Monday, August 10, 2020

"I hurt just like them white women": Black maternity in "The Bluest Eye"

When Pauline in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye is pregnant with her second child, a doctor discusses her with residents: "[...] now these here women you don't have any trouble with. They deliver right away and with no pain. Just like horses." In this medical myth, Black people are treated like animals who don't feel pain like whites do. In labor, Pauline challenges that myth: "The pains wasn't as bad as I let on, but I had to let them people know [...] I hurt just like them white women." Morrison's 1970 novel thus depicts private resistance to discrimination around 1930. The history of oppression is always a history of resistance. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 August)

Sunday, August 09, 2020

"It was odd how soon one got used to cars without horses"

In the 1914 chapter of Virginia Woolf's 1937 novel "The Years", Martin Pargiter walks across London with his niece Sara. Between the Law Courts and Charing Cross, they cannot hear each other because of "the roar of the traffic", and Martin looks closely at an automobile: "It was odd how soon one got used to cars without horses, he thought. They used to look ridiculous." By the time Woolf wrote the novel in the 1930s, cars would have been a natural part of the landscape to most Londoners. But Martin, like Woolf herself, lived through the automobile's invention, and in 1914, he still remembers how unnatural the "horseless carriage" once looked. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 9 August)

Saturday, August 08, 2020

"None of us feel anything at all, she thought; we're all pretending": Delia Pargiter in Virginia Woolf's "The Years"

In Virginia Woolf's "The Years", the teenage Delia Pargiter can't feel what she's supposed to feel at her mother's funeral: "None of us feel anything at all, she thought; we're all pretending." And at the grave, she's still at a loss: "She hesitated – she did not know what she ought to do next." This might be shock, as with Septimus Smith in Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway", but given Delia's previous longing for her mother to finally die of her long illness, her uncertainty about feelings and appropriate behavior is less about that experience and more a matter of characterization – with Delia perhaps being on the autism spectrum before that terminology was coined. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 August)

Friday, August 07, 2020

The closed coffin in Toni Morrison and Patricia Smith

Like Emmett Till's, Chicken Little's body in Toni Morrison's Sula is found three days after his death, "unrecognizable to almost everybody who once knew him," but at his funeral, "the coffin [is] closed." As Patricia Smith notes in one of her "Emmett Till: Choose Your Own Adventure" poems, "Mamie Till insisted on an open casket so that the world could see her son's mutilated body." In Smith's poem, though, Emmett's coffin is closed, so people imagine his body with only "perhaps a scrape or two / beneath his laundered shirt." In Smith and Morrison, the black child's "unrecognizable" body is hidden, so the imagination can deny the violence done to it. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 7 August)


The Smith poem is quoted in this review of her book Incendiary Art.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

"Something else to be" for Sula and Nel in Toni Morrison's "Sula"

As children, Sula Peace and Nel Wright in Toni Morrison's Sula find common ground in their self-knowledge: "Because [...] they were neither white nor male, and [...] all freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they had set about creating something else to be." White and male individuality may enable the positive goals of "freedom and triumph", but the generic conventionality of such stories limits such individuality. In turn, the social conventions preventing black women in Morrison from realizing conventional individuality force them to "create something else" that, in its namelessness, makes them more singular than those otherwise enabled by the white and male privilege created by structural racism and misogyny. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 August)

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

"Because we have more tests, we have more cases": President Trump's absurd touchstone

"Because we have more tests, we have more cases": it runs like a touchstone through Jonathan Swan's interview with President Donald Trump. As so many already have, I could point out the absurdity of the statement: the cases are there whether or not one tests for them; testing for them is a way to determine how serious the situation is; more cases means that the situation is more serious and that further measures need to be taken to bring it under control. But none of that seems to matter as for as President Trump is concerned; he'll just keep repeating his touchstone: "Because we have more tests, we have more cases." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 5 August)


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

More points of contact between "The Old Guard" and "Harry Potter"

The other day I wrote about the image of two opponents falling from on high together that appears in both "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" and in "The Old Guard". The Harry Potter series also shares at least one actor with "The Old Guard": Harry Melling, who plays Dudley Dursley in the Potter films and Merrick in "The Old Guard" – which puts him in the Voldemort position in the latter film as he falls from the window. Voldemort wishes for immortality – and so does Merrick, who seeks a kind of "philosopher's stone" in the immortal bodies of Andy (Charlize Theron) and the other members of "The Old Guard". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 August)