Archives tell stories. The shape and scope of these stories is usually a matter of power and access. We will inquire into the relation between poetics and the archive by considering the narration of lives oppressed, erased, or forgotten as a feminist act. How does one depict the lives of those who leave few traces other than in private writings, oral histories, or visual records? Together, we will grapple with what Saidiya Hartman refers to as “critical fabulation” by exploring how feminist poetics seeks to give voice to the silent, especially when it comes to those subject to racist, sexist, and homo-/trans-phobic violence. We will consider how one organizes disorderly countermemories, contradictions, and forgotten stories. We will approach the archive, not as a narrative of foreclosed pasts, but rather as a site of provisional futures. After establishing a foundation based upon Virginia Woolf’s speculative feminist writing, we will explore two archives: first, the archive of slavery and its afterlives (in the work of Saidiya Hartman and Stephen Best), and, second, the archive of Emily Dickinson’s poetry constituted around the fascicles and Susan Howe’s critical writings of her experience reading Dickinson. Then, we will devote the rest of the quarter to creative projects based upon archival research of a body of work of your own choosing (or making!). Using feminist, archival, and creative methods studied in class, students will develop research projects that render the lives of those often deemed peripheral to more officialized, public histories. Requirements include attendance and participation, a reading log, and a research project.
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own Mariner Books
Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals W. W. Norton & Company
Emily Dickinson, ed. R. W. Franklin, The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition Harvard University Pres
4. Susan Howe, My Emily Dickinson New Directions