Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When it rains...

The metaphorical shelves of my life are getting pretty full right now.
 In no particular order, and with no details:


And a lot of prayer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The way we get by

By: me

"Sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly."
                           - Edward Albee's The Zoo Story

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What do you think you will answer yourself?

The word "Blustery" has long been in my vocabulary.
Yes, this is the source.  You're welcome.

The wind made me laugh so much today.
I don't just mean being happy on the inside, but out-loud giggling. I was walking to school and leaves were flying, my hair was everywhere, my skirt was fickle, and there was a general sense of playfulness that made everything around me funny or downright adorable. I just couldn't help getting giggle fits and probably looked slightly deranged as a result.

Oh wind, you can flirt with me again any day.
Today was rather blustery, and so much the better for it.

P.S. / update:
Grad school app is coming along, stressful, but along.
Piglet's statements match my life so well right now. I feel weird that I identify with a stuttering cartoon at my age. B-b-b-but I do.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some things need no words

The end of a longer conversation about the past little bit of our lives:

Me: The trajectory of our lives is really crazy.
Natty: Ya it is...Want some Butterfingers?
Me: Yeah.

Monday, November 8, 2010


This is my English 495 senior course final exam essay.
It was timed, so excuse any weirdness, if you have a heart.
This paper got a 96. 
That's an A. 
Yes, I am bragging like a total tool.
Yes, I might have made a small scene in the JFSB when I picked it up.
That's ok, happiness excuses most things.
And I am so happy.

Emerald Guildner
Professor Roberts
English 495
Final Exam

Krasner said “A paradox is fundamentally and idea or concept involving two opposing thoughts, which, however contradictory, are equally necessary to convey a more insightful illumination into truth than either can secure alone”. Krasner was referring to the paradox that black writers faced in pleasing both past tradition and trying to create a new future, but this applies directly to how performance works to become a force in the real world and moves beyond its realm on the stage. How can something be both a mere utterance and performative? How can a citation of something be both a parasite and a creative action? How can a play performed on a stage somehow translate into action in the “real world”? Performance in theater brings out a new problem with utterance and speech. J.L. Austin claims that ordinary speech is in the “real world” and has the potential to be “performative”, while theatrical speech is an etiolated form of utterance, or is parasitic upon its normal use”(Austin 22). For Austin, theatrical speech does not “do” something. Derrida counters this claim by saying that if language is parasitic when it is a citation, then everything is parasitic because every utterance, especially a performative utterance, is citational. I would expand this to say that all performance has some sort of effect and therefore an action. The plays we have studied mark the ways that writers work for a change in their audience and therefore a change in the world. They do not write plays to just be watched, but to be something that has action attached to it in some way. In other words, a performance is always somehow performative.

In a theatrical sense, “performance included any live act created for a public audience”(Krasner 11).  In “A New Coon in Town”, Terminus puts on many performances, some meant to push the plot along, and most for farce. He acts the part of Palaver Sauce, “Prince o Phoo Phoo”. Serena and Hebb get quite caught up in his performance and he really does trick them, Serena calls him “your Magnificent Highness” repeatedly. In this performance, Terminus does not actually become a prince by uttering that he is one. Like all actors playing a character, it is a role. This can be seen as being a “parasite” on real life, however, it is clear that by playing a character, action happens. Terminus’s “audience” of Serena and Hebb respond in complete belief, their actions happen because of Terminus’s utterances.

Now, what about “Coon”’s effect on the audience? It clearly is built around farce, with some attempts at changing opinion on how to see black people. Performance was the way that many went about trying. But breaking away is a very hard thing to do. We can see in “Coon” that a play can both be trying to break away from stereotypes, while reinforcing some, and even creating more. In the play, Dennis says about Terminus being the statue, “When he is in the skins, and otherwise ornamented, it’s no one that would identify him” and then later that they “want [him] to stand on the platform, there, and look as if you were not alive”(55,59). The farce of the play masks the attempt to make the audience act differently, it just makes them act the same. As Krasner says, “theatre and performances conspired to encourage the stereotypes”, and so theater continued to try to break away from that. Performance is not a perfect means of changing the world, there are definite risks in making a performance a performative act. There is the risk of what Hartman describes as “fungibility”, the play or performance is in a way a commodity consumed by the audience, which could leave it “an abstract and empty vessel, vulnerable to the projection of others’ feelings, ideas, desires, and values”(Hartman 21). Terminus says right at the beginning to Crank, “Is I one o’ de ‘lect? Co’se I is!”, but Crank responds with “since you are one of us, you will gladly give me your mite”(Downing 9).  In “Coon”, Terminus’s wit hints at his humanness and his internal equality with the white characters. But in the end it seems to work against any fight to change his actual social status. It is only taken as a joke, or not understood. Reinforcement of action is still action, but minstrelsy is proof that performance and positive change do not always follow after each other.

 Writers and actors worked for realism and away from melodrama as another way to influence change. The Krigwa, Crisis Guild of Writers and Artists were a foundational part of this movement. The negro “has been a minstrel, comedian, singer and lay figure of all sorts. Only recently has he begun tentatively to emerge as an ordinary human being with everyday reactions” (Du Bois 134). The break away from melodrama to realism was a move that pushed a performance towards being performative in the way that the writer‘s desired, toward action that changed their circumstances.  She says that she had stopped caring “Because it doesn’t seem deep enough, close enough to what ails mankind! It was a child’s way of seeing things - or an idealist’s” (Hansberry 133). The drive came from the desire for people to see a realistic depiction of black people in order to break stereotypes. The method system of acting and performing also shows this movement to want change. “We might assume that believable acting  is simply a matter of being natural but…acting realistically onstage is extremely artificial and difficult”(Wilson/Goldfarb 99). We have to learn how to act differently, to see things differently. In “Raisin” Beneatha, even as a negro, acted out her perception of what she believed a true African to be. When she gets the dress from Asagai she “starts to wriggle in front of the mirror as she thinks a Nigerian woman might”(Hansberry 66). People are all trained, in a sense, one way or another.

A good play will help to re teach the audience to see with different eyes and act in different, hopefully more moral, ways. Just as the actors had to learn these steps, the people in the audience have to yearn for this change in themselves and in society as well. Beneatha’s experiences with how people act, or perform, towards her help to change the way she sees herself and her situation. Eventually she becomes proud of who she is and where her family is going as she watches her brother Walter’s performance to Lindner in his climactic speech where he tell him “we have decided to move into our house because my father- my father- he earned it for us brick by brick…And that’s all we got to say about that. We don’t want your money”(Hansberry 148). This performance changes the whole family. Ruth gains faith in her husband again, Travis has a father to look up to, Ruth finds a pride that is actually usable, and Mama is restored to her own peace of mind. According to the Stanislavinski system, “all action onstage must have a purpose”(100 Goldfarb). The family takes action as a whole after that and moves to the new neighborhood.

As much as it is argued, there is the view of  “race plays” and “folk plays” as one being propaganda, and the other not. However, both are working to change the way people see black people, and are therefore attempting some form of propaganda. One is just more in your face than the other and they are effective in different ways. Effiong explains that people at the time, particularly those a part of The Little Negro Theater movement, were working to expand these levels of folk aspects in plays. Hughes, however, came out with intense “agit prop” with “Scottsboro, Limited”. The most obvious aspect of the performance being the actors in the audience, the complete breaking down of the fourth wall. It is a direct challenge to what Melodrama and Minstrelsy was doing, to what  Saxon did in “Coon”, which was to create a “barrier, to prevent [others] from approaching the platform too close” so that they are “unable to see plainly”(Downing 65,67). “Scottsboro,Limited” begins with the white man rising in the audience to shout to the eight black boys “What are you-all doing in here? What the hell are you doing in here, I said?” (Hughes 117). They are all there for the play, the performance, both the actors and the audience. With the audience’s own involvement in the play, especially in the shouting at the end, the actors are not merely saying parasitic words from a script that only has meaning that is separate from the “ordinary speech”; The audience is given “new words in their mouth” to cite. This performance is effective because “the ones on the outside fight for us, too”(Hughes 123). Because the performance is of the actors and the audience combines, it all becomes and is “real” and performative. The play ends with everyone shouting “Fight! Fight! Fight!”(Hughes 129). It is all beyond acting. It is more than a call to action. It is action.

The whole point of having these plays being performed can be seen as a way to bring out the “Africanist presence” that Morrison is pushing for. A play is not something to only consume, “imagining is not merely looking or looking at; nor is it taking oneself intact into the other. It is, for the purposes of the work, becoming”(Morrison 4). These plays should be seen as “responses to a dark, abiding, signing Africanist presence”(5). These plays should be studied with the intent on changing racism, if not then studies are “enforcing its invisibility”. There is the need to move beyond seeing things the same way. Walter had said “I didn’t make this world! It was give to me this way!” before he finally stood up and gave the performance that made his family proud again (Hansberry 143). Plays are asserting this presence and the ability to change the “given” world through performance. Without performance “we will be dead /If we stay quiet here”(Hughes 118). Utterances through performance is action, and so “We need not die!”

We should not want to “dismiss the difficult, arduous work writers do to make an art that becomes and remains part of and significant within a human landscape”(Morrison 8-9). Dismissing would be to see theatrical speech as something etiolated but because it happens on a stage. Writers are trying to change the landscape, and can if we see each play as an opportunity for performative speech instead of just statements, or at least a catalyst to action. The play may be “citing” some other action, but its purpose is also to become what the people in the audience “cite” in their future actions, which is how it creates a change in others through its performance.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Evening News

Girl Pummeled By Chair in Library

While standing on a chair to reach the top half of the white board in room 5446 of the HBLL, Emerald Guildner, age 22, fell off and subsequently landed on another chair and bruised her upper thigh. Her fall was caused by extreme shock to her system when the library's closing announcement was introduced with a loud, obnoxious, and very scary bell tone. Authorities are looking into the petition to make this noise less dangerous and scary to library goers everywhere.
Sources say that Emerald's only comments were: "WELL ________ !"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I can, and so

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
- Robert Frost
 Whose woods these are I think I know,
 His house is in the village though.
 He will not see me stopping here,
 To watch his woods fill up with snow.

 My little horse must think it queer,
 To stop without a farmhouse near,
 Between the woods and frozen lake,
 The darkest evening of the year.

 He gives his harness bells a shake,
 To ask if there is some mistake.
 The only other sound's the sweep,
 Of easy wind and downy flake.

 The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
 But I have promises to keep,
 And miles to go before I sleep,
 And miles to go before I sleep.

I know I am not the only one, but I am getting so tired. Sometimes it is like these woods, a deep dark lull that entices me towards indifference. Sometimes a maze of confusion that only gets worse the more times I try to get out. Sometimes hysterical panic.

There have been five times in my life where I not only felt I could not get up from under such heavy weight, but that I actually desired to not get up.  

I always got up.

I never completely understand how, but I always know why.

The why is because I want big and important things.
Things so important that it is impossible for me to stop working for them. Things I will work for until I have nothing more to give, because there is nothing else worth having or doing anyway. And I have a responsibility to get them.

And there are some things that I want, that are not so essential, but I want so badly. Things that I know I can have if I work hard enough, harder than I care to think about. And so, I will not think about the work, I will simply work.

I have made myself promises. I promise to get what I want, what should be mine. 

I don't just feel like my heart is bursting with desire, or even that it is bigger, but that my heart has changed shape and filled everything inside me. Everything under my skin is gone and replaced with heart, my insides are one giant muscle that has no other purpose other than working for what I want.

And so I will.