Notes #3 Jill Dolan’s Geographies of Learning

"For instance, we could demonstrate, to our students and to our readers and listeners, how we’re motivated by the erotics of ideas, by the partialness of knowledge, by the presentness of ourselves in relationship to each other, using performance or any other mode of critical pedagogy. We could use our positions as teachers and scholars to put the body back into thought, to think of pleasures like desire not as a space of absence that language can’t lead us to, but as a space of social possibility to which our bodies lead us. If our politics are truly progressive, we have to speak what we know or what we think or what we want to know out into the culture, bringing to bear respect and even love on our own disagreements and generative misunderstandings. We have to remind people that teaching and scholarship off epistemologies, ways of knowing and understanding, even misunderstanding, that can be productive even if they aren’t reproductive."
~ Jill Dolan, Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance

Notes #2 from Jill Dolan’s Geographies of Learning

"Likewise, in Geographies of Learning, I proselytize for theater as an intensely social, still potentially radical site of cultural transformation. As Bonnie Marranca notes, theater is ‘the only cultural space in which felt speech and concentrated listening and looking is preserved.’ She goes on, ‘In this realm one can discover qualities increasing disappearing from contemporary experience, such as privacy and intimacy and spiritual feeling.’ I, too, believe in this particular, local, perhaps even utopian promise of theater, in which theater communities assemble to look at social relations, to be provoked, moved, enraged, made proud by what human beings can do when they’re set in relation to one another.  Performance offers us a practice that lets us rehearse new social arrangements, in ways that require visceral investments of bodies, of time, of personal and cultural history…

Performance often unleashes the desire that flows just below the surface of the settings in which we work.” ~ Jill Dolan, Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance

Notes #1 from Jill Dolan’s Geographies of Learning

"Theater is an ideological project, a place at which resistance is possible.  Given the right critical and creative tools, active, rather than passive, consumption of theater and film and dance and performance contributes to a richer conversation about art and its efficacy.  Teaching critical reading skills and theory is enormously important, because students need tools to intervene in representation, or even just to consume it critically and passionately…

For those of us versed in contemporary theory, poststructuralism has revised our understandings of what it means to be agents in specific historical moments.  We know much more about the complexities of power and its insidious strategies.  But we can’t be overcome with cynicism, we can’t finally move people through irony.  Our passions, our pleasures, the elegance of our worldviews need to be communicated as values to which belief adheres.  We need to teach values, encourage students to make political commitments, informed by global politics, as we train them in skills and knowledge.  Teaching values will help reshape how knowledge matters and might allow us to have real effect in contemporary political systems.” ~ Jill Dollan, Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance

First Day of Classes

Both my classes had their first real sessions today. My new performance class is preparing to study selected works of Anna Deavere Smith, and the course will focus on performance work that explores themes of social justice. Today, they wrote in their journals a list of what they had heard or learned about being female in the world (I teach at a single gender school for girls), and then they created a male character (of any age) talking about girls or women. Each student then performed her piece, and we discussed the patterns, myths, and stereotypes presented of both genders through their pieces. I am excited to see where this work evolves, especially as we move into characters that defy or challenge the perspectives of gender as either boy or girl.

My speech students read excepts from Bone Black by bell hooks, and I am always thrilled to introduce my young women students to her work! They’re writing their own personal narrative speeches as a first assignment.

"…I can tell him, my grandfather who loves me always, that I want to belong—that it hurts to be always on the outside. He tells me there are a lot of ways to belong in this world. And that it is my work to find out where I belong.
At night, when everyone is silent and everything is still, I lie in the darkness of my windowless room, the place where they exile me from the community of their heart, and search the unmoving blackness to see if I can find my way home. I tell myself stories, write poems, record my dreams. In my journal I write—I belong in this place of words. This is my home. This dark, bone black inner cave where I am making a world for myself.” ~ bell hooks, Bone Black

I taught in a coed setting for many years, but there is something so wonderful about the all girl class setting and the conversations my students share with me that remind me, on days like this, why I love my job so much!