Class Notes Nov 1

  • Thinking its Presence
    • Preface
      • Main argument: “All writing is situated in both aesthetic and social realms.” p. xxii
      • “I am not arguing for reading biographically in a simplistic manner, but, rather, for taking into account all the factors and contexts—literary and extraliterary—that undergird and help to determine poetic subjectivity, and that, consciously or unconsciously, manifest themselves in the language of the poem.” p. xxi
      • “… these factors are at one and the same time embodied in the person of the poet but are also inseperable from the institutional, ideological, social, and other structures that function in realms beyond the personal world of the individual poet.” p. xxi
    • Introduction
      • “familiar literary versus cultural divide” p. 2
      • academic shorthand: p. 10 & p. 31
      • primacy of race: “determinant of the forms of our textual productions…” p. 19
      • “what constitutes the social, the cultural, and the political must be analyzed for their linguistic and structural forms.” p. 19
      • “minority AS mimetic” p. 20
      • our goal: “But a perceptive reader, especially an experienced reader of formally innovative writing, would know to look closely at what the poem’s form, and not simply it’s content, tells us.” p. 23 & not just what is said but how p. 45
      • “Being able to cognitively grasp these phenomena—in this case, politics, history, race, and their effects on subjectivity and language—does not in any way reify or essentialize or make reductive the not always definite, often mysterious, but very real relation between and among the social (racial), subjective, and poetic.” p. 35
      • Asian American writing specifically:
        • “unassimilable” – Chinese Exclusion Act
        • “model minority / honorary white” – capitalist implications p. 25
        • “…in order to interrogate the category “Asian American,” one needs the category to begin with.” p. 29
        • no essentialized reading p. 36
      • Chapter 2: Li-Young Lee
        • more academic shorthand! p. 50 “imaginary homeland” “timeless” “exotic” “lyrical” “universal”
        • p. 51 “vicarious suffering without guilt”
        • p. 55: “poetry functions as a way of thinking through form—that poetry works both ontologically and epistemologically. … Poetry does not merely paint images but creates knowledge…”
        • how metaphor works in Lee’s poetry:
          • “trope of desire (and loss),” p. 57
          • metaphor as a strategy p. 58
          • risks of metaphor: “too-easy conflation of the thing itself with the figurative other … effectively silencing the other.” p. 58
          • limits and possibilities of metaphor: reception p. 59
          • “brings metaphor’s two ‘halves’ into a relationship .. of productive tension”
        • metaphor: admits both similarity and difference, retains individuality of objects and subjects p. 60
          • *a way of entering paradox*?
          • “always reaching toward but never arriving” p. 61
          • chiasmus at the center of metaphor constitutes both its richness and its difficulty” p. 62
          • existence of a “solid selfhood” capable of perception p. 62 – so when an identity is constituted by aporia
            • physical, cultural, geographical, linguistic, and psychic
          • colonial mimicry, Bhabha p. 64
          • “poetic language works precisely by such confusions and by such ‘misnaming,’ … catachresis.” p. 67

About Erica Mena

Erica Mena is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and book artist. Pronouns: they/them.
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