AN ARTS AND HUMANITIES STUDENTS’ COUNCIL PUBLICATION
Semicolon VOLUME 6
FA L L 2 0 1 8
Copyrights remain with the artists and authors. The responsibility for the content in this publication remains with the artists and authors. The content does not reflect the opinions of the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council (AHSC) or the University Students’ Council (USC). The AHSC and USC assume no liability for any errors, inaccuracies, or omissions contained in this publication.
LET TER FROM THE EDITOR I can think of no more appropriate way to begin these Editor-in-Chief ’s notes than with this deeply resonating poem from Walt Whitman: When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer “When I heard the learn’d astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.” The essays in this issue of Semicolon are not limited in imagination by what is taught inside the classroom. They are bold, inquisitive, and challenging; they dare to venture outside of an assignment’s constraints to wild, new places. I am incredibly grateful to the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council Publications Team for their tireless work in seeing these journals to fruition. It is always such a pleasure reading the provocative and innovative writing produced by our students. We hope you enjoy. Camille Intson Publications Editor-in-Chief
W HAT W E ’ R E A B O U T Semicolon is published bi-annually by the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council of the University of Western Ontario. Semicolon is generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Student Donation Fund. The Publications Team would like to thank the Donation Fund Committee, the students who submitted their creative works, and the rest of the Publications Committee who volunteered for the essay review board. Semicolon accepts A-grade essays from any Arts and Humanities undergraduate student within the University of Western Ontario. To view previous editions or for more information about Symposium, please contact the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council in Room 2135 in University College.
SPECIAL THANKS TO THE PUBLICATIONS COMMITTEE: Editor-in-Chief VP Communications Academic Managing Editor Creative Managing Editor Copy Editor Layout Editor
Camille Intson Alicia Johnson Roshana Ghaedi Aislyn Higgins James Gagnon Megan Levine
Table of Contents 1 Combatting Sexual Assault on Campus: It Starts With the Curriculum by Wynnie Zhao 6 Ancient Secrets: Aesthetic References to Greek Mythological Figures in Modern High Fashion Advertising by Diyana Noory 10 Beyond “Being Yourself ”: Frank Ocean and Self-Reliance by Akshat Datta 17 “You Can’t Speak English”: Negative Consequences of English as the World’s ‘Lingua Franca’ by Alina Kleinsasser 23
Andy Warhol as a Bridge Between The Classes Consumerism and Identity in a Post-War Hegemonic America by Eva Alie
28 “Nothing so sweet as magic” Faustus, Men’s Fetish and Lust for Power by Danielle Bryl-Dam 32 Substituting a Racial Identifier for a Race: Synecdoche in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth by Taylor Rousselle 37 “Porque I speak mejor English que Espanish”: Language Borderlands in Fronteras Americanas by Hilary Doyle 42
The Duality of Representation and the Act of Repriation: First Nations Women in Michelle Latimer’s film Nimmikaage by Morgan McAuley
“Through The Sea, Into The Flames”: Urban Ecologies, Physical Bodies, and Traumatic Memory in T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and Virginia Woolf ’s “Mrs. Dalloway” by Camille Intson
Combatting Sexual Assault on Campus: It Starts With the Curriculum Wynnie Zhao
In this paper, I will argue that the issue of party rape culture throughout Ontario universies is in need of feminist inquiry and that changes to the current sexual education curriculum should be im-plemented to create a more positive, healthy and safe sexual environment for students. Firstly, I will argue that university party culture has normalized sexual assault to the point where it has be-come an expected part of the partying experience. Consequently, this normalization has created a culture of silence among female victims where many women feel ashamed or embarrassed to speak out about their experiences. This is both harmful to the well-being of these women and also detrimental to the development of a healthy and safe sexual environment on campuses. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I will suggest a plan of action that outlines specific changes to the Ontario sexual education curriculum that targets three areas: a more comprehensive approach to the concept of consent, an understanding of gender roles and expectations, and a stronger connection between the curriculum and students’ personal life. The goal of these changes will be to dismantle the cul-tural behaviours that work to desensitize rape as well as create a safer and healthier space where incidents of sexual assault at parties occur less and where, if they do occur, victims feel comforta-ble recognizing and speaking out about their experiences. Throughout my paper, I will be using the course reading Men Changing Men by Allen and Kivel to ground my arguments surrounding the effects of gender roles and expectations on society. I will be using additional sources to help support my analysis of party rape culture in universities. Lastly, I will be basing my plan of action off of the current sexual education curriculum, last updated in 2015, as outlined by the Ministry of Education of Ontario as well as drawing comparisons to other existing models of sexual education curriculum. I will also be using sources and statistics to back up the need for each of these curriculum changes by presenting evidence of the importance behind the goals of each of the three changes. Studies estimate that one-fifth to one-quarter of women are the victims of completed or attempted rape while in university or college (Armstrong, Hamilton, & Sweeney, 2006). I believe that the prevalence of sexual assault in universities across Ontario stems from a party culture where party rapes are common enough that students have become desensitized to the occurrences. Often, this normalization of sexual assault is carried out through gender stereotypes where “young peo-ple’s definitions of femininity and masculinity of ten reflect rigid expectations of what they must live up to in order to be a “real” woman or a “real” man. Time and again we hear boys say that they are supposed to be tough, aggressive and in control” (Allen & Kivel, 1994). As a consequence of the normalization of sexual assault on university campuses, a culture of silence has formed wherein victims feel ashamed or embarrassed to speak up about their experiences. While the “systematic and effective method 1
of extracting non-consensual sex is largely invisible” (Armstrong, Hamilton, & Sweeney, 2006) and is caused by societal norms and expectations, the aftermath is often the same, with victims dealing with their experiences of assault in silence. Female victims feel the need to cover up their experience and to simply and quickly ‘get over it’. This is a critical issue as it prevents victims from properly healing by speaking up and raising awareness of such a prevalent problem. As a solution to the issue of university party rape culture, I believe that targeting the current Ontario sexual education curriculum is an effective plan of action as “culture develops in response to institutional arrangements” (Armstrong, Hamilton, & Sweeney, 2006), such as the education system. What students learn in school at a young age inform their future choices and actions, which then works to mould their life experiences. In turn, the collective experiences of a population work to form a certain type of culture. Therefore, I believe that one of the root issues of the current university rape culture comes from what school systems are teaching students throughout elementary and high school. First, I propose a more comprehensive and in-depth teaching surrounding the topic of consent. Currently, vague notions of consent are first introduced to students in Grade 2 with the concept that “No Means No”, explicitly introduced in Grade 8 and then brought up in the curriculum for the last time in Grade 9 (Ministry of Education, 2015). I believe that introducing a more concrete and thorough teaching of consent is needed; one that takes into consideration the circumstances in which consent can be given, that it is an ongoing process and that it can be revoked at any time. As the “focus on consent has had the effect of producing diverse and widely varying definitions of consent…leading to widely varying arguments of rape and sexual violence and abuse” (Cowling & Reynolds, 2016), incorporating these specific concrete ideas into the curriculum will give students a solid foundation before entering university about the aspects of consent that help create healthy and safe sexual encounters. More specifically, I propose that the concept of consent be introduced in Grade 7 and continued through Grade 8 and Grade 9 as outlined by the current curriculum. From the beginning, a comprehensive and detailed definition of consent should be given to ensure that students have no uncertainty in the future surrounding the topic when they start to find themselves in situations where giving and obtain consent is important. Additionally, I believe that the topic should be revis-ited in Grade 12 instead of ending in Grade 9 as it would be beneficial to consolidate and review consent concepts right before students enter university. The lesson plan for Grade 12 should include a brief overview of the definition of concept, but the primary focus of class conversations should be on the effects of drugs and alcohol in limiting one’s ability to give or receive consent. This should be done as drugs and alcohol play a large role in university party culture and students should be aware and equipped with the knowledge on how to navigate these environments. 2
Secondly, I recommend integrating lesson plans into the curriculum that will focus on analyzing and investigating gender roles and expectations, which is completely absent from the current curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2016). As “rapists do not prevail simply because as men they are really, biologically, and unavoidably stronger than women…a rapist follows a social script and enacts conventional, gendered structures of feeling and action” (Cowling & Reynolds, 2016), an improved curriculum will allow students to recognize behaviours enforced by society that reinforce rape culture. This includes ideas such as the stereotype that men should always be sexually dominant, or the that someone has the right over your body if you went on a date with them or allowed them to pay for a meal. More precisely, I propose that the curriculum include concepts of gender roles and expectations in Grade 11 and Grade 12, with a focus on the way they are portrayed in media. I believe that implementing these changes during the last two years of high school would be effective as students will be more mature and able to understand more complex concepts. Lesson plans should include watching popular TV shows and movies that portray university party culture such as Spring Breakers, Frat Party and Legally Blonde, then analyzing them through a critical and gendered lens. This should include open class discussions that seek to answer the following questions: Do these gender roles lead to specific gender stereotypes? Are they negative or positive? Can you see any of these stereotypes appearing in your own life? Then, an analysis should be done on the broader societal effects of these media examples by looking at questions such as: What kind of actions do these stereotypes perpetuate and allow within society? What can we, as individuals and as a collective, do to work against negative stereotypes? Thirdly, I suggest a more holistic approach to the sexual education curriculum that works to help students apply the concepts they learn at school to their personal lives. In my personal experience, I rarely find myself remembering or using any of the lessons taught in my health class. Instead, I find myself going to my friends or the internet for advice concerning sexual education, which can lead to inaccurate or biased information. If students can personally connect to an idea from a lesson, they will be able to take that idea beyond the classroom and beneficially apply it to their own lives, hopefully to create healthy positive and safe sexual environments for themselves and those around them. Statistics show that in many European countries, a woman is up to 15% less likely to expe-rience sexual assault in her lifetime (Carson, 2007). I believe this is, in part, due to the more pro-gressive and wholistic nature of European models of learning that emphasize the importance of “open, honest, consistent discussions with teens about sexuality” and where “sexuality education is not necessarily a separate curriculum and may be integrated across school subjects and at all grade levels” (Perry, 2008). Drawing on this model, I propose that guest speakers and open discussions of personal experiences related to course content 3
facilitated by teachers should be incorporated into the Ontario curriculum and implemented from Grade 9 through Grade 12. This should be done to remind students all throughout high school of the ways in which concepts such as consent and gender roles play a role in everyoneâ€™s lives and to gain a more intimate perspective through the per-sonal stories of peers and other adults. The current university party culture has created a normalization and desensitization of rape on campuses which has consequently established a culture of silence for victims of sexual assault. The proposed changes to the Ontario sexual education curriculum outlined in this paper work to more effectively educate high school students on the topics of consent, the ways in which gender roles and expectations play a role in society as well as the different ways in which the sexual education curriculum applies to real life. I believe that the implementation of these curriculum changes will work towards creating happier, healthier and safer sexual environments within university cam-puses in Ontario. Bibliography Allen, R.L., & Kivel, P. (1994). Men Changing Men. Ms., 5. Armstrong, E.A., Hamilton, L., & Sweeney, B. (2006). Sexual Assault on Campus: A Multilevel, Integrative Approach to Party Rape. Oxford Academic, 53. Bretz, A. (2014). Making an Impact?: Feminist Pedagogy and Rape Culture on University Cam-puses. English Studies in Canada (ESC), 40. Carson, C. (2007). A Comparison of Sexual Assault in the U.S., Canada, and England. Bridge Water Undergraduate Review, 3. Cowling, M., & Reynolds, P. (2016). Making Sense of Sexual Consent. Routledge, 32. Ministry of Education. (2016). Sex Education in Ontario. Ontario: Author. Ministry of Education. (2015). The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8. Ontario: Author. Perry, B. (2008). Hooking Up with Healthy Sexuality: The Lessons Boys Learn (and Donâ€™t Learn) About Sexuality and Why a Sex-Positive Rape Prevention Paradigm Can Benefit Everyone In-volved. In J. Friedman & J.Valenti (Ed.),Yes Means Yes (pp.193-207). Berkeley, California: Seal Press.
Ancient Secrets: Aesthetic References to Greek Mythological Figures in Modern High Fashion Advertising Diyana Noory I must admit, I feel pretty happy with myself when I pick up on any allusions or direct references in fashion. Since I began studying visual art, classical history, and literature more intensively in high school, I’ve noticed familiar ideas jumping out at me in various artistic mediums. For this project, I created a photography album exploring the aesthetic portrayal of Greek mythological figures in modern high fashion collections and advertisements. Although each ad I reinterpreted is titled after something classical, the references within each ad don’t render it meaningless if a viewer doesn’t understand them. Classical mythology is used in contemporary advertising because it signals a sense of intelligence and exclusivity when the viewer understands the reference, even if it is to a commonly known myth (Hartigan 268). This phenomenon can be analyzed through Darko Suvin’s theory of cognitive estrangement; the classical ideal is used to remove an advertisement from our world and imply glamour and refinement in products, thereby create a feeling of depth (Nodelman 1). The reproduction and repetition of classical mythological figures in modern advertising has had an influence on the postmodern construction of societal archetypes and in consumer trends, which leads to advertising becoming our modern mythology (Sánchez 1). Since advertising is used to persuade viewers and potential consumers of a product’s allegedly amazing qualities, it can be effective for it to refer to archetypes such as mythological figures that are already viewed as fantastic. Audiences are often fascinated by mythological archetypes because they are portrayed as lofty figures that embody otherworldly perfection, while in reality many of the perfection of these characters is exaggerated to appeal to the masses. The myth is not taken at face value with all of its flaws - it is “adapted, translated into the current postmodern narrative” (Sánchez 1) and used to build cultural capital. Straightforward recreations of mythological narratives are discarded in favour of symbolic storylines that modern viewers can relate to. In Gia Coppola’s retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the Underworld is represented as a shady nightclub instead of an otherworldly location. This gives the story a more modern feel that doesn’t feel too far removed from reality, but the viewer can still infer enough of the mythological storyline to experience cognitive estrangement – especially when Eurydice “vanishes” after Orpheus looks back at her outside of the club. In a lecture, Dr. Mark Girouard argued that classical pastiche is a narrow way of applying classics to modern art since it separates contemporary creations from “pastiche” creations which are only suitable in certain situations (2). For example, stereotypically Greek style columns are reserved for austere government buildings while minimalist architecture is found in new shopping centers and the like. He explained that classicism is “an innovative, endlessly resourceful, and endlessly creative style” which can be applied to a wide scope of
mediums and materials (2). He was discussing architecture, but from a fashion perspective I think this can be related to basic interpretations of an ancient Greek aesthetic compared to creative retellings of mythology in a modern setting. An example of the former can be found in Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2018 Cruise Collection titled “The Modernity of Antiquity”, which celebrated the opulence of Ancient Greece in a somewhat simplistic manner. The fashion house used the glow of idealized antiquity to reinforce Chanel’s refined branding, showcasing items such as colourful high heel gladiator sandals in a venue of stone columns and golden decoration. Also present were Olympic laurel-adorned hairstyles, vase motifs, and elegant draping. In fashion, the classical style manifests itself in ornament as opposed to language, and the visual references are usually easy to notice or learn about (3). The examples I worked with are not what audiences immediately imagine when thinking of Ancient Greece; they involve visuals that at face value seem modern, but the storylines behind them are drawn from antiquity. The advertisements I recreated are James Franco’s short film “Bacchae” for Gucci, Versace’s “Eros” fragrance advertisement, and Gia Coppola’s retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice for Gucci. The album itself is a pdf with each set of images preceded by a title page that briefly describes the advertisement it was inspired by. I initially planned on shooting this project on film to ensure a cinematic consistency throughout my images, seeing as all of them were inspired by atmospheric video advertisements. However, I ended up shooting digital for cost efficiency since I spent around $100 on props for the three separate shoots. Nonetheless, I edited the tones in each set of images to suit the mood of each scene and cropped some images to widescreen ratios to invoke cinematic aesthetics. I incorporated natural lighting as well as colourful LEDs, a Speedlight, and reflectors to create the lighting I wanted. The “Eros” scene was lit with a Speedlight to create a flashier, more contrasting effect in line with Versace’s advertising visuals. The “Bacchae” scene includes moody blue and purple lighting for the group shots to highlight Dionysus surrounded by his admirers. Finally, in the “Orpheus and Eurydice” scene I used natural golden hour light reflected onto my subjects as well as refracted red light from the stained glass window for a couple of the portraits. I aimed to convey themes of human emotion, seduction, commodification of classic history, vanity, and the artificiality of glamour photography. Fashion photography is among the most difficult branches of the art form because of its necessity of reflecting charm (Acea 1). It encompasses both beauty and glamour photography, which are often interrelated but can be distinguished. The former is a commercial approach used to make different products more appealing so they sell widely (1). Meanwhile, glamour photography creates a special or curated atmosphere to elevate the perfection of its subject (1). Although my photos were carefully styled, I tried to help my models look as naturally emotive as they could – even when the scene called for a stoic expression. I think Tala and Brian on really well, and their chemistry in the Orpheus and Eurydice scene looks natural to me. Additionally, my work is unaffected by commercial aims since I only drew inspiration 7
from the creative elements of the advertisements in question. A few of my signed models commented on how the environment at my shoots felt more relaxed and creatively inspiring than their client work, and how they didn’t feel objectified by me unlike other professional photographers or by agencies. Versace’s “Eros” fragrance advertisement displays living divinity, or an otherworldly air of sexuality. A chiseled model in a dark, rainy setting wears only gladiator sandals, a robe, and underwear and he carries a bow and arrow. The darkness of the advertisement is a reminder of the dangers of lust. With my Eros ad inspired image, I aimed display a Medusalike god on earth who freezes staring onlookers not because of his horrible appearance, but because of his extravagance. In an interview, Gianni Versace explained he chose an image of Medusa as the Versace logo because she “means seduction … a dangerous attraction” (Garber and Vickers 276). Versace uses the imagery of Medusa to sell its products by creating a sense of exclusivity for those who understand the reference – their clothing is meant to be eye-catching, and dangerously seductive. Medusa is a very popular mythological figure who represents the female role of object while males are onlookers, but in her case being looked at makes her more powerful as she renders onlookers frozen (Ronnick 173). In this ad, the roles are reversed again since it stars a male model. I think this reversal is effective in giving the male model a stronger aura of power and attraction, which makes him an ideal role model for Versace’s target audience of men of all sexualities who are shopping for a sexy fragrance. My photos include a male model styled in a similar way, standing proudly with a female model almost melting into him. James Franco’s short film “Bacchae” for Gucci is a reinterpretation of Euripides’s The Bacchae, in which Dionysus captivates women who follow him and carry out wild dances under his enchanting presence. Of course, James Franco being James Franco, he cast himself as Dionysus in a dark and alluring eight-minute film. I cast one male model as well as several female and male models to recreate the “worship” scene with Dionysus sitting in the centre, emanating a sense of self-importance as he is offered bouquet of sunflowers which represent adoration and loyalty. I also captured the looks of admiration and lust Dionysus’ “groupies” cast upon him, all in a simple loft location that juxtaposes with the models’ polished styling and Dionysus’ regal crown. I also worked with another Gucci example by Gia Coppola. She created a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in a short film that showcased the label’s Pre-Fall 2016 collection. In her signature style, the visuals are as airy and dreamy as the Devonte Hynes vocals that back the scenes. The set is modern, but the timeless storyline story reflects how even the most seemingly perfect couples can find themselves ill-fated after a period of bliss and security. Elements of the myth are reimagined to fit our time: the Underworld is a nightclub, the mythical snake appears on luxurious clothing, and Orpheus is a long-haired dreamer who plays the guitar beautifully to strike a deal with Hades to release Eurydice. The 8
photos inspired by this scene are reminiscent of Coppola’s soft aesthetic while capturing the anguish of the myth she was working with. My friend Maya painted Ary Scheffer’s “Orpheus Mourning the Death of Eurydice” along with a Gucci-esque snake onto a denim jacket that I used in the last few shots. I shot part of this scene in St. Peter’s Basilica so I could make use of the soft natural light pouring through the stained-glass windows, as well as the old church setting for a wedding in a grand location. The other parts were shot nearby at Victoria Park, a satisfactory middle-of-the-city substitute for Central Park where the sun set just in time to shoot the scene where Orpheus loses Eurydice forever in more subdued light. Fashion is a fun art form to work with because it spans across many different mediums. Despite the utilitarian function of clothing, there is so much artistry that goes into the industry. Personally, I love to read, take photos, do styling and makeup, and write. Seeing my interests of fashion and mythology overlap is good enough, but being able to write about and recreate advertisements involving these fields almost feels self-indulgent. Bibliography Acea, Stellian. “Nowadays Fashion And Advertising Photography.” Revart, vol. 22, no. 1, 2015, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=110910702&site=ehost-live. Accessed 19 October 2017. Franco, James. “Gucci Bacchae.” Vice, https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/3b5x3b/gucci bacchae. Accessed 19 October 2017. Garber, Marjorie and Vickers, Nancy, editors. The Medusa Reader. Routledge, 2013, pp. 276. Girouard, Mark. Journal of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, vol. 134, no. 5354, 1986, https://search.proquest.com/docview/13073093 92/fulltext/2C78E9319EC44CF4PQ/1?accountid=15115. Accessed 14 November 2017. Hartigan, Karelisa. “Muse on Madison Avenue: Classical Mythology in Contemporary Advertising.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 123, 2003. http://www.jstor.org. proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/stable/3246324. Accessed 1 November 2017. Nodelman, Perry. “The Cognitive Estrangement of Darko Suvin.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, vol. 5, no. 4, 1981. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/252362. Accessed 16 November 2017. Ronnick, Michele. “Versace’s Medusa: (capita)lizing upon classical antiquity.” Helios, vol. 32, no. 2, 2005, http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=lond95336&id=GALE|A 143527257&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon&authCount=1. Accessed 17 October, 2017.
Sánchez, Alfonso. “Advertising around the myth: use of mythological figures as a persuasive tool of advertising discourse.” Historia y Comunicación Social, vol. 19, 2014, https:// wwwlibuwoca.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/cgibin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy1.lib.uwo. ca/docview/1657586705?accountid=15115. Accessed 18 October 2017.
Beyond “Being Yourself ”: Frank Ocean and Self-Reliance Akshat Datta
Frank Ocean’s most personal and intimate artistic statement did not arrive in 2016 in the form of Blonde, his highly anticipated sophomore LP. It came, surprisingly, as the first issue of his Boys Don’t Cry magazine, a rare and extensive study of the artist’s personal life and inspirations. An early feature of the magazine highlights an interview with Mrs. Rosie Watson, one of Ocean’s longtime mentors; Mrs. Watson can be heard offering him advice via voicemail on Blonde’s interlude track, “Be Yourself ” (Ocean). Prompted by the interviewer on what she has advised him about in the past, she responds:
I said, ‘Remember in life, you have to have both swagger and sway … With swagger alone, you’re convincing yourself that you have something that you really may not have, and that others don’t see in you. Sway is knowing what to do with that swagger. Sway is influence ... You have to believe in yourself, but you also have to impart that confidence in such a way that you convince other people to believe in you, and take a chance on you’. (BDC 27)
Mrs. Watson’s comments expose what I believe to be a simple but accurate observation of the most unique feature of Ocean’s post-Channel Orange output. For the first time on Blonde, Frank Ocean exhibits both swagger and sway — the latter coming out in his character as the result of its complex, deeply rooted focus on self-reliance. An attentive listener will find that self-reliance reveals itself to be the core philosophy that encompasses Blonde’s major themes, and its most essential lyrical content. The manner with which Ocean constructs his self-reliant character on Blonde refutes the notion that it implies resisting change in favor of a rigid identity. In the dialogue that follows, I will detail how Frank Ocean expresses a receptive version of self-reliance on Blonde. He posits selfreliance on the album as an essential framework for its two major pursuits: for confronting the past, and for maintaining a stable and fluid identity. Ocean’s lyrics describe him struggling to follow his own principles of self-reliance, but ultimately, also propose Nature as the most accessible, successful model to follow in its wake. Although the conceptual depth of Blonde is refreshing and original for the contemporary pop and R&B landscape, every artist — even one as original as Ocean — can be placed along an imaginative continuum. It is necessary to acknowledge how artists and the ideas they draw upon are conditioned and shaped by the works and cultural climate of their predecessors, whether it occurs as a result of conscious influence or not (Frye 253). “Self-reliance” in the contemporary, American philosophical context traces itself back to the essay of the same name from the godfather of the American Transcendentalist movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Studied alongside Blonde, Emerson’s Self-Reliance unravels Ocean’s ideas on the album, and where their philosophies overlap, 10
reveals a shared value of a self-relying and self-sufficing soul. By placing it in conversation with the Emerson’s definitive text on the subject, I seek to introduce an original perspective on Blonde, and a new means of imagining its content and value. Two years following its initial release, the topics of discussion around Ocean’s music have stagnated to be narrowly focused on the themes it is typically attributed to — namely, nostalgia and heartbreak. Meanwhile, oversimplification for the sake of “relatable” readings have also been common for Emerson’s Self-Reliance. My own reading of its text aligns itself with contemporary Emersonian scholars, especially those that imagine self-reliant identity as flexible, receptive, and fluid. The most influential of these is On Leaving by Branka Arsić, which meticulously traces a fluctuating and relational identity through Emerson’s texts. Rather than affirm the rigid and stubborn figure typically associated with the idea of a “self-reliant” character, On Leaving works to outline a more flexible depiction of the Emersonian self. Arsić reveals how a self-reliant identity remains in “flux” within an ongoing process of “becoming” (Arsić 9), thereby maintaining a state of “universal fluctuation” and “metamorphosis” (Arsić 7). The supporting passages from Emerson’s text come from deeper in his essay, when he deviates from the simpler truisms often quoted from the first two pages and admits that to “talk of reliance [itself] is a poor external way of speaking” (Emerson 162). “Self-reliance” should not signify a “foolish consistency” (Emerson 156) of character and self — its true power for Emerson is found in the state of transition, in accepting that “the soul becomes” as it “forever degrades the past” (Emerson 162). Foolish consistency in character and opinion is actively discouraged: Emerson refers to it famously as “the hobgoblin of little minds”, and insists it leaves the ‘great soul” with “simply nothing to do” but “concern himself with his shadow on the wall” (Emerson 156). Another essential reading that affirms this flexible understanding is Stanley Cavell’s pathbreaking essay “Thinking Of Emerson”. Cavell also works to refute the rigid, onedimensional reading of self-reliance as a means of resisting change; he argues that “sound intuition” should reveal that “no sane or mere man … was not aware that we may be undone by the pain of the world we make and may not make again” (Cavell 173). Cavell affirms the self-reliant identity as one that is receptive and accepting, stating that in the act of receiving and accepting the world, this relation to oneself is a means through which the self ’s “existence is to be acknowledged” (Cavell 173). A relational, receptive form of self-reliance functions as a means of self-acknowledgement, and thereby connects the self with itself. Defined as such, both Arsić and Cavell help detail and elevate the Emersonian idea of self-reliance to a more sound, intuitive understanding of the flexible character and modality it evokes. Where Blonde is concerned, Ocean demonstrates this relational modality in the peculiar nature of his lyrical delivery. Marking one of the most striking changes between Blonde and its predecessors, Ocean often manipulates the pitch of his voice on the record, alternating between the pitched-up 11
“younger” tone that introduces the album on “Nikes”, and more experimental manipulation like that on the second half of “White Ferrari” (Ocean). Typically, pitch-shifted vocals are employed to represent separate “characters” or “personalities” in the narrative of an album. On Blonde however, every manipulated “voice” represents a point of reception — a “version” of Frank from a past, previous, or simply varied state of mind. In his post-album interview with the New York Times, Frank describes these voices as a “bricolage” of perspectives that participate in the same stories, working together to relay them in “overlaid flashes” (NYT). Prompted to clarify whether the voices are “multiple points of view” or “multiple Franks interrupting each other to be heard” (NYT), Ocean responds:
It’s the same thing — to me — because my point of view from one emotional state to another is a different point of view. Sometimes I want to talk on a song and be angry, because I am angry. Then there’s always a part of me that remembers that this record lives past my being angry, and so do I really want to be angry about that? Is that feeling going to have longevity? (NYT).
The majority of Blonde finds Ocean only in conversation with varied versions of his own self, all vying for longevity on the record. I believe Blonde’s approach with its vocals, outside of expressing a distinctly relational and receptive self-reliance, reveals a genuine effort from the artist to collapse the space between emotion and the self in order to best articulate its potency. An effective demonstration of this effort occurs on “Ivy”, which finds Frank relaying a story of young love by performing the track in its entirety with pitched up vocals that express its youthful vulnerability. “Ivy” demonstrates Ocean’s unique technique of delivery, which works to collapse the space between perspective and narrative by manipulating the voice to match the emotional palette of the track itself. “I thought that I was dreaming, when you said you loved me” (Ocean) is imagined to be delivered directly from the perspective of a “younger” Frank Ocean, which gives the song an immediate emotional potency, one that only grows more painful when the vocals get distorted as the track progresses. The subjects of reception on Blonde are often nostalgic, painful memories of love and heartbreak. Narratives of this nature have come to be a trademark staple in Ocean’s music, and thus, maintain a powerful presence on Blonde. Throughout his discography, Ocean’s music has consistently demonstrated how love and heartbreak are some of the most powerful influences upon identity. Blonde more specifically approaches this theme by demonstrating an artist confronting memories of past relations and love in the present, in order to come to terms with them. Thus, the manipulated voices can sometimes be wrongly interpreted as Ocean’s inability to focus on the present, or perhaps — to use the metaphor Emerson evokes in Self-Reliance — him dragging about a “corpse” of “memory” (Emerson 156). In her 1982 book Emerson’s Fall, Barbara Packer notes that the model Emerson proposes in his text not only implies abandoning the pressure 12
of societal customs, but also our own past as well (Packer 142). Emerson proposes a “rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone … but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day” (Emerson 156). Conceptually, I believe Blonde demonstrates an artist confronting the past through voices that represent his many-eyed present selves, each vying for its own longevity. Although the perspectives may represent past and previous states of mind, they are recollected with the express purpose of confrontation in the present. This is more obvious on songs that find themselves to be complex, contradictory meditations on a subject, where the multiple perspectives make it difficult to discern Ocean’s definitive opinions on love, relationships, or a person. This is often the case on Blonde; the listener builds Ocean’s identity upon a foundation of his efforts to confront his own memories and emotions, to varying degrees of success. One of the most memorable demonstrations of this conflict in identity occurs on “Solo”, where Frank evokes the metaphor of a “bull and a matador dueling in the sky” (Ocean) to reflect his inner emotional turmoil. The “bull and a matador” reference the constellations of Taurus and Orion, who duel eternally in the sky in a match that becomes a mirror for Ocean’s struggles in the song. Meanwhile, each of the verses represents a perspective that deals with a variable on the concept of “solo”, every one with its own contradictions peppered throughout its lines. The conflict gives way to the dramatic shifts in Frank’s “character” as the song progresses. Between verses, perspectives shift dramatically on memories of Ocean’s past relationships; he will confidently declare “we don’t gotta be solo” on one verse, which turns to “think we were better off solo” on the next (Ocean). These shifts also occur more subtly, as he mentions that he prefers to “stay away from highways” because right now, his “red eyes” “prefer yellow” (Ocean). The metaphor of the bull and the matador itself is framed between the double entendre of “inhale inhale / inhale, in hell there’s heaven” (Ocean), a nod at his conflicting relationship with marijuana as form of therapy — a major theme on the album. The subject of smoking marijuana as it relates to meditations on the past has an especially interesting contradiction as well; consuming the substance makes the smoker nostalgic on one hand, but it also leads to a loss of memory with repeated use. These contradictions build an unsteady foundation for constructing a definitive identity for Frank in a single track; his perspectives remain in a state of fluctuation, as his efforts to receive and confront the past often contradict one another. Ocean’s anxiety in remembering that “that this record lives past [his] being angry” (NYT) leads to an effort, as a result, to keep definitive opinions or fixed theories about his character at bay, thereby keeping his identity in flux on the record. Where “Solo,” “Ivy,” and “Siegfried” find Ocean in the moment of confronting his past through the “many eyed” present, “Nikes,” “Self Control,” “Skyline To,” “Godspeed,” and “Pink + White” express the necessity of leaving it behind. The less morose instrumental and vocal palettes on these tracks reflect this shift, but the lyrics are varied and rich with its expression as well. Whether he’s “living so the last night / feels like a past life,” or acknowledging “that’s the way everyday goes / every time we’ve no control” (Ocean), moments of expressing the 13
relational modality of self-reliance specifically in the form of leaving the past behind are powerful on Blonde. This modality is a significant part of “Pink + White” — a track that serves as a testament to Ocean’s inability to impose his will on the world. The first iteration of the hook finds Frank speaking to the “muse” in the song, reminiscing as he remembers “it’s the same way you showed me / nod my head, don’t close my eyes / halfway on a slow move” (Ocean). Being taught to keep his eyes open while nodding “yes” is the most simple iteration of advice to calmly accept change, but “Pink + White” offers more complex takes on the subject as well. The “muse” that “showed” Frank these things is dually the mysterious beloved common in his music, but the “pink and white” sky and “black and yellow” (Ocean) ground also describe the earth, and especially Nature, as the second source “teaching” him these lessons. Almost two centuries after Emerson wrote Self-Reliance, our collective relationship with Nature has changed, a fact that “Pink + White” reflects. The hook itself — “if the sky is pink and white / if the ground is black and yellow” (Ocean) — contains a subtle hint; pink skies are often the product of pollution, and the asphalt a mark of the industrious ambition that contributed to its color. Below its glorious instrumental, “Pink + White” is a dialogue on how Nature models self-reliance within it, in that nothing within Nature is not self-sufficing and self-relying. Ocean comes to accept this fact, and thus finds himself grounded and accepting of whatever burden his existence brings, knowing that in Nature, he is self-reliant. The lines “if you could fly then you’d feel south / up north’s getting cold soon / the way it is we’re on land / still I’m someone to hold true” (Ocean) use birds as a means of relating this grounded acceptance. Meanwhile, the instinct to fly south makes an obvious reference to birds’ migratory instinct when winter arrives, an instinct that Frank, however, dissociates himself from. Instead, he chooses to embrace “the way it is” (Ocean): the fact that we are bound to the earth and subject to its forces. “[If] you could fly you’d feel south” also functions as a double entendre to communicate how “flying” away from the “cold” would lead to “feeling south” — a feeling that things are not going well (Ocean). Frank paradoxically relates the ability to fly away and avoid the earthbound subjection to cold to the lack of control we have over our fate. The theme of a lack of control — in accepting that there will be “mountains you won’t move” (Ocean) — permeates throughout the album. When Emerson arrives at the “last and highest truth” on the subject of Self-Reliance, he comes to shift the conversation from reliance — “a poor external way of speaking” — to “that which relies” (Emerson 162). Emerson observes a law of power that resides “in the moment of transition from a past to a new state” (Emerson 162). This law “works and is” in nature, which “suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself ” (Emerson 163); “the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind” is one such demonstration of the “self-sufficing and therefore self-relying soul” (Emerson 163). In her essay on Emerson’s impersonal model of abandonment, Sharon Cameron notes that all of Emerson’s major critics have understood that outside of conformity, the other major threat to self-reliance is “self-
interest or self-cherishing” (Cameron 6). Thus, Cameron posits that a natural consequence of the liberation found in self-reliance is impersonality, noting that what Nature demonstrates for Emerson are features of a soul in “a state so stripped down that it is defined by negations” (Cameron 7). It “lives impersonally” — in that state of becoming, from the past and a new state — “‘in the present, above time’ and ‘with God’” (Cameron 7). A state of fluctuation is one both Ocean and Emerson see modelled in Nature; however, Emerson and Ocean react to it differently, the former objectively in accepting a state of impersonality, the latter personally — in choosing to ground himself. An emphasis on staying grounded, on learning and loving nature and the earth, can be found on “Pink + White” in the sequence of lines that follow:
If you could die and come back to life up for air from the swimming pool you’d kneel down to the dry land kiss the earth that birthed you gave you tools just to stay alive and make it out when the sun is ruin. (Ocean)
Here, Frank references a resurrection from a swimming pool that leads to a better appreciation of the Earth that “birthed you” and “gave you tools just to stay alive” (Ocean). Nature affords nothing within it that is not self-sufficing and self-relying; Ocean understands this, and on “Pink + White”, he accepts his inability to impose his will on the world by realizing that whatever conflict and confrontation he faces, Nature has afforded him the tools to face it. Theoretically, “Pink + White” offers Ocean’s most thorough engagement with the theme of self-reliance, one that encompasses most if not all the necessary themes in its modality and identity previously mentioned. Firstly, it refutes a rigid adherence to character by encouraging the listener, as he was, to nod and accept change. Self-reliance as a receptive modality is present as well — in choosing to the embrace “the way it is” on land, Ocean remains receptive to change in circumstance and accepts the possibility of it impacting his character. His confidence in the ability to face these changes comes from the belief that Nature has birthed nothing that is not self-relying — he observes his ability to access the tools he needs to continue to become. Thus, in conversation with Emerson’s Self-Reliance, “Pink + White” alone could unravel Ocean’s philosophy on Blonde and reveal their shared value and belief of Nature modelling the self-relying and self-sufficing soul. The belief in himself Ocean exhibits on the track, as well as his effort to complexly express that the listener believe in themselves, and beyond, also make it an excellent demonstration of his newfound swagger and sway on the album. 15
Nearly half a year after releasing Blonde, however, Frank Ocean released a track titled “Moon River” on Valentine’s Day, a love song findly addressed to a river he recalls as a friend (Ocean). Just as Boys Don’t Cry functions as a helpful paratext for complicating and revealing the perplexities of the “official” text that is Blonde, I believe “Moon River” finds Frank Ocean evoking his most simple and powerful analogy for modelling Blonde’s idea of self-reliance. As was my purpose with this dialogue as a whole, I seek to evoke this analogy as a final means of affirming my proposed inroad for original conversation, and for imagining the theme modelled by what I believe will be a milestone album of this decade. The significance of the river analogy in this context traces itself back to Heraclitus’s The Cosmic Fragments, but is translated best in the film Call Me By Your Name: “the meaning of the river flowing is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice, but that some things stay the same [...] only by changing” (Oliver). Works Cited Arsić, Branka. On Leaving. Harvard University Press, 2010. Cameron, Sharon. “A Way Of Life by Abandonment: Emerson’s Impersonal.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 25, no. 1, 1998, pp. 1-31. Cavell, Stanley. “Thinking of Emerson.” New Literary History, vol. 11, no. 1, 1979, pp. 161-173. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance.” The Portable Emerson, edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer, Penguin, 2014, pp. 150-173. Frye, Northrop. The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination. Anansi, 2017. Heraclitus. The Cosmic Fragments. Cambridge University Printing House, 1975, pp. 366. Ocean, Frank. Blonde. XL Recordings, 2016. Vinyl. ---.
Boys Don’t Cry. McGruder Publishing, 2016.
“Frank Ocean Is Finally Free, Mystery Intact.” Nytimes.com. N. p., 2017. Web. 5 Apr. 2018.
---. “Moon River.” Blonded, 2018. Apple Music, https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/moon- river/1349524897?i=1349524898 Oliver, actor. Call Me By Your Name. Frenesy Film Company, 2017. Packer, Barbara L. Emerson’s Fall: A New Interpretation of the Major Essays. New York: Continuum, 1982. 16
“You Can’t Speak English”: Negative Consequences of English as the World’s ‘Lingua Franca’
When I started teaching immigrants....I frequently taught my students turns of phrase accompanied by comments such as ‘This is how you can sound more like a native speaker’....I often tried to help my students be more American-like without giving thought to the fact that for many of them, it was American-like political action economic practices, or military intervention that had made it necessary for them to leave, or even flee, their homes and immigrate to the United States.
These are the words of English professor Suhanthie Motha (xxii). Her moral quandary about tutoring immigrants is emblematic of a larger issue surrounding the predominance of English as a worldwide language of culture, business, and international affairs. In the modern world, with its network of global connections, it would seem to make sense that an international language is a necessary, and even positive, thing. That people around the world speak English might appear to be beneficial for everyone, as this simplifies communication, expands cultural networks, and allows people from different countries to collaborate on massive projects without the confusion of participants not speaking the same language. Although the spread of English was not malicious, and perhaps not always intentional, its negative consequences outweigh its benefits for speakers of other languages. That English is the modern world’s ‘lingua franca’ creates prejudice against non-native speakers and speakers of dialects, spreads Western culture at the expense of indigenous cultures, and reduces global linguistic diversity. By the mid-twentieth century, English was the world’s dominant language. Today, nearly 400 million people speak English as their primary language, and about as many speak English as a second language (Kowner and Rosenhouse 6-7). Although Mandarin has more native speakers than English, English claims the status of the world’s ‘lingua franca’, and is the world’s most popular second-language option (4). English’s rise to prominence began with the British Empire, which spread English through its administration and taught English in colonial schools. The language in the curriculum of these schools was highly standardized in order to create a class of labourers who could be easily directed and communicated with (Pennycook 118). Most of the colonies in the empire gained independence after the Second World War, and many of them chose English as their national language. However, having a ‘national’ language is a European concept which newly-independent states were forced to adopt in order to fit into the Western conception of nationhood (Leith 211-12). Artificially assigning one language supremacy over others in multilingual and multi-ethnic regions created many problems. Language divisions led to power inequalities in these former colonies, with English-speakers gaining 17
influence over people who spoke indigenous languages. Even now, in many former colonies which chose their colonizers’ language as the official language, those who speak this minority language have much more political power and economic control than people speaking other languages, even if these are majority languages (Skutnall-Kangas 391). As well, English’s worldwide predominance means that countries with colonial heritage continue to be linked to and oppressed by their colonial pasts. By continuing to speak English, whether in government, culture, or business, countries with English-speaking colonial pasts sustain the ideology of the West being the source of their power (Ndebele 51). After the decline of the British Empire, the United States took over the role of the English language’s world spokesperson. The United States extended the idea of the ‘White Man’s burden’ into the twentieth century and beyond by claiming that a working knowledge of English would raise up those in ‘developing’ nations (Cronin 53). However, some argue that disseminating English around the world is “undemocratic,” as it creates a system whereby native English-speaking countries have more international prestige than other countries (Kowner and Rosenhouse 8). The United States spread English around the world in various ways. During the interwar period, the United States funded research organizations in Europe. Partly to appease their benefactors, these organizations moved from German to English when writing about the natural sciences (Phillipson 11). American popular culture and mass media also contributed to the globalization of English (Kowner and Rosenhouse 14). Part of the hypocrisy in encouraging people in foreign countries to speak English is that native English speakers do not want to share control of the language. Change in language is inevitable, especially when it is exported to other nations, where it mingles with indigenous cultures and languages. However, native English speakers still desire to maintain control over what ‘standard’ English is. To the extent to which they succeed in this, people in nations which adopt English, then, still do not possess it in the same sense as native English speakers do (Ndebele 51). It is debatable to what extent there even exists a ‘standard spoken English’ in the way that ‘standard written English’ exists. For purposes of clarity in communication, it is more imperative that written English be more precise than spoken English, as speech is accompanied by cues and context that make it easier to understand. In speech, people also have the ability to correct themselves and answer questions in way that writers do not (Honegger 11-13). Nonetheless, non-native English speakers are often treated as less intelligent than native English speakers, because of their inability to speak ‘proper’ English (Mugglestone 8). Even within disciplines where the participants are highly educated, the stigma against 18
dialects and English as a second language (ESL) speakers persists. Often, academics who speak ESL have their arguments ignored in favour of criticism of grammatical issues with how they present their ideas (Trifonovitch 212). People who are forced to learn a second language for their career may develop an “attitude of inadequacy”; similarly, attitudes of superiority can develop among native English speakers who interact with ESL speakers in their workplace (Trifonovitch 213-14). As well, English is widely seen as the “language of science,” which is not entirely true, given that research is conducted in multitudinous other languages (Phillipson 4). However, this perception to some extent limits the perceived credibility of researchers who do not speak English. This discrimination is not limited to academia. Immigrants in countries where the native language is English face discrimination because of their imperfect spoken English. Children in ESL classrooms are often teased by their peers with statements such as “‘You can’t speak English’.” (Motha 49). Phrases like these imply that there is something wrong with ESL students, and that they lack something necessary to function in the world. As well, these statements ignore other bases of knowledge that these children have – among these being proficiency in a language other than English (49). The stigma against ESL-speakers is twofold, then: firstly, there is the stigma against ESL speakers who do not have perfect English, and secondly, there is an assumption amongst native English speakers that those who speak ESL must inherently not speak the language well, which is not necessarily true. In fact, many children who are considered deficient in the English language by school boards in the United States are native speakers rather than ESL speakers (49). English as a second language is taught by native English speakers not just to immigrants, but around the world. When teaching European languages such as English in non-Western areas of the world, the idea that the West is inherently intellectually and culturally superior to these areas is, and has been in the past, widespread (Mühlhäusler 241). Teaching ESL is an industry that many Western jobs depend on (Phillipson 10). To say that English lacks inherent value, then, is to delegitimize the careers of these teachers. Therefore, the majority of them will presumably support theories about English that let them ease their consciences and continue working in their field. This process of legitimizing the teaching of ESL happens on both an individual and a national level: for example, the United States as a whole supports the exportation of English, because the more countries speak English, the better this is for American business interests (11). Teaching English in foreign countries means that Western culture is also taught, as languages cannot be fully separated from cultures that they come from (Mühlhäusler 241). Importing English into other parts of the world can do great cultural damage because, since English is so useful internationally, there is much incentive for younger generations to abandon their traditional language and culture. English allows people to tap into a network of culture, business, and academia that includes the United States, arguably the world’s most
powerful country (Leith 212). English is so widespread in certain areas that, in places like Europe, pursuing careers in fields that involve worldwide communication networks is difficult for people who do not speak English (Phillipson 7). In many countries, learning English is considered a way to raise one’s economic status (Leith 214). A more pessimistic view of this is that the introduction of English into these countries has limited social mobility for those who do not speak it. The United States’ policy for education in Malaysia in the late nineteenth century, for example, was to maintain the Malay people as a docile workforce by educating them only in vernacular languages, thus largely restricting their social mobility (Pennycook 87-88). Importing English media into country may harm indigenous literary culture, which, to an extent, needs a market to survive (de Swaan 47). If governments intervene in this by subsidizing indigenous work or imposing tariffs on imported media, at a certain point, they are infringing on people’s rights to access media through their own selection (4748). If a foreign language dominates media in a country, local texts and oral traditions must either be translated, abandoned, or pushed underground. Translating a text means that specific indigenous terms which have no equivalent in another language must either be left untranslated, which can result in confusion, or must be exchanged for the closest approximation in another language. If a translator is not intimately familiar with the subject of the material they are translating, it is easy for them to replace words with ones that do not carry very similar meanings. One could make the argument that translation can save indigenous knowledge in dying languages, by preserving it in translations (Cronin 74). However, in many cases, these languages are only dying because the introduction of English into a region marginalizes them. Regardless of cultural implications, the loss of languages themselves is a loss for humanity. Today, linguistic diversity is declining faster than ever before (Skutnall-Kangas ix). Western states are, in some capacity, the cause of this swift decline (550). “[L]inguistic heterogeneity” is, as linguists such as Peter Mühlhäusler have argued, inherently good, and having any one language (or several languages) become dominant at the expense of other languages is detrimental to the cultural complexity of the world (1). Limiting the number of languages in the world limits the kinds of thinking and knowledge that humans have access to (Cronin 74). However, for some colonized peoples, learning English may be a necessary evil. For example, Canadian indigenous peoples face a strange paradox regarding whether or not to learn English. In order to engage in political, legal, and media campaigns asking for land grants, reparation payments, and to receive grant funding for cultural programming, they must know English. However, that these communities are learning English is often detrimental to the status and vitality of their indigenous languages (Patrick 176).
Admittedly, there are great benefits to learning English. English is not only taught as a second language in former colonies or in ‘developing’ nations where the native English speakers have business interests; it is also the most common language learned as a second language within Europe (Phillipson 7). Sociologist Abram de Swaan argues that there was no “conscious and organized attempt to impose English on distant nations,” but rather that the spread of English resulted from the entrepreneurial spirit and social climbing of individuals in foreign countries (142). Having one language spoken as a second language throughout a continent allows for collaboration across national and cultural boundaries. The same principle applies within national borders: in countries with speakers of multiple indigenous languages, adopting English as a second language is often an easy solution for communication within these countries (Kowner and Rosenhouse 15). It may be easier to accept the sweeping tide of English than to fight it. Humans have a “[t]endency to emulate a dominant group,” and the international prestige of the Englishspeaking world means that the status of the language is unlikely to decline in the foreseeable future (Kowner and Rosenhouse 13). Yet this kind of thinking can become problematic. Certain linguists have argued that English is out of control, and that its progress can no longer be reined in. This wrongly relieves the moral responsibility of English speakers to create programs to minimize the impact of the English language on indigenous languages when they conduct business and industry in foreign countries (Phillipson 8). In the twenty-first century, English is everywhere. That English is the world’s ‘lingua franca’ is partly a historical accident, and partly the result of directed efforts, mainly by Britain and the United States, to spread English in foreign countries. That this language of international communication is English is, however, not the most concerning part of this issue. Rather, the fact that the world has a predominant language at all is the main problem. The spread of a ‘lingua franca’ excludes those who do not speak ‘standard’ forms of it from being taken seriously in intellectual communities, and marginalizes minority cultures and languages. Works Cited Cronin, Michael. Translation and Globalization. Routledge, 2003. de Swaan, Abram. Words of the World: The Global Language System. Polity, 2001. Honegger, Mark. English Grammar for Writing. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. Kowner, Rotem, and Judith Rosenhouse. “The Hegemony of English and Determinants of Borrowing from Its Vocabulary.” Globally Speaking: Motives for Adopting English Vocabulary in Other Languages, edited by Judith Rosenhouse and Rotem Kowner. Multilingual Matters, 2008, pp. 4-18. Leith, Dick. A Social History of English, 2nd edition. Routledge, 1983. 21
Mugglestone, Linda. ‘Talking Proper’: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol. Clarendon Press, 1995. Ndebele, Njabulo. “The English Language and Social Change in South Africa.” The English Academy Review, vol. 29, no. sup. 1, 2012, pp. 49-64. Taylor & Francis Online. Motha, Suhanthie. Race, Empire, and English Language Teaching: Creating Responsible and Ethical Anti-Racist Practice. Teachers College, Columbia University, 2014. Mühlhäusler, Peter. Linguistic Ecology: Language Change and Linguistic Imperialism in the Pacific Region. Routledge, 1996. Patrick, Donna. “English and the Construction of Aboriginal Identities in the Eastern Canadian Arctic.” English and Ethnicity, edited by Janina Brutt-Griffler and Catherine Evans Davies. Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, pp. 167-89. Pennycook, Alastair. The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language. Longman, 1994. Phillipson, Robert. “The Linguistic Imperialism of Neoliberal Empire.” Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, 2008, pp. 1-43. Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove. Linguisic Genocide in Education – or Worldwide Diversity in Human Rights? Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000. Trifonovitch, Gregory. “English as an International Language: an Attitudinal Approach.” English for Cross Cultural Communication, edited by Larry E. Smith. St. Martin’s Press, 1981, pp. 211-15
Andy Warhol as a Bridge Between The Classes: Consumerism and Identity in a Post-War Hegemonic America Eva Alie The rise of American hegemony following the second World War was simultaneously a reflection upon and a result of the postmodernist movement. Britain, the hegemonic predecessor, was in tremendous debt to the United States, resulting in a shift of power from the former to the latter that was solidified by the end of the War1. The space once occupied by Britain in the financial market was virtually vacated, creating an increased demand for American- produced goods; American culture became widely commodified, furthering the country’s status as the global political determiner2. This consumerism allowed for the emergence of pop art and Andy Warhol; the pop art movement, in general, served to critique middle-class America and traditional artistic and cultural divisions by depicting lower class objects in high culture contexts. The Warholian aesthetic was predicated on hyper realistic depictions of consumer goods and celebrities, ultimately blurring the line between advertisement and fine art; the familiarity of the images he created contradicted the class boundaries that were firmly established in the modernist movement. The evolution of Warhol’s career, along with the artistic labels he lent himself, conforms to the development of postmodernism and the consumer focus. His early work was selfdescribed as commercialist in style and production, before transitioning into a fine artist. Andy Warhol’s arguably most famous piece, Campbell’s Soup Cans (1961-62), signalled the introduction of his signature presentation of low culture imagery as high art and lent him the status as a fine artist3. Warhol was a staunch defender of the Campbell’s Soup Cans as unique pieces and often described how he ate a bowl of their soup on a daily basis for lunch, providing a sense of indexicality to the object and lending the work a sense of conformity to modernist notions of fine art4. The apparent acceptance of modernist expectations is highly ironic, however, as Warhol vehemently denied this connection throughout his career, exposing an underlying paradox within his aesthetic philosophy; this irony is reflective of postmodernism’s inability to fully detach itself from its predecessor despite the movement’s total refutation of modernism. The production method utilized for the Campbell’s Soup Cans reinforces Warhol’s focus on middle-class consumerism, creating a sense of cynical nationalism. He projected the image of the pre-published Campbell’s advertisement onto stretched canvas before sketching and
1 Kori Schake, Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony (England: Harvard University Press, 2017), 255. 2 Ibid. 3 Elizabeth Athens, “Andy Warhol’s Production Kitchen,”Gastronomics 9, no. 2 (Spring 2002): 46. 4 Elizabeth Athens, “Andy Warhol’s Production Kitchen,”Gastronomics 9, no. 2 (Spring 2002): 46.
meticulously painting the can, repeating this process to a point of near-industrialization5. At first glance, the piece (Figure One) appears to merely serve as a replication or extension of the original, but is distinguished as a unique artwork through Warhol’s adaptation of the brand’s seal to a simple gold disk and the visible weave of the canvas6. These choices force the viewer to reassess the differences between commercial representations and fine culture productions; the piece both exists as a “knockoff ” of the original advertisement and a high brow artistic commentary, highlighting his ability to effectively subvert traditional standards of art.
Figure One - Campbell’s Soup Cans; 1961-62; Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
The display of Campbell’s Soup Cans in the exhibit American Supermarket at the Bianchini Gallery in 1964, furthered the piece’s commentary on middle-class representations and consumption. The exhibition was designed in the layout of a quintessential grocery store including aisle markers and loose produce, with the artwork installed above a stacked pile of soup cans7. The design of the exhibit served to blur the boundaries between gallery and store, suggesting that American culture had been commodified in the wake of their newfound political dominance and the separations that had once existed between high and popular culture could no longer be distinguished. In Figure Two, it appears that even the viewers have forgotten the truth of their setting, and seem to carry themselves as they would in a real store. Campbell’s Soup Cans represent a shift in the way that consumer goods were viewed in a broader cultural context, with an heightened universal understanding of the symbols. Class identity became irrelevant for a thorough comprehension of the pieces, as the image of the soup can was so widespread that the specific code typically required to appreciate fine art was negated. Warhol exclusively chose “national” brands that predominately targeted lower to middle class consumers, indicating the prominence of American hegemony as demonstrated through the widespread brand recognition8.
5 Ibid., 47. 6 Ibid. 7 Elizabeth Athens, “Andy Warhol’s Production Kitchen,”Gastronomics 9, no. 2 (Spring 2002): 46. 8 Anthony E. Grudin, “ ‘ A Sign of Good Taste’: Andy Warhol and the Rise of Brand Image Advertising,” Oxford University Press 33, no. 2 (2010): 213.
Figure Two - American Supermarket; Bianchini Gallery (1964). Warhol continued to critique popular culture later in his career through his use of widely recognizable imagery, particularly in the Marilyn Monroe works. The piece was created shortly after her death when there was tremendous speculation surrounding her genuine identity and seemingly infinite attempts by the media to discover the woman that existed beyond the public image given to her. Warhol, however, denied the notion of a private entity existing outside the bounds of Marilyn’s image as a sex symbol. As such, the Marilyn Diptych is a reflection of the cultural product created by mass media and consumerism; the “real” Marilyn does not exist, as society has only ever experienced the woman in question as a commodity. Although the work was created after her death, Warhol chose extremely wellknown photographs from the height of her fame in the nineteen-fifties to serve as the basis for his piece, highlighting the ways in which media had conditioned the public to readily recognize the highly stylized image and brand of Monroe9. The grainy black and white style of his first Marilyn Diptych, Figure Three, is highly reminiscent of mass produced photographs in print newspapers during that time and functions as an indicator of the cultural desensitization that was experienced in the context of celebrities, making Marilyn a ubiquitous piece of popular culture10.
Figure Three - Marilyn Diptych (1962); Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987).
9 Cecile Whiting, “Andy Warhol, the Public Star, and the Private Self,” Oxford Art Journal 10, no. 2 (1987): 58. 10 Cecile Whiting, “Andy Warhol, the Public Star, and the Private Self,” Oxford Art Journal 10, no. 2 (1987): 58.
The colourised renditions of the original Marilyn Diptych are an obvious contrast, but ultimately serve the same purpose as the black and white version. Marilyn is depicted as a caricature of herself: Warhol exaggerates her large lips, hooded eyes and unwaveringly stiff and sculpted hair11. Her identity as a creation for consumption by the public is accentuated by this amplification and further strips her of autonomy. Furthermore, the work lacks fine detail within the face and instead favours a heavy emphasis on the black outline12; since the notion of a “private” Marilyn is non-existent, she is not allowed the small details that would indicate a personal identity and rather is confined to the broader image that was created for her. There are no discernable differences between the separate components of the piece, Figure Five, other than discrepancies in colour choice, leaving Marilyn emotionally static13. Warhol’s choice of neon and metallic colours disallows for the traditional application of emotional symbolism that occurs when analyzing most artwork14, forcing the viewer to analyze Monroe solely by what is presented instead of the secret identity of the celebrity that is desperately craved.
Figure Five- Untitled Selections from the Marilyn Diptych; Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987). Warhol’s methodology with these pieces is thoroughly postmodern, albeit problematic in contrast to the modernist ideals he held. Modernist portraiture was predicated on allowing the viewer to discover an alternate dimension to the subject of the work and to reveal the truth that lies beyond the surface15. Warhol, however, denies Marilyn Monroe any depth beyond what she is allowed by public opinion and consumption; the relationship between the viewer and their socialized perceptions of Marilyn is more important than her individual identity. Modernist work was distinguished by its complete detachment from daily life as the movement did not view art as a reflection of the common experience but rather as a means to a complex understanding of the world. Postmodern art, particularly pop art, draws almost exclusively from ordinary images and fully accepts the commercial aspect of its production. The loss of connection between the sign and the signified, as exemplified through the Marilyn 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid., 66 14 Cecile Whiting, “Andy Warhol, the Public Star, and the Private Self,” Oxford Art Journal 10, no. 2 (1987): 58. 15 Ibid.
Diptych, forces the viewer to question both the existence of a deeper purpose in pop art and the erosion of personal identity as a result of consumerist overtures within politics and culture. American hegemony rose to such prominence on account of the country’s ability to promote national brands and commodify its culture to the extent that anyone could relate to it, regardless of past experience or societal standing. The characteristic exaggeration within Warhol’s works ultimately leaves the viewer to question who or what he is truly critiquing within his art, whether it be himself, society or the subject matter itself; his blind refusal to give the viewer a direct answer supports a refutation of convention, and is possibly the greatest element of postmodernism within his portfolio. Bibliography Applewhite, James. “Postmodernist Allegory and the Detail of Nature.” The Kenyon Review 11, no. 1 (Winter 1989): 1-17. Athens, Elizabeth. “Andy Warhol’s Production Kitchen.” Gastronomics 9, no. 2 (Spring 2009): 45-50. Grudin, Anthony E. “ ‘A Sign of Good Taste’: Andy Warhol and the Rise of Brand Image Advertising.” Oxford University Press 3, no. 2 (2010): 213-232. Schake, Kori. Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony. London, England: Harvard University Press, 2017. Whiting, Cecile. “Andy Warhol, the Public Star, and the Private Self.” Oxford Art Journal 10, no. 2 (1987): 5875.
“Nothing so sweet as magic” Faustus, Men’s Fetish and Lust for Power Danielle Bryl-Dam
Within renaissance witchcraft pamphlets, women are targeted as being more susceptible to turning to witchcraft. The reasoning provided insists that this is due to their ability to be seduced by sexual and spiritual power, as women lacked power and autonomy in their societal and domestic lives. Despite this commonly-held belief, and the continued existence of the sexism that inspired it, I believe that men are equally as, if not more, predisposed to a lust for power, and thus witchcraft itself. This predisposition is driven both by the innate fear of losing preexisting power, as well as the de-sire to fit the definition of ‘masculinity’, commonly achieved by controlling and dominating the more submissive sex. This hunger for power and domination can be described as a fetish. Psychoanalyst Sig-mund Freud defines a fetish as “a substitute for the woman’s (mother’s) penis that the little boy once believed in and - for reasons familiar to us - does not want to give up” (842). Classic gender roles define men as aggressive, strong, and in control; women, on the other hand are docile, sub-missive, and domestic, doting on their male opposites. If the woman is discovered to be penisless by her son, it seems a logical conclusion to him that the woman must be powerless and submissive to her husband due to the absence, or castration, of the penis. Furthermore, the child would reason that “if a woman had been castrated, then (the male child’s) own possession of a penis was in danger” (Freud, 842) of castration by the father, or a more powerful male. Upon the realization of such, it is thus reasonable that the male child would seek a way to ensure the safety of his penis, thus ensuring the survival of his masculinity and innate power. Within Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the title character, Faustus, sells his soul to the devil for twenty four years of power in the earthly realm. This deal ensures Faustus’ power and masculinity are secure throughout the remaining years of his earthly life; upon the close of the final year, Faustus is to give his soul to the devil for eternal damnation. Faustus, however, is already an extraordinary figure before this deal. As witnessed in act one, scene one, Faustus has doctorate level study in multiple fields, including medicine, divinity, and philosophy, which he describes as having “ravish’d me” (Marlowe, 1:1, 6). This choice of wording implies rape, a violent act in which strips the victim of autonomy and can be said to steal away future potential due to its crip-pling and haunting after-effects. These fields of study have retained Faustus’ brain for an amount of time, however, he feels that they have stolen time and dedication from him, the likes of which he could have used to advance in other ways, particularly in feeding his power fetish. Faustus scoffs at these earthly abilities, stating “Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man./Couldst thou make men to live eternally,/ or being dead, raise them to life again,/ then this profession were to be esteem’d./ Physic farewell… Divinity, adieu!” (Marlowe, 1:1, 23-49). As Faust makes the decision early on to cast away his 28
contemporary work, he hopes to advance beyond the fragile form of man. To him, this form will always remain at risk of powerlessness and castration in a cosmic universe that extends far beyond man’s knowledge and ability. What Faustus longs for is power, strength, and manliness beyond the ability granted to man itself. But what being hosts such power, that controls man’s natural limitations? God here is the father figure, the constant threat of castration, to both man as a whole and Faustus as an individual. “The sole characteristic of heaven is power” (Cox, 50); both the power to create, as God did the earthly realm, and to destroy, as God did when expelling Lucifer from the Heavens, metaphorically castrating him. God’s followers on earth comply with God’s commandments, effectively submitting to this power. They become, in a way, the castrated female; much like women are guided to be by gender roles, God’s followers become docile, mild, obedient, and susceptible to ‘feminine’ emotions like dutiful love and quiet pain. Faustus is hesitant to do so, however, as he remains in fear of losing his phallic power. Despite his study having taught him that godliness is the proper, morally correct path, Faustus decides to call on “the phallic power of an extraordinary erection… (which) finds its ultimate goal in the extermination of the female… as a signifier of masculinity, of power, strength, and control” (Mathes, 73). Faustus decides to exterminate the womanly qualities within him in the pursuit of retaining his masculine, phallic ability - his birth-given right, he egotistically assumes. It is through this decision that Faustus decides to turn to Lucifer and his devils; though Lucifer’s fall from Heaven was a castration in itself, Lucifer was not reduced to the minute abilities of man; he still retains some magical abilities available to spirits, which he utilizes to run hell, and capture less powerful souls to castrate in his own way - retaining what he can of his phallic power. It is this opportunity - the preservation of masculine phallic power - that the devils offer Faustus… or so he thinks. In truth, Faustus is exchanging the ownership of his personal power from one powerful, castrating figure (God) to another (Lucifer). When Faustus first summons Mephastophilis, Mesphastophilis refers to himself as a “servant to great Lucifer… arch-regent and commander of all spirits.” (Marlowe, 1:3, 40-64) Despite Mephastophilis plainly admitting that those aligned with Lucifer are in his service, Faustus mistakes here that he can be equal to these governing spirits by gaining more power. Faustus forgets that the newfound phallic power he acquires is not his own; rather, it is lent to him through a contract with these beings he feels equal, if not superior, to. In fact, it is Mephastophilis who utilizes the power that Faustus claims to host himself. “Mephastophilis ‘serves’ Faustus not in good faith in response to a bargain but because he is diligent to ‘obtain his soul’, that is, to dominate him by pretending to serve him” (Cox, 55). Once the contract is signed, Faustus asks Mephastophilis for a wife, to satisfy both his lust for power and his sexual lust at the same time. Mephastophilis obliges, leaving the stage only to return with a devil dressed up in woman’s clothes, spitting sparks. Mephastophilis mockingly asks, “Tell, Faustus: how 29
dost thou like thy wife?” (2:1, 148) only to deny him his wish moments later, offering cheap illusions of women instead. On one hand, Faustus is seemingly able to satisfy his fetish for power through a domination of the opposite sex, present in both feminine illusions and sexless devils brought forward to him. “For Faustus, ‘working words’ effect no deeds but produce only a demonic illusion, the ul-timate image of his ironic enslavement to what he vainly thinks he dominates” (Cox, 56). Faustus is no longer able to engage in matrimony, as was his first request; ironically, he has sold his penis and sexual pleasure to temporary illusions of women, as he sold his soul for the temporary illusion of power. This sexual desire is present throughout the text, framing Faustus’ fall; his request for a wife opens his life in magic, and the lustful summoning of Helen of Troy is the last magical act he preforms before damnation. At the moment Mephastophilis brings Helen to Faustus, he is being instructed by the unnamed old man, as well as the good angel, to repent before it is too late. Faustus states, “One thing, good servant…that I may have unto my paramour/that heavenly Helen which I saw of late,/ whose sweet embracings may extinguish clean/ those thoughts that do dissuade me from my vow,/ and keep mine oath I made to Lucifer.” (Marlowe, 5:1, 81-87) Mephastophilis thrusts forth the illusion of Helen, and all doubts are cast from Faustus’ mind; his lust and fetish for domination overtake him. The initial apparition of Helen is the ultimate image of a submissive woman; she does not even have the power to speak, therefore opposing Faustus’ will. However, Faustus’ loaned power is waning; as he kisses the apparition, he cries “Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss;/ her lips sucks forth my soul, see where it flies!/.come Helen, give me my soul again;/here will i dwell, for heaven be in these lips,/and all is dross that is not Helena.” (Marlowe, 5:1, 90-96) Even these apparitions, turn from powerless and pliant to predatory, preying upon Faustus’ decreasing phallic power; the illusion here overpowers him, nearly snatching away his soul, as if to carry it away to Lucifer prematurely. And yet, Faustus does not attack the illusion of a woman, rather, he begs for it back, and praises her for his sexual satisfaction. Faustus here remains lustful for power and dominance, and yet he has become transformed; Lucifer has successfully forced Faustus to submit to his greatest fear. Through being aware of Faustus’ desire for power, and signing him the illusion of phallic power through the service of Mephastophilis, Lucifer is able to castrate Faustus, and bringing a crushing end to the satisfaction of Faustus’ fetish. Works Cited Cox, John D. “Devils and Power in Marlowe and Shakespeare.” The Yearbook of English Studies, vol. 23, 1993, pp. 46–64. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3507972. Freud, Sigmund. “Fetishism.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism second edition,
edited by Vincent B. Leith et. all, Norton, 2010, pp. 841-845 Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus, Broadview, 2007, pp. 73-171. Mathes, Bettina. “Doctor Faustus Impotent? Fantasizing the Male Body in the Historia Von D. Johann Fausten.” Women in German Yearbook, vol. 15, 1999, pp. 73–95. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/ stable/20688890.
Substituting a Racial Identifier for a Race: Synecdoche in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth Taylor Rousselle
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), a synecdoche is “[a] common figure of speech (or trope) by which something is referred to indirectly […] by naming only some part or constituent of it” (OED Definition of Synecdoche). In discussion of synecdoche, another common figure of speech, metonymy, is also frequently referenced. Metonymy is often identified as the fig-ure under which synecdoche is somewhat of a sub-figure, and so an understanding of metonymy is crucial to that of synecdoche. Defined by the OED, metonymy is “a figure of speech that replaces the name of one thing with the name of something else closely associated with it” (OED Definition of Metonymy). Therefore, a word can only be considered a metonymy if it is standing in for some-thing with which it is closely related. As such, the part being substituted for the whole in the syn-ecdoche must be commonly associated with the whole for which it stands. These figures are fre-quently used in prose; blood a metonymy for self-sacrifice and a claw a synecdoche for the whole animal, to name a few. Zadie Smith’s White Teeth uses racial identifiers as synecdoche to demon-strate that racism has not only become embedded in societal structures and norms, but in the very figures used frequently in language and literature. Using frequent and fervent repetition of such synecdochal metaphors, white teeth, kinked hair, and roots, Smith cleverly reflects on widely ac-cepted colonial discourse to show that her very ability to use these phrases as synecdoche demon-strates the profound racism associated with this racial attribution. Though the synecdochal metaphor of teeth is insistent throughout the novel, it is much less commonly used in conjunction with the adjective, white. By establishing teeth as a reoccurring trope from the novel’s outset, Smith creates a pattern in order to draw attention to the instances in the text that stray from this pattern; those events that hook white onto teeth. While many of the chapter titles are direct references to teeth, the repetitive instances of this trope in the body of the text are glossed over in one sentence or less: much like the moment when Joshua Chalfen express-es his newfound distaste with his family which he is “[s]ick to the back fucking teeth with” (Smith 402). The references to teeth that are explored the most thoroughly and with the greatest attention to detail, however, are those of white teeth. Arguably one of the first overtly racist events in the novel, which also happens to be one of the first mentions of white teeth, is Archie’s meeting with his boss, Kelvin Hero. Though Archie is ignorant of the meeting’s intentions, it is clear that Kelvin is trying, and failing, to ease Archie into accepting that his Jamaican wife cannot attend the next com-pany dinner as she makes the predominantly white staff uncomfortable. When Kelvin speaks, the narrator is sure to mention his “double row of pearly whites that owed more to expensive dentistry than to regular brushing” (70). For Kelvin Hero, an interesting choice of surname considering his overt racism, his white teeth say little about him other than his financial position. While this 32
seems of little significance at the start of the novel when it is presented, the importance of this moment can be seen through relation to the second notable mention of white teeth: Mr. Hamilton’s Conradian story. When Irie, Millat, and Magid are sent by their school to visit and assist someone in need, they are sent to the house of Mr. Hamilton. While the children are sitting with Mr. Hamilton, he begins to tell them a story of his time in the army, specifically during his station in the Congo. “[T]he only way I could identify the nigger was by the whiteness of his teeth, if you see what I mean” (171). Although having white teeth was a sign of good dentistry when it was in reference to Kelvin Hero, for the black men killed in the Congo, having white teeth was a sign of racial distinc-tion. While Mr. Hamilton is never explicit in saying this, by the teeth being the only thing seen in the dark, the black soldiers were reduced to teeth, and Mr. Hamilton to shooting teeth. This brings an interesting perspective through which to examine the first example with Kelvin Hero. Kelvin, a white person, cannot easily be reduced to his “pearly whites” (70) as there is virtually no contrast between the colour of his skin and the colour of his teeth. For the soldiers in the Congo, however, the contrast between their teeth and skin was the only way that they could be identified, and Mr. Hamilton, whose story can be seen as the racist origin story of the white teeth synecdoche, had no choice but to identify them as such. By associating these two moments in the novel through their discussion of white teeth, Smith is able to present a very interesting argument. The only reason that white teeth is understood as a synecdochal metaphor for the immigrant population rather than any-one with teeth is because of engrained and historic racial distinction. For Kelvin Hero, the narrator points out the obvious assumption; that his teeth are white due to good dentistry. For the black men in Mr. Hamilton’s story, however, there is no justification for their distinctly white teeth other than the contrast with the colour of their skin. Much like Zadie Smith’s minimal use of white teeth as a means of emphasis for the moments that use this metaphor, a great deal of significance is prescribed to hair by restricting its dis-cussion to the confines of a single chapter. The focus on hair begins with Irie, the half-English half-Jamaican daughter of Archie and Clara, in an English class discussing William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 131.” While in conversation on Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady,’ Joshua Chalfen, one of Irie’s white classmates, reads the sonnet as saying “‘[s]he’s got a dark complexion which she’s trying to lighten up by means of make-up, artifice” (271). Though the teacher quickly agrees with Joshua’s reading of the sonnet, Irie questions the race of the dark lady, asking her teacher if it is possible that Shakespeare has written this sonnet about a black woman. The teacher quickly distinguishes be-tween dark and black for Irie, claiming that “[t]here weren’t any…well, Afro-Carri-bee-yans in England at that time.” Irie, already embarrassed by her teacher’s complete dismissal of her interpre-tation of the sonnet, has her situation worsened when her one of her classmates hands her a note saying: “‘By William Shakespeare: ODE TO LETITIA AND ALL MY KINKY-HAIRED BIG-ASS BITCHEZ.’” (272). While Irie had expressed discomfort with her mixed-ethnicity appearance prior to 33
this point in the novel, she did not seem as eager to change herself as she did following this moment in her classroom. It is likely here that “[a]ssimilation becomes a way [for Irie] to abandon the imperfections she was born with: her curly hair, large teeth, olive complexion, excess weight and multiple cultural backgrounds” (Thomas 19). Separated only by a symbol used to demonstrate the passage of time, the note that Irie is handed by her classmate and Irie’s attempt to chemically straighten her hair are explicitly connected by proximity alone. The humiliation resulting from the class discussion together with the note is what lands Irie in “[t]he cryptically named P.K.’s Afro Hair: Design and Management sat between Fairweather Funeral Parlour and Raakshan Dentists” (Smith 272). When asked what she would like, Irie states with a sense of urgency that she wants “[s]traight hair. Straight straight long black sleek flickable tossable shakeable touchable finger-throughable wind-blowable hair. With a fringe” (273). While Irie could have stopped at straight, her continuation demonstrates that straightened kinky hair is not enough; her hair needs to be chemically altered to match that of white people in advertisements for hair products. It is also striking that the hair salon lies between a funeral parlour and a dentist’s office; suggesting that the only options are to perpetuate the socially embedded ste-reotype by making your teeth whiter, to assimilate to Western beauty standards, or to die. Irie, who is completely against the first option, believes that assimilation is necessary; a notion which her body physically rejects, her hair “coming out in clumps” (278) due to the ammonia. By placing the moment Irie receives the note in such direct relation to that in which she attempts to chemically straighten her hair, Smith is able to alter the traditional discourse; writing about the people “that kinked the hair” (Philip 53) rather than writing simply about the kinked hair. While white teeth and kinked hair are just two of the synechdocal metaphors that Smith us-es to bring systematic racial biases to light; the one thing that connects these metaphors is their roots. Born in north-west London (Back Cover of White Teeth), it is a consequence of Smith’s na-tionality that her readership is likely predominantly white. As a result of this, White Teeth provides an excellent platform with which to educate the cultural and ethnic majority on the effects that such distinctions as white teeth and kinked hair have on the lives of immigrants in countries where they are considered other. “Just as a tooth that has undergone a root canal procedure remains but is de-void of a centre, it may be that the hybrid nature of multiculturalism also lacks a clearly anchored centre” (Braun 230). While the instances of white teeth and kinked hair are self-contained, the syn-echdochal metaphor of roots is ever-present in both chapter titles, such as “The Root Canals of Mongel Ponde,” and in the body of the text. Smith refuses to make the importance of roots subtle, stating outright that the fears of the English, “of infection, penetration, miscegenation” (Smith 327), is nothing in comparison with that of the immigrant who fears “dissolution, disappearance.” The Caucasian-English misunderstanding of the immigrant need of roots is possibly best explored in the relationship that Joyce Chalfen has with Millat. Throughout the novel, Millat struggles to find his place in England, inevitably turning to fundamentalism as a means of 34
rebuilding his connection with his Islamic and Muslim roots. Joyce understands Millat as “being ostracized from Western society since [his] cultural practices are quite different from her own She sets out to assimilate, […] to save [him] from what she understands to be a horrible life” (Thomas 18). Joyce’s insistence that Millat assimilate and abandon his roots is arguably what pushes him further towards K.E.V.I.N., the fundamentalist group that protests Marcus Chalfen’s research. This relationship, which is one instance of roots of many, forms one of Smith’s greatest arguments against traditional colonial dis-course. On the one hand, colonials are attempting to distinguish themselves from the immigrant, marginalizing them by reducing them to white teeth and kinked hair. On the other, they see them-selves as assisting the immigrant through aiding them in assimilation. Throughout the novel, the juxtaposition between the colonial need both to separate and assist alienates these cultural and eth-nic groups to the point of violent fundamentalism. By showing that this is the inevitable outcome, Smith effectively demonstrates that roots must be cared for, allowed to grow and flourish, because if a plant is forcibly grafted onto a foreign set of roots, it will never sit quite right. A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole. In order for a word or phrase to be considered synecdochal, it must be commonly associated, or frequently used to represent the larger entity for which it stands. By using white teeth, kinked hair, and roots as synechdocal metaphors for racial distinction and alienation, Zadie Smith calls into question widely accepted colonial discourse and tropes. Through her demonstration that white teeth can only stand for an entire group of people because of the profoundly racist history of the phrase, that curly hair became kinked because of a standardized Western ideal, and that roots are essential to security and self-hood, Smith forces readers to reflect on the racially biased discourse that is accepted without question. By turning the conversation away from the kinked hair and white teeth, and towards those who “kinked the hair” (Philip 53) and whitened the teeth, Smith effectively demonstrates the danger of reducing a person, or even worse, a group of people, to a single racial identifier: to a sin-gle synechdochal metaphor. Works Cited Baldick, Chris. “Synecdoche.” Oxford Reference. Oxford University Press, 2015. http://www. oxfordreference.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780198715443.001.0001/acref- 9780198715443-e-1116?rskey=xFw1PG&result=6 Baldick, Chris. “Metonymy.” Oxford Reference. Oxford University Press, 2015. Braun, Michael. “The mousiness of the mouse: The competing discourses of genetics and history in White Teeth.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 2013. http://journals.sagepub.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/doi/pdf/10.1177/002198941246841 Philip, Marlene Nourbese. “The Absence of Writing or How I Almost Became a Spy.” A Genealogy of Resistance: and Other Essays. 1st Edition, 1997. 35
Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. Penguin, 2001. Thomas, Matt. â€œReading White Teeth to improve intercultural communication.â€? Journal of Caribbean Literatures. 2009. http://go.galegroup.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/ps/i. do?p=AONE&u=lond95336&id=GALE|A219075716&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon
“Porque I speak mejor English que Espanish”: Language Borderlands in Fronteras Americanas Hilary Doyle Guillermo Verdecchia’s play begins with an unspoken pre-show, as James Blood Ulmer’s “Show Me Your Love, America” is played, and the play’s title is displayed in a projection: “Fronteras Americanas. American Borders” (Verdecchia 1). The prominent visual display of translation functions as an introductory tool for its audience, establishing the play’s primary languages and providing a translation for spectators limited to a single understanding of the title. However, the inclusion of the text raises broader questions regarding the use and impact of translation. Mayte Gomez suggests that, “the audience who repeats a title like Fronteras Americanas in Spanish will comes to understand that the word ‘America’ also exists in the Spanish language… challenging the notion of America as an Anglophone culture” (Gomez). In contrast, Gabrielle Etcheverry argues that translation erases the history, memory, and experience of culture, as the complexities of language often cannot be translated accurately; in this case, “Americanas” describes individuals from North America, not necessarily the United States (Etcheverry 69-72). Although the projection does illustrate the complexities of translation, it also serves a broader purpose in foregrounding the play’s conflict of identity, within the context of language. Language is presented as a border, much like the physical and cultural borders the play investigates, which defines individuals by the broad generalizations associated with their native language, and plays an integral part in the ability to define oneself as part of a community. Verdecchia’s use of Spanish, and Spanglish, throughout Fronteras explore the complexities of connecting language to the formation of identity, and in the play’s conclusion, Verdecchia comes to occupy a linguistic borderland as a multilingual individual. The play’s exploration of the relationship between language and identity is largely reflective of Guillermo’s Verdecchia’s experiences, having immigrated to Canada from Argentina at a very young age. In a short essay written in 2000, Verdecchia wrote, “My first language was Spanglish. Even as I was putting together my first phrases and simple sentences in Spanish, my parents were teaching me English words, in preparation for our imminent emigration to Canada” (“Spanglish”). This formative development of language skills aligns with the experience outlined by Paul Allatson in his definition of Spanglish, which defines the term by the speaker’s shift “between a Spanish-dominant grammatical and vocabulary extreme and an English-dominant alternative” (214). The translingual exchange of vocabulary and grammatical structures is especially common among children of firstgeneration immigrants or residents of multilingual societies where language communities interact (Allatson 73). When this shifting form of communication is present in written texts, Simona Bertacco observes that its presence highlights “the meaning-making process caught in between two different systems of communications,” (191). This linguistic tension between languages not only comes to be a focal point in Verdecchia’s writing, but it becomes complicated by Verdecchia’s described experience of “[losing his] faculty with Spanish” and 37
becoming “disoriented in conversations with Spanish speakers” (“Spanglish”). Occupying this linguistic space between two different modes of understanding, the border space between English and Spanish comes to play a significant thematic role in Fronteras. The play itself reflects the tenuous relationship Verdecchia describes with the Spanish language, for while its title may suggest the prominence of Spanish in the text, broader criticism of the play does not typically identify it within Latin American literary tradition. As Etcheverry observes, “[the play’s] incorporation in English Canada’s institution of literature via the Governor General’s Award indicates that an essential element of Fronteras Americanas’ success is the language in which it was written and performed: English,” (164). At the time of the play’s release, many Latino/immigrants maintained “the stance of political exiles who continued to identify with their place of origin” and were “unable to identify completely either with Canada or particular Latin American homelands,” thus necessitating “modes of belonging that are not tied to the nation-state,” (Adams 224). Rachal Adams observes that many Latino/a immigrants in artistic fields tended to write in Spanish and publish for Spanish-only publications, limiting their audience. Fronteras, on the other hand, was first performed in 1993 in the Tarragon Theatre, where the primary language of the stage is English Canadian, “and languages other than English are rarely, if ever, spoken by actors on stage there,” (Bycynzski 67); and even as the play moved to different locations, it was performed “predominantly in Canadian venues before the middle-class, white constituencies that make up the majority of Canada’s Anglophone theatergoing audiences,” (Adams 226). In scenes where the languages shift without translation, the communicative effects of Verdecchia’s implementation of Spanish are dependent upon the linguistic capabilities of his audience. In its use of different languages, the play establishes itself in a linguistic borderland, where a singular mode of understanding cannot sufficiently encapsulate the cultural influences at work. This effect mirrors the central conflict of the character Verdecchia, whose limited facilities in Spanish represent his broader feelings of detachment from the Argentinian culture of his heritage. When Verdecchia first steps onstage, he explains, “I’m lost. And I’m trying to figure out where I took that wrong turn” (2); while the language directly refers to the confusion of physical spaces, the statement contains a much broader notion of lost identity, culture, and language. Although Verdecchia begins his performance with a statement that balances both languages (“Somos todos Americanos. We are all Americans.”), he reveals to the audience that he is lost between different identities, of which the role of language plays an important part (2). Describing his return to South America as an adult, Verdecchia explains that he “spent fifteen years preparing for this. Buying records and studying the liner notes. Drinking maté, eating dulce de leche. Talking to my friends, questioning my parents, and practicing Spanish with strangers,” (Verdecchia 17). Verdcchia’s entire understanding of South American culture is second hand, gathered other’s accounts and media portrayals of a culture he has never truly experienced (he later details Chilean culture with reference to 38
his travel guide and the movie Missing), and thus establishing his place within the unique culture is entirely performative and requires preparation and practice (17). In speaking these lines to the audience, Verdecchia implicitly reveals that the language which he feels emotionally connected to does not come naturally to him. While Verdecchia’s introduction conveys the underlying anxieties of his understanding of language, it also makes an effort to bridge together two different languages and include his audience in his linguistic struggles by providing translation. In contrast, the play’s other character Wideload reinscribes the divisions of language by assigning identities to the audience on the basis of language. First appearing as Facundo, the hyper-stereotyped image of a Mexican man, he addresses the Spanish-speakers in the audience, saying, “Ante de pasar, por favor, los latinos se pueden identificar? Los ‘latinoamericanaos,’ por favor, que pongan las manos en el aire… Entonces, el resto son… gringos.” (4). Wideload asks the “latinos” in the audience to identify themselves, signifying that “the rest” are “gringos,” using this introduction to establish clear markers of difference amongst the spectators. Etcheverry highlights this instance, arguing that, “This interpolation of the Spanish-speaking or ostensibly “Latino” audience members serves an important performative function (both artistically and socially) by creating a sense of alterity for English-speaking audiences and further demarcating the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’” (Etcheverry 167). This effect continues throughout Wideload’s appearances, as he frequently speaks to “you Saxons,” making a broad presumption that white individuals in the audience cannot understand Spanish, and in effect, calling attention to the tendency of North American media to cast all Spanish-speakers in the same light (20). Wideload calls into question the general associations attached to the Spanish language, as well as the associations of Spanglish, or broken English. Specifically, in his comedic take on “the myth of the Latin lover,” Wideload describes the media portrayal and sexualization of famous Latin American actors, and how it portrays individuals speaking in a second language. Speaking of actors like Antonio Banderas and Javier Banderas, Wideload observes that “all the articles mention their accents and the adorable mistakes they make,” asking rhetorically, “don’t you just want to wrap him up in your arms and let him whisper filthy things in your ear in Spanish and broken English?” (24). In this sexualized portrayal of Spanish speakers, the efforts of native Spanish-speakers to communicate in a second language are reduced to an element of a stereotyped identity. While Wideload critiques this categorization, he also plays into this cultural stereotype in an earlier discussion of sexual encoutners between “Latins” and “Saxons”: The fact is that whenever a Latin and a Saxon sex, it is going to be a mind-expanding and culturalling enriching experience. Porque nosotros sabemos hacer cosas que ni se imaginaron en la Kama Sutra, mang, porque nosotros tenemos un ritmo, un calor, un sabor, un tumbao de timbale, de conga, de candomble, de kilombo. Una onda, un un 39
dos tres, un dos” (Verdecchia 21).
In this instance, as the mention of sex shifts into a long line of Spanish, non-Spanish speakers in the audience hear only a mysterious, ‘foreign’ language, reinforcing this notion of the sexualized Latin lover. However, Wideload’s Spanish aside is followed by the line, “Dose of you who want a translation of dat come and see me after de show or ask one of de eSpanish speakers in de audience at intermission” (22). In saying this, Wideload reminds the audience of the importance of seeking translation or understanding from an authentic source, and underscores the human identity which exists behind perpetuated stereotypes. The play’s examination of the stereotypical associations assigned to non-English speakers underscores the connection between language and identity, as the borders of language can be just as, if not more, confining as physical borders. For the character Verdecchia, language represents a part of the culture he is unable to connect with and understands only through a media-influenced, stereotypical portrayal. Verdecchia acknowledges this disconnection from a Spanish-speaking culture, as he confesses, “I taste and smell my fear, my fear of young men who speak Spanish in the darkness of the park, and I know that somewhere in my traitorous heart I can’t stand people I claim are my brothers” (51). Not only does Verdecchia feel alienated from other Spanish-speakers, but he is demarcated as other by Spanish-speakers, recounting an experience in Europe where, “some Spaniards kept asking me where I was form and why my Spanish was so funny,” (51). The disconnect between languages is best encapsulated in instances where Verdecchia speaks in Spanglish, a mixture of the two modes of understanding defining Verdechia’s identity: “Porque I speak mejor English que espanish…porque hasta mis dreams son subtitled” (48). These lines explicitly convey Verdecchia’s conflicted connection to Spanish, (“because I speak better English than Spanish… because even my dreams are subtitled”), but they also implicitly convey the complexities of communicating in this jumble of languages, as the audience listening to these lines understands only so much as they are familiar with both languages. Audience members who understand only one of the languages spoken hear only fragments of Verdecchia’s lines, and thus they possess only a fragmented understanding of these lines. In this instance, Verdecchia occupies a linguistic space in which communication requires knowledge of both languages, but which denies the possibility of defining identity by either one. Linguistically, Verdecchia finds a borderlands in which language is fluid, and as such, identity is no longer fixed to a single language or nationality. Reaching his final realization of his identity, Verdecchia statees that “I am learning to live the Border. I have called off the Border patrol. I am a hyphenated person, but I am not falling apart,” (55). The identity Verdecchia has discovered is not defined by a binary of “us” or “them,” Argentinian or Canadian, or Spanish or English, but by hyphenation, the interconnected understanding of language and culture. The exact moment of realization is indicative of the fluidity of this 40
new perspective of identity, as it combines the sounds of English, Spanish, and French: “Mais zoot alors, je comprends maintenant, mais oui, merde! Je suis Argentin-Canadien! I am a post-Porteño neo-Latino Canadian! I am the Pan-American Highway!” (52). This revelation moves fluidly across languages, injecting different accents and characteristic sounds of the three languages (i.e. “Mais zoot alors,” “Porteño,” “Pan-American Highway”). Additionally, Verdecchia provides no translation for his revelation, suggesting that there is no singular language that can effectively encapsulate this new mode of communication or translate Verdecchia’s identity. Language in Fronteras Americanas is an intangible border, but it is divisive nonetheless, and the cultural perceptions and stereotypes assigned to speakers of Spanish can be powerful markers of identity. However, just as Verdecchia discovers an identity that is not physically constrained by physical borders, he comes to occupy a linguistic borderland, unrestricted by the dialogical constraints of any singular language. Works Cited Adams, Rachel. “The Northern Borderlands and Latino/a Canadian Diaspora.” Continental Divides: Remapping the Culture of North America. University of Chicago, 2009. Allatson, Paul. Key Terms in Latino/a Cultural and Literary Studies. Blackwell, 2007. Bertacco, S. “On Translation: Between Postcolonialism and the Global Humanities.” CR: The New Centennial Review, vol. 16, no. 1, 2016, pp. 177-194. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/620405. Byczynski, Julie A. Minority Languages as Resistance in Marcon Micone’s “Assolorata,” Betty Quan’s “Mother Tongue,” and Guillermo Verdecchia’s “Fronteras Americanas (American Borders)”, University of Guelph, Ann Arbor, 1999. Etchverry, Gabrielle Esperanza. “Cultures of Coloniality: Latina/o Writing in Canada.” Carleton University, Carleton University, 2015. Gomez, Mayte. “Healing the Border Wound: Fronteras Americanas and the Future of Canadian Multiculturalism.” Theatre Research in Canada/Recherches theatrales au Canada [Online], vol. 16, no. 1, 1995, pp. 26-40. Verdecchia, Guillermo. Fronteras Americanas (American Borders). 2nd ed., Talonbooks, 2012. Verdecchia, Guillermo. “Spanglish.” In 2 Print, Summer, 2000, pp. 10, ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com/docview/208944283?accountid=15115.
The Duality of Representation and the Act of Repatriation: First Nations Women in Michelle Latimer’s film Nimmikaage Morgan McAuley
Michelle Latimer’s 2015 film Nimmikaage has carved out a place for itself in the canon of work dedicated to the remembrance and reconciliation of First Nations women. First Nations women, in the 21st century, are exposed to the intersectionality of many forms of oppression: racism, sexism, classism, and the misconception that Indigenous peoples are people of the past, to name a few. In three fluid minutes, Latimer explores the many aggregate and incongruous layers packed into representations of First Nations women. Within a broader context, the intertextuality of visual representations of people labelled as “other” can construct a dual identity. Nimmikaage captures this duality most prominently through the binary frameworks of colonization and decolonization: while many of Nimmikaage’s images could be read as a reinforcement of the colonial relationship between natives and settlers, they can simultaneously be read as an act of repatriation. An example of this duality existing outside of the film comes in the form of the very famous, and very misrepresented, First Nations woman Pocahontas. Through this action of visually representing repatriation, Latimer’s film Nimmikaage depicts the misrepresentation of First Nations women within the structure of colonialism in an effort to become an artefact of change within the framework of decolonization. Nimmikaage explores the representation of First Nations women through the context of both colonization and decolonization, and in doing so captures the fluid duality between these divergent representations. The first side of this identity stems from the entangled triad structure of native-settler-slave within the act of colonization. This triad has elicited feelings of guilt within settlers that have become known as “settler moves to innocence” or “settler nativism”: the idea that settlers feel they can suppress their guilt if they have some form of lineage to First Nations people, which in turn grants them the right to North American land. Tuck and Yang explore the gendered nature of settler moves to innocence, arguing that “the Indian-grandmother complex, is a settler move to innocence because it is an attempt to deflect a settler identity, while continuing to enjoy settler privilege and occupying stolen land” (Tuck & Yang, p. 11). In contrast, “a male ancestor has too much of the aura of the savage warrior, the unknown primitive, the instinctive animal” (Tuck & Yang, p. 11). Additionally, through the misrepresentation of First Nations women, such as Pocahontas, came the idea that “the white was linked with a noble house of gentility and culture if his grandmother was an Indian princess who ran away with an intrepid pioneer” (Tuck & Yang, p. 11). Nimmikaage connects to this settler desire to descend from First Nations women through the idea enveloped in the films very title “She Dances for People”, suggesting an element of spectacle and objectification found in the representation of First Nations women that has been incorporated into settler moves to innocence. This idea, that First Nations women become a tool within the settler 42
moves to innocence, is further expanded through the ‘one-drop rule’, which was enforced to racialize First Nations people through the 1924 Racial Integrity Act in Virginia but made an exception “for white people who claimed a distant Indian grandmother…known as the Pocahontas Exception, this loophole allowed thousands of white people to claim Indian ancestry, while actual Indigenous people were reclassified as “colored” and disappeared off the public record” (Tuck & Yang, p. 13). First Nations women thus become simultaneously oppressed and idolized, disposable and wanted, optional and necessary, and Nimmikaage captures the duality between these representations. The film begins with a clip of a First Nations woman dancing, followed by interjections of images from the natural world including the moon, water, and sky. These images then evolve into depictions of crowds - crowds of birds, crowds of fish, and crowds of white settlers. The film juxtaposes First Nations women against their white oppressors, and then it returns these women to their land - the film repatriates this land to First Nations women. Nimmikaage proceeds to cultivate a newfound identity out of the crumbling pieces of colonization and emerges as an act of decolonization. Within the context of decolonization as a framework, Nimmikaage is able to achieve repatriation by unpacking the multiple layers captured in its representation of First Nations women. As Stuart Hall identifies, “people who are significantly different from the majority... are frequently exposed to [a] binary form of representation” (Hall, p. 229). While Nimmikaage does not ignore the relationship between First Nations women and settlers as one that was used as an attempt of settler moves to innocence through means such as the ‘Pocahontas Exception’ it leaves room for truth to exist - it leaves room for repatriation. While settler moves to innocence were gendered, there is also truth to be found in First Nations lineage stemming from women. As Paula Gunn Allen identifies, during Pocahontas’s life “society was organized as a mother-right civilization” (Allen, p. 73) and “the tradition of womanowned lands and houses, woman-determined lineage, and woman-centered leadership was very much in place in the early seventeenth century.” (Allen, p. 74) Therefore, the power that First Nations women once possessed was misrepresented by white settlers: they become both matriarchs and mechanisms within colonization. Lakimer explores this binary form of representation within her film by juxtaposing images of First Nations women with white settlers – as a means of visualizing both the idolization and oppression settlers placed on these women – and through the marrying of images of First Nations women with the natural world. Pocahontas exemplifies this duality, as she was the woman who symbolized the ‘Pocahontas Exception’, but she was also considered a Beloved Woman, and “a Beloved Woman is always marked by the presence, in her hair or hands, of swan feathers, [symbolizing] the connection between Beloved Women and... the narrative of Sky Woman” (Allen, p. 79). Therefore, in Nimmikaage, by interlacing images of First Nations women with images of birds, fish, the moon, the sky, the water, and the land, each of these natural elements and entities are repatriated towards these women: they are shown as both separate and simultaneously intertwined, visualizing representations stemming from both colonization and decolonization. As a result, the dual identity of First Nations women, such as Pocahontas who was both 43
beloved and disposable, is allowed to exist and flourish within the narrative of the film. Nimmikaage thus explores the misrepresentation of First Nations women, and then flips this representation around to achieve true repatriation as an act of decolonization. Decolonization is not a metaphor, but a framework that aims to break the structuring of the colonial triad as a means of being accountable to Indigenous futurity, unapologetically and incommensurably. Nimmikaage breathes life into the lungs of the stifled and the silenced, the neglected and the necessary, First Nations women. Decolonization is incommensurable with other acts of social justice. Nimmikaage is not an act of social justice. It is free of settler nativism, free of conscientization, and does not use colonization as a metaphor for oppression. Nimmikaage visually presents what is flawed with the representation of First Nations women under the firm grasp of colonization: a call to question. The film ends with the eyes of a young girl that seem to speak almost like a whisper. Her eyes retell her story, and the story of those before her and around her. They repatriate the narrative of First Nations women back to First Nations women, without ignoring the oppression they have endured. In the true form of decolonization, ownership of the land, and the stories that stem from it, are repatriated towards First Nations women; she no longer dances for people, she dances for her people, and for herself. The young girls’ eyes may speak in a whisper, but their message leaves the viewer with a powerful, resonating message: “here lies the truth.” Works Cited
Allen, Paula Gunn. (2004). Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers. Hall, Stuart. (2003). The Spectacle of the Other. In S. Hall (Ed.). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (pp. 223-90). London: SAGE Publications. Latimer, Michelle. (2015). Nimmikaage (She Dances for People). Canada. Tuck, Eve. & Yang, K.Wayne. (2012). “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society, 1(1): 1-40.
“Through The Sea, Into The Flames”: Urban Ecologies, Physical Bodies, and Traumatic Memory in T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and Virginia Woolf ’s “Mrs. Dalloway” Camille Intson T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and Virginia Woolf ’s Mrs. Dalloway offer contrasting ecological profiles of post-war London; whereas the former suggests a landscape of absolute loss, disorder, and waste, the latter depicts the city as vibrant, abundant in life, and highly cohesive. Both texts explore the relationship between their urban ecologies and characters’ minds and bodies as they encounter and process trauma in the aftermath of the First World War. Woolf ’s London is characterized by interconnectedness whereas Eliot’s remains a “heap of broken images”, and therefore the fragmented and often unidentifiable speaking bodies in “The Waste Land” differ in representation from the intimately embodied and realized protagonists of Woolf ’s Mrs. Dalloway (22). To consider the relationship between text, body, and land, this essay will explore recurring motifs of water, fire, and flora in the topographies of “The Waste Land” and Mrs. Dalloway in which the natural landscape’s capability for growth, or lack thereof, becomes an organic analogy for its inhabitants’ physical and psychological states. Water and fire are both symbols of destruction and creation, representing not only the elements found in London’s physical landscape but the contrasting sensations of the traumainduced body and mind. In both texts, flowers also represent beauty and vitality; however, they are also symbols of lifelessness and degradation once they are severed from their root. The two contrasting portraits of post-war London represent and embody the threshold between life and death in their natural environments and in their inhabitants’ bodies. “The Waste Land”’s fragmented nature reflects its inhabitants’ unstable identities and bodies. Its characters are oftentimes anonymous, disconnected from one-another, and only scantily present; however, they are all equally affected by London’s industrial cityscape which fuses intimately with their physical bodies. This is best demonstrated in the lines, “Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew / Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees” (293-5). Despite this fusion of urban landscape with body, the city’s occupants still claim that they “can connect / Nothing with nothing”, which suggests a lack of general social integration, coherence, and order in Eliot’s vision of post-war London (302). The image of a man on London bridge “[fixing] his eyes before his feet” illustrates the city’s social disconnect; the shuffling bodies can not look one-another in the eye and confront their shared trauma (65). The city itself is described as “Unreal”, and its speaking subjects are unsure of their own physical presence in the lines, “When I count, there are only you and I together / But… there is always another one walking beside you” (60, 361-63). The poem’s speakers are both contemporary figures and characters from literature; these interweaving personalities from the past and present highlight the poem’s instability in time and illustrate the chaos and disjointedness of the modern city.
In Virginia Woolf ’s Mrs. Dalloway, the principal characters’ consciousnesses exist in a codependent and musical relationship where all differing perspectives are ultimately influenced and governed by the same natural phenomena. Woolf ’s “[efficient, organized] communal spirit of London” is reflected in the cityscape where “on a summer’s day waves collect, overbalance, and fall; collect and fall; and the whole world seems to be saying “that is all” (Woolf 2358). These interconnected patterns in nature reflect the characters’ intertwined waves of consciousness. The novel is framed by a linear sense of time through constant references to Big Ben striking on the hour and by characters asking, “What is the time?” (Woolf 2374). Clarissa Dalloway’s assertion that “The War was over… thank Heaven— over. It was June” suggests that, from her perspective at least, the city of London has in a sense recovered from the devastation of war (Woolf 2339). This is contrasted, however, by the fact that many of the novel’s figures claim to feel “outside [their bodies]” and are plagued by a hovering sense of catastrophe, “as if some august fate, known to them, awaited without fear, were about to sweep them into complete annihilation” (Woolf 2352-3, 2368). This means that the natural landscape as well as the characters’ physical and psychological bodies still experience war-induced trauma even if the city and its inhabitants present an illusion of wholeness and revitalization. Woolf ’s characters are fundamentally connected yet socially isolated. Anne Collett considers Woolf a Modernist Romantic who idolizes nature as a utopian space of wholeness, interconnectedness, and constant renewal. She writes that, even although Woolf “[acknowledges that a] return to the Garden [of Eden is] not possible, [she can] not let go of [her] desire for reunion” (Collett 11). Woolf ’s vision for nature is infinite whereas Eliot’s is inherently fragmented and pessimistic. “The Waste Land”’s lack of water suggests an impossibility of vegetative and spiritual rebirth. The poem’s first lines describe “Lilacs [breeding] out of the dead land” and “dull roots”, suggesting that the natural landscape’s drought severely impairs its ability to grow various forms of plant life (3). Throughout the poem, water is absented and longed for through multiple references to “no sound of water,” “no water but only rock,” and the hypothetical “if there were water” (24, 321, 346). This lack of water is reflected metaphorically in the sexual sterility and physical degradations of the characters. In “A Game of Chess,” one speaker urges another to “get [herself] some teeth” because “[her husband said that he couldn’t] bear to look at [her]” (144, 146). She also warns her that if she doesn’t show him “a good time [after he returns from war]… there’s others [who] will” (148-9). Alireza Farahbakhsh and Zahra Habibi cite this scene as illustrating the “impossibility of love and communication in the contemporary world”; there is only passionless sex (Farahbakhsh and Habibi 36). The woman responds by mentioning “pills” that she takes to force a miscarriage (159). The poem’s references to abortion feed into the natural landscape’s general lifelessness, suggesting that it is unfit for birth and growth of all kinds. This scene ends with the ladies saying goodnight, echoing Ophelia’s final words in Hamlet: “Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night” (172). Eliot’s allusion to Ophelia highlights the idea that living things can die or degrade from either too much or not enough water. By referencing Ophelia’s suicide 46
by drowning, the woman in the exchange of dialogue is confronting her own mortality by seeking out water in hopes of escaping the sterility of the relationship that she is in. She longs for spiritual and sexual rebirth through death by water. Mrs. Dalloway employs similar images of water, and of drowning, to represent the characters’ abhorrent psychological states. Woolf ’s London, in all its abundance, contains the water that Eliot’s lacks; it even “[seems] as if the whole of London [is] embarking in little boats moored to the bank, tossing [them] on the waters, as if the whole place [is] floating off in carnival” (Woolf 2421). Woolf ’s London is attempting rebirth, however its denial of its traumatic war-torn past causes its inhabitants to metaphorically drown in that war-weariness. Septimus Smith, for example, is frequently compared to “a drowned sailor” who has visions of “[leaning] over the edge of [a] boat and [falling]… under the sea” (Woolf 2373). These visions are accompanied by Evans’s ghostly recurrence, and Septimus’s claim that he “[cannot] look upon the dead” (Woolf 2374). To drown in Mrs. Dalloway is also to confront one’s mortality or to acknowledge one’s psychological trauma. Septimus’s imagined proximity to water both brings him closer to Evans, and therefore to confronting his post-war shock, but also to death through submergence in these visions. The threshold between life and death, between not enough water and too much water, is thin. At the end of Mrs. Dalloway, as Clarissa becomes disillusioned with her position as party host, she is also compared to “a mermaid” examining her own reflection, wearing “a silver-green mermaid’s dress. Lolopping on the waves” (Woolf 2426). Clarissa’s disillusionment brings her closer to self-actualization as she is able to see through the illusion of happiness and contentment that she has presented to society. Water is therefore also symbolic of truth in both works, bringing their characters to a higher level of consciousness or self-knowledge. In “The Waste Land”, as in Mrs. Dalloway, images of water are closely correlated with those of fire. Both elements simultaneously suggest creation and destruction; water can drown or nourish, and fire can both destroy and represent lust, passion, desire, and the spark of new life. At the end of The Waste Land, Eliot cites the Buddha fire sermon by describing its “burning burning burning” (308). After having just described the failures of Western religion and degradations of Western culture, the sermon points to the possibility of Eastern religion and culture serving as a kind of remedy for the failures of the West. The poem insinuates that we must look outside of our culture, and therefore ourselves, to remedy the Waste Land and to rejuvenate life and growth. Fire has the capability to burn all of the dead plant life, therefore paving the way for rebirth or renewal; the inhabitants of the Waste Land are unable to embody fire because they suffer from either a lack or influx of water. The positive effects of fire, for example passion and desire, are fully quenched by the sensations of drowning. In Mrs. Dalloway, fire is also used in opposition to water to illustrate Septimus and Clarissa’s psychological distress. As Septimus’s mental state continues to deteriorate, and as his traumatic effects worsen, his visions are consumed by the contrasting sensations of water and 47
fire; he is described as “falling down, down into the flames! Actually [Rezia] would look for flames, it was so vivid” (Woolf 2410). The fire, which in this case represents destruction, is allconsuming and renders both Rezia and Septimus unable to discern fancy from reality. Mei-Yu Tsai describes Septimus’s inability “to distinguish between the internal and external world” as a result of his “difficulty of gaining access to traumatic history” (Tsai 66). Septimus’s inability of working through his trauma is represented by the negative effects of both water and fire, which illustrate his simultaneous will to live and die; both outcomes are equally painful. His vision describes him “falling through the sea, down, down into the flames, all were burnt out, for he had a sense” (Woolf 2411). By taking his own life, Septimus submits himself to an influx of water; he quenches the burning of fire, and therefore the pain of being alive, with death. Clarissa Dalloway’s unconscious mind also equates fire with desire, passion, and existence. When Peter Walsh appears at her party, she is described as “[standing] drenched in fire” (Woolf 2423). Her subconscious laments, “Might it consume her anyhow! Burn her to ciders! Better anything, better to brandish one’s torch… Peter put her into these states just by coming and standing in a corner” (Woolf 2423). Clarissa’s burning passions for Peter are contrasted with the image of herself in mermaid attire; the water drenches the fire, and Clarissa is sterilized by her inability to act on that desire. Clarissa is haunted not only by the aftereffects of the war but, as Jin Wang suggests, by “male compulsive control” (Wang 22). When she is told of Septimus’s death, her body also mimics the burning sensations that once plagued Septimus’s visions, which fuse the two minds and bodies in a continuum with nature. It is described that “when [Clarissa] was told, suddenly, of an accident; her dress flamed, her body burnt” (Woolf 2431). Septimus escapes the contradicting sensations through the act of suicide whereas Clarissa’s exposure to fire and water heightens as she reaches epiphany at the novel’s end. “The Waste Land” and Mrs. Dalloway both make ample use of flowers as recurring motifs for the physical body as severed from life, from beauty, and from language. One of Eliot’s poem’s first images, of “Lilacs [bred] out of the dead land”, is closely connected to the cityscape’s general lack of water (3). Flowers and bodies are oftentimes confused in “The Waste Land”, for example in the lines “That corpse you planted last year in your garden, / Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?” (71-72). The flowers in the natural landscape are either completely dead, like the bodies of the deceased in the war, or slowly dying, like the physically degrading bodies that appear as speaking subjects. Dying flowers are also associated with lack of speech; as the figures are cut off from water, that is to say from a source of life, they begin to degrade in language. A speaker tells another presence, for example, “You gave me hyacinths first a year ago; / They called me the hyacinth girl” however “when [we] came back late, from the hyacinth garden… I could not / Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither / Living nor dead, and I know nothing” (37-41). Now that her hyacinths are no longer living, this speaking body exists in a liminal state where language and knowledge are slowly receding. When the land was once abundant with flowers, and when human beings could 48
connect through speech, language had purpose; in the waste land, it bears little significance. The poem suggests a cultural anxiety surrounding speech, which is illustrated by anonymous voices demanding “My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me. / Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.” (111-112). Mrs. Dalloway also portrays its subjects as cut off from life and heading towards death, using the cut flower as an analogy for the human body. The novel begins with the claim that the title character “[will] buy the flowers herself ”, and therefore the cut flowers immediately become a symbol for Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf 2338). She presents an illusion of vitality, however as she matures and acquires knowledge of the direness of her situation, she begins to degrade psychologically like a flower dying after its being cut. Flowers also play an important role in Clarissa’s intimate relationships. In what she considers “the most exquisite moment of her whole life,” she recalls a memory of Sally “[stopping]; [picking] a flower; [kissing] her on the lips” (Woolf 2356). The flower therefore represents eroticism, love, passion, and vitality in her youth. Later, when Richard decides to bring her flowers as a symbol of his love, he ends up unable to “tell her he [loves] her” although he has vigorously pre-planned it (Woolf 2399). The flowers speak where language fails; Richard and Clarissa are fundamentally disconnected from one-another and, at the end of the novel, Clarissa’s refusal to speak to Sally demonstrates her ultimate severance from passion. As a representative figure of postwar youth, Clarissa’s daughter Elizabeth is also described as resenting her comparison to “hyacinths, fawns, running water… [elders] would compare her to lilies, and she had to go to parties” (Woolf 2407). As as woman in her physical prime, Elizabeth’s body is not degrading at the same pace as her mother’s. She is young and full of life, whereas her mother’s happiness is convincingly performative. At the end of the novel, as Clarissa evades the two figures that most trigger sensations of passion in her past, those being Sally and Peter. Peter is rendered incapable of expressing his feelings as he declares, “But I do not know… what I feel” (Woolf 2435). Clarissa too shows to be paralyzed by language; upon noticing Peter’s starting at her, she wonders, “Could he make anything of her? She would not open her lips” (Woolf 2436). Irene Yoon writes of these final moments, that “Woolf ’s final novel momentarily heralds the ultimate nightmare vision: no reckoning with the past or future beyond the present” (Yoon 71). Clarissa Dalloway is sterilized by the present, severed from speech, and brought closer to both experience and death. The relationship between these two texts, their ecologies, and their physical and textual bodies illuminates the modernists’ broad senses of loss, skepticism, and concern for representation and experience. In a world with no certainties, one can only be sure of the death and destruction in the intimate past and present that has fragmented contemporary life. The textual forms, natural elements, and physical states that were once significant seem no longer fit to express the chaotic state of the modern city. In both “The Waste Land” and Mrs. Dalloway, the past and present are intricately woven together to construct personal and collective traumatic memory and to highlight the closeness of the life-death continuum. 49
Works Cited Eliot, T.S. “The Waste Land.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature, vol. 2C, ed. 4, edited by David Damrosch and Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Longman, 2010, 2298-2310. Collett, Anne. “Sex and the City: Eliot and Woolf ’s vision of Post-WWI London.” Virginia Woolf Miscellany, no. 75, 10-13. Farahbakhsh, Alireza and Zahra Habibi. “Eliot, Time in Modernist Thought, and Contemporary Reality.” Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association, 2012:117, 35-47. Tsai, Me-Yu. “Traumatic Encounter with History: The War and Politics of Memory in Mrs. Dalloway.” NTU Studies in Language and Literature, no. 18, 2007, 61-90. Wang, Jin. “Traumatic Narrative in Virginia Woolf ’s Novel Mrs. Dalloway.” English Language and Literature Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, 18-22. Woolf, Virginia. “Mrs. Dalloway” The Longman Anthology of British Literature, vol. 2C, ed. 4, edited by David Damrosch and Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Longman, 2010, 2338-2437. Yoon, Irene. “Behind a Pane of Glass: Collective Memory in Woolf ’s Interwar London.” Twentieth Century Literature, vol. 63, no. 1, March 2017, 49-74.
A collection of academic essays and works from students enrolled in Arts & Humanities courses at Western University.