The Purpose of Love Essay
1597 Words7 Pages
Why does one love? One loves for the sake of happiness. This was the common mindset in the pre-modern worldview from the time of ancient Greece. The ideas present in Plato’s The Symposium have however been replaced with a more contemporary view, particularly in Western societies. Allan Bloom details this transition in his work Love and Friendship. Bloom argues that the idea of “eros” has lost its true meaning; it has been morphed into a selfish and self-less act of mere sex: “Eros, in its Freudian version, is really all just selfishness and provides no basis for intimate human connection” (Bloom 24). Sex is no longer a form of a strong, intimate connection, but rather our contemporaries have allowed sex to become “no different from a…show more content…
Pre-modern societies were far less indivualized. People regarded themselves as small parts of a greater whole. There was a self, or a “core” as it is in the contemporary view, but it differs greatly. People of the pre-modern societies are said to have had an extended self, in contrast to the modern, autonomous self. Guignon defines the extended self as tying one’s identity into a wider context of the whole world. In the ancient times, this would have been with the gods, and the rest of one’s society, city or village, and family (18). This extended self in the pre-modern societies allowed for pre-modern love relationships. The shift occurred over several centuries, but three main events have been accounted for in Guignon’s work as the cause. The gradual shift of structure in society, from the triad, to the diad, to finally the monad, was caused by a new concept of turning inward to seek one’s self, a progression of development of modern science, and the realization of man-made social settings. The triad was the original notion that man was governed by an absolute. This absolute connected with man through nature. The triad eventually shifted to the diad; the absolute was dropped, God was no longer a figure for guidance. It was simply man and nature. The monad arose with autonomy. Now it was man and his mind interacting and living in society.
From St. Augustine, society
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Bernice M. Olivas
I want us to realize that all our citations of high theory
will not save us
and neither will trying to show that we are as rigorous and as serious as our literary colleagues save us…
I want us to realize that even the respectability of bigger budgets
will not save us.
As real as those issues are, as real as our struggles with those budgets are
—we act like being broke is new.
We always been underfunded.
We always been figuring it out as we go.
We always been dismissed, disregarded, disrespected.
But we served anyhow.
We took care of our students anyhow.
We transformed one discipline and created our own anyhow.
And it was women who did that work.
It was people of color who did that work.
It was queer folks who did that work.
It was first generation students in New York City and across the country, demanding open admissions, who did that work
(Banks 2015, arrangement mine)
Re-uniting, Re-igniting, and Re-alliance
It is precisely because we do discourse, in all its messiness, that we have a chance to be this kind of hub for intellectual work and for justice work on campus and off (Banks 2015).
In 2015, Adam Banks, the chair of the College Communication and Composition Conference, made a powerful call to action in his address to Composition and Rhetoric scholars. He asked us to “take flight” and to “travel across campus, across programs, and into more strategic relationship building.” He warned us it would be messy, but his call resonated across the composition community. However, Banks didn’t call as much attention to the shared creation story between “gender and women studies, indigenous studies, Latina, Latino studies, Asian, Asian American studies, and Africana studies,” or what is often called Identity Studies, and Composition and Rhetoric (Banks 2015). When women, people of color, queer scholars, first-generation students, and their allies were busily transforming “one discipline” and creating “our own”—these same people, these same voices—were demanding new spaces in the academy. Those spaces became “gender and women studies, indigenous studies, Latina, Latino studies, Asian, Asian American studies, and Africana studies.” In light of this shared experience, taking flight, is not so much an act of seeking “deep and long term, systematic relationships,” it is an act of re-uniting, re-igniting, and re-alliance.
By making the politics of identity a site of active, aggressive inquiry in the writing classroom, we can reinforce and strengthen the ways composition and rhetoric already resists bigotry, othering, and prejudice. We live in a world where we just need to flip on a television or open our browser to see that we continue to face very real systemic racism, very real racial violence, very real cultural divides. It is not safe to be different in 2015 America. For some, being different is deadly. This is not hyperbole.
In 1967—in response to the Vietnam War and widespread civil unrest—Mary Rose O’Reilley asked, “Is it possible to teach English so people will stop killing each other?” but in November of 2014 a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri refused to indict a white police officer for the shooting death of an unarmed black man. In December a grand jury refused to indict a police officer in the strangulation death of Eric Garner, another unarmed black man. These cases, like many before them, are likened to the notorious Emmett Tills case, and the events that led up to them and the events that followed them are compared to the Jim Crow era of lynching by activists of color like Tim Wise and Cornel West. Within weeks, a twelve-year-old black boy was shot by police for having a toy gun in a park. By March, his death is also ruled justified. In April, a video circulates social media; in it a black man is shot in the back fourteen times as he runs away from a police officer. Other people—peoples of color, women, people with disabilities, the queer communities—are also raising their voices to share their narratives, their mourning songs, their pain, fear, and frustration at the systemic inequality they face. In 2015. We, as a nation, are in as much of identity crisis as we were 1967. It becomes more and more obvious that we are still killing each other because we fear each other. And so I am compelled to ask “Is it possible to teach writing so that we stop fearing each other?”
Our students who identify as mainstream struggle with the paradox of contested agency in classes where they are asked to grapple with issues that stem from injustice and inequality. They are Linda Flower’s “people who stand within a circle of privilege [who] may also be standing in need of empowerment. What [they] need is not a space to express [their] identity or the power to resist pressures upon it but the capacity to speak publicly for something of value in a committed but critical way” (216). Frankie Condon points out that “We are products, after all of a history at least as terrible, as wicked, as it might be triumphant” (41). The reality is that few of us exist outside of those harsh realities; most of us have some affiliation with identity groups that did/do horrible things that benefited/benefit us. This legacy is one that most of us carry. It weighs heavily on all of our students. As teachers and learners it buffers us from the trauma and pain we experience when we read, write, or immerse ourselves in accounts of these lived experiences. What is critical about Condon’s argument is that it focuses on mapping ways of thinking that asks folks from the dominant mainstream to reconsider the effect such thinking has on them—effectively creating a space for folks with contested agency to actively think, write, and speak about identity in context to their own lived experiences. White supremacy thinking is an illusion covering deep wounds to the self and the community. Condon writes:
If we agree that all of our students, and all of us, live in a world where Discourse shapes our “identity kit[s]” (Gee 142); if we agree the discourse of othering is creating a toxic “doing-being-valuing-believing combination” (Gee 142) of language and social practices for all of us. It falls to us to ask, what happens if we re-consider the way we frame and understand writing through identity and about identity if we re-think the intellectual and social ramifications of writing and inquiring as our living, breathing, complex identities? What happens if we re-explore the pathways hardbroken and hardbuilt by folks in “gender and women studies, indigenous studies, Latina, Latino studies, Asian, Asian American studies, and Africana studies?” Can such inquiry offer renewed praxis, renewed hermeneutics; can it be a way of re-mixing our ways of thinking, writing, teaching, learning, and being?
Rethinking the “Personal”
At some point in their academic career most students will be asked to think about the conditions of failure and systems of oppression that function in our society. They will be asked to think and write about conditions they have no control over, conditions to which they have been subjected. However, due to one of the great contradictions of higher education, they will be asked to do so as if they stand outside of those systems. They will rarely be given opportunities to explore their own identity in context to the systems and conditions they are asked to think and write about.
J. Elspeth Stucky argues “the neutral stance of literacy educators and researchers is the ideology that literacy research perpetuates, the mask that allows masking to go on. Neutrality is a claim about form, and the very simplest fact about literacy is that it is always contextual” (60). I would argue that among these “reductive” practices is the way writing about identity is often conflated with writing about what is personal (Stucky 60). If we are to take flight into any kind of social justice work, then we have to separate those terms. Identity and personal are not synonymous. The term personal refers to information not readily available to the public, information we can choose divulge, information that we have the privilege of keeping to ourselves without inflicting damage to ourselves. In contrast, our identity is contextualized by the society we live in. It has nothing to do with personal information we choose or do not choose to divulge. Instead, identity is wrapped up in the markers of readily apparent social realities and the social biases that construct that reality. These realities are part of us, whether we choose to be part of them or not.
Victor Villanueva suggests that by allowing writers to access skills, traditions, and rhetorical moves that western conventions often ignore or disregard we can reach our reader more deeply than we can using just a conventional scholarly discourse or an objective based ethos. He writes, “The personal done well is sensorial and intellectual, complete, knowledge known throughout mind and body, even if vicariously.” Memoria both argues for, and shows how, interconnected, intertwined, and braided narrative/research, narrative/rhetoric creates academic work that is active, vibrant, and effective. Memoria, is an example of why, all writers, not just writers of color or students, benefit by writing critically about their identity, privilege, and position in society. These texts show the many ways that writing about contextualized identity is both intellectual and academic.
For example, as a woman, I will always be part of the discourse of feminism; as a woman of color, I cannot escape the discourse of race. These facts are not personal in any space where my body is evident to people around me; they are political in those same places. Each of us has identity markers that cannot be kept personal. Further, we all grapple with identity markers that are less obvious, but which deeply affect our perspectives. For these reasons, I seek to suggest that identity is deeply valuable site of critical inquiry in the writing classroom. Through critical inquiry into contextualized identity, we can then foster habits of the mind that are necessary to good citizenship, community literacy, and empathetic engagement with other complex identities.
English 300—Politics of Identity and the Essay Tradition:
Let the blare of Negro jazz bands and the bellowing voice of Bessie Smith singing the Blues penetrate the closed ears of the colored near intellectuals until they listen and perhaps understand. Let Paul Robeson singing “Water Boy,” and Rudolph Fisher writing about the streets of Harlem, and Jean Toomer holding the heart of Georgia in his hands, and Aaron Douglas’s drawing strange black fantasies cause the smug Negro middle class to turn from their white, respectable, ordinary books and papers to catch a glimmer of their own beauty. We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves. (Hughes 1926)
Follow that line of protest backwards and it will lead us back to the tension W.E.B de Bois and Booker T. Washington. It will also carry us forward to interviews, rants, and tweets from folks like Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, and Nicki Minaj. Through the essay we can track the evolution of respectability politics, and more importantly, evolution of the rhetoric of respectability politics. Hughes’s defiant call to action is an example of how a protest essay written during the Harlem renaissance continues to resonate with readers today. It’s also short, aggressive, and to the point. The protest essay doesn’t ask you to spend much time figuring out what it means, instead it demands that you get up and do something about what you have read.
It is this “essay”—the essay that demands our attention, that calls us out, that claims space for the marginalized identity—that we will explore and practice in this class. This means we will be learning two things:
Some of the questions we'll explore this semester are:
We’ll begin the course by orienting ourselves to the language and concepts that apply to the essay and the politics of identity, and then we will attempt to use these to analyze and describe the narrative methods of writers of the protest essay. This course hopes to accomplish the following: