike anything we’ve read so far?

Lastly, reading Borderlands/La Frontera made me consider Junot Diaz’s presentation and how timely our assignment was. I haven’t read The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, but the portion Diaz read to us included a similar seamless interchanging of English and Spanish. I do not know for sure, but I imagine Diaz’s novel addresses similar issues to ones we see in this essay: belonging and yet not belonging to several cultures…confusion and ambiguity, flexibilty and ambivalence. Anyone who has read the novel have any insight?

Relevance of Anzaldua’s article?

I thought Anzaldua’s article on the Frontier and the new “Mestiza” was interesting and presented some new ideas, but I didn’t exactly see the relevance to this course or to the other texts we’ve read. It seemed appropriate for a Sociology class or something, but I didn’t find a lot about English or literary interpretation. I guess her ideas about changing “the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves, and the ways we behave” — in other words, the “new mestiza” that she proposes — are slightly related to interpretation of texts, and the notions of immigration do in some sense relate to the “otherness” and “orientalism” that we’ve been reading about recently, but do you guys see any other ways in which this article is relevant to this course/to other texts?

Going back to Said after the Election

I found this a while ago, but with everything said and done in the aftermath of this crazy election, maybe this is passage will come across as funny rather than just plain scary. This is a passage of an article written by Andy McCarthy, contributing editor of the Nation Review, exposing Obama’s ties to “Rashid Khalidi – former mouthpiece for master terrorist Yasser Arafat” or, according to the liberal-leaning Wikipedia, “an American historian of the Middle East, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, and director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.” Here’s a passage from McCarthy’s piece:

“At the time Khalidi, a PLO adviser turned University of Chicago professor, was headed east to Columbia. There he would take over the University’s Middle East-studies program (which he has since maintained as a bubbling cauldron of anti-Semitism) and assume the professorship endowed in honor of Edward Sayyid, another notorious terror apologist.”

I wonder if McCarthy has ever read Said, or if he just uses the power of imagination (albeit an racist imagination) to construct the objective narrative of men with frightening, non-anglo names.

The Presidential Election and Literary Interpretation (unofficial post)

Our readings for Monday’s class and again for class tomorrow have focused largely on race, the way we conceptualize groups, and understand literature and, ultimately, humanity. In light of the historic presidential election results announced earlier tonight and our readings and discussions, what role do you think race, or, more accurately, our conceptualization of race, played in the election? I heard one of the reporters commenting that voters had acted as though they were “colorblind.” Is this accurate or even possible given the ways our brains organize? What further connections, if any, can you draw between the readings for Wednesday and ethnic identity in this election in particular and America in general?

Personally, I thought Gilroy’s early concepts of an ever-blending black culture and identity were relevant to the way Americans understood Barack Obama. Early in his campaign, members of the media and opponents sought to narrowly classify him as African or American or African-American; white, black or biracial; Muslim or Christian; a capitalist or a socialist; etc. While some of these claims aren’t grounded in fact, at least in terms of ethnicity and origin, Obama seems to be “both inside and outside the West” (972) as a result of his diverse background. For me, that very synthesis of cultural perspectives is at least some part of his appeal. (Of course, many of Gilroy’s other conclusions are based upon African-Americans reacting against the expectations of slavery (eg, focusing on creativity rather than labor), which one may argue don’t apply to Obama as he was not descended from slaves.)

What do you guys think about the perspectives of race we have read in relation to what we’ve witnessed in the past, what this election might imply, and where we hope to go in American racial/ethnic understanding?

Paper 3

In case you missed it, or lose yours, I’ve posted the paper 3 assignment on the syllabus, and will also link it here. Do come see me if you have any questions — and don’t forget your research question for Wednesday.

Racial difference, The colony, and Orientalism

That the Orient is a social construction, something completely man-made is really interesting to me, although not necessarily new. For me, what I’ve been thinking about lately is what Said references at the end when he cites Raymond Williams–that by recognizing that certain things are socially constructed, hopefully people can progress in the “unlearning” of “the inherent dominative mode” (28). I realize that we were only able to read the Intro from Orientalism, and that perhaps Said addresses this in the rest of his text, but how do y’all think we can “unlearn” the modes in which we were taught? I think it’s a good starting point to know that what we’ve been taught as objective is actually socially constructed, but what I struggle with personally is moving beyond this–how does one move past simple awareness and begin to see things from a new perspective if he/she has seen a certain subject from a specific view point for so long? How does one throw off the colonization of language?

Also, I’m not quite sure how to connect this thought with the previous thought, but I think the idea of intersectionality is really interesting–that one cannot talk about ethnicity without addressing gender and sexuality is something I find to be very true. What do y’all think of this and how do you think intersectionality affects how we read? Do people ever rank the importance/relevance of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, religion, ability or other examples of diversity when they are reading? How does our (mis)understanding of one of these aspects of identity affect how we understand a person as an individual? How does it affect our understanding of a group of people?


Said’s idea of Occidental culture setting up Oriental culture as a foil, a sort of other with which to affirm Occidental identity reminded me of a Chinua Achebe essay on Heart of Darkness called An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which makes a similar claim about Western images of Africa as the inferior “other” for comparison. The article is at:

Time to Comment?

Just thought I’d start off the conversation about when to comment on the red notebook. How does 7-8 tomorrow sound to people?