Before I delve into the books we will be reading this semester in Senior Seminar, I wanted to share my thoughts on the reading of the packets we were given in class. I thought this would be important since we may be referring to the thoughts and the processes behind them throughout the semester.
Arunhdhati Roy in her article, Power Politics, wanted to make several points. The major points she wanted to illustrate were centered around activism, and what is needed to be an activist. She states that an activist must take a stance on a situation and dominate that stance. They will ask for input from opposing viewpoints to either really sway them, or more likely activists will welcome opposing viewpoints so they can attack it and further the dominance of their stance. Roy, on the other side of things says that writers who enjoy activism should not be labeled so harshly that the label will stick through every type of work that the author produces. Her example of the Novelist is great since a novel, be it fantasy, or a court-room thriller must entertain the reader and make them believe what is being put forth in the book. This suspense of disbelief would not be a good thing for activists since they are held accountable for their activist work. Novelists on the other hand are not held to this standard, as such, they can be as creative as they need to be in order to tell their story. Ultimately, Roy’s point was know what you are doing as a writer, and do it well. An activist needs to dominate their viewpoint, and a novelist needs to create a story that will transport the reader to another world, writers that do not do a good job of this will neither dominate a viewpoint nor transport a reader’s mind to another world.
Edwidge Danticat in Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, talks in a fresh and certainly gritty fashion about making literature and art in its many forms more accessible to the public. Was Shakespeare easy to understand in the Creole speaking communities? No, not very well, since the very setting, mindset, and language were barriers to the concepts that Shakespeare was bringing to the fore in his plays. Danticat talks about taking those plays for instance, and putting them in a more Creole setting with Creole language and the application of perhaps a Creole mindset. In this way, the message becomes more clear. How is this creating dangerously? This goes far beyond the bridging of cultures. The very act of reading certain literature, much less writing it in many cultures is a crime punishable by death, since the leaders of these societies are afraid of what a change in mindset may bring. Danticat challenges readers and writers to not stick to the safety of their comfort zones. By doing this, new views can be expressed, and with reading comes comprehension to a degree. This confusion, in my mind, is what makes reading and writing so dangerous, because change comes out of confusion.
Tony Kushner in, Some Questions about Tolerance, brings up some very important points. Tolerance is not acceptance. To tolerate is to merely put up with and keep at an arm’s length. The very act of tolerance is an act born of non-acceptance, thus it is counter-intuitive toward the real expression of art in its many forms. Not only art is not accepted when it pushes the boundaries and sometimes crosses them, people by and large are as well. Humans, or perhaps just Americans, are very susceptible to this mean of thought. Kushner says that we, as Americans, because of our diversity, divide ourselves and merely make arrangements to live together. This diversity, or I should say, polite divisions is a cramp in the muscles of true expression. I can see where Kushner is coming from every time I look at the student breakdown at Law Schools, who proudly display their percentages of minorities and other brackets. What this does is create a tolerance, from my understanding via Kushner, this means that writing or reading for the matter, or any consuming of media is divided and tolerated by every bracket that is divided. What happens then when someone pushes this tolerance to the brink? Kushner says that art, or expression in any way, is only acceptable when it is generic, and this is not really art then, since the art is only an expression of nothing new. What is art then if it is regulated to the same effect as a single letter in the alphabet? It symbolizes just a tool, the letter has become just a phonetic symbol of sound, and generic art become perhaps less than that. I feel that Kushner is saying to break those boundaries and challenge people. I guess the saying, divide and conquer has some merit here, since we are already divided, we are now artistically conquered. Kushner makes me feel that we should all drop our conceptions of color and race, and re-identify ourselves. This leads to another problem: Identity. Our very identity is mired within the context of our historical roots, and also the present geological location of certain people who develop or change identities based on regionalism. This links back to Roy, who would say, pick an identity, and just be it. Maybe she would not say it like that, but I would think that I would think that after reading her article. This does not solve the problem of external identification of self and others since everyone would have to adopt the same relative identification to eliminate the problem of the divided country that leads to the generic art. I then ultimately feel that having these divisions can allow for a greater expression, and the very fact that we can tolerate things or not tolerate things begs for us to be offended and challenged. Does this mean that generic art should not be tolerated since it represents nothing? This is where art for the sake of art comes in, which solves the generic expression problem, allowing for greater expression to take place not for the sake of art, but for the sake of expressing a message. We may be divided, but united we stand.
Danticat, Edwidge. “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work.” New York: Vintage 2010: 1-20. print.
Kushner, Tony. “Some Questions about Tolerance.” Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness. New York: NY: Theatre Communications Group, 1995. 41-46. print.
Roy, Arundhati. Power Politics. Boston: South End Press, 2002. Print.