5 October 2020

Dear Everyone:  

I attended a virtual conference for the first time this past weekend, hosted by the University of Virginia English Department’s graduate student association (Talia Schaffer was there, too!), and met and learned from people scattered across the country. I sorely miss in person conferences and was glad and relieved to find that this was really good nonetheless, which I share by way of encouraging you to take advantage of the compulsory virtuality we’re living to dive into far flung conversations. Opportunities for engaging interesting work and showing up with and for each other…  

That also describes the efforts of the people involved in the events our program hosted on Friday – the orals workshop organized by Nancy Silverman, featuring Steve Kruger, Margot Kotler, Jason Myers, and Caleb Fridell, and with Anna Rider’s terrific assistance, and the Portfolio Showcase organized by Christian Fryer-Davis, featuring Natasha Ochshorn, Mitchell Wilson, and Judah Rubin —  huge appreciation to all. I want also to make note, with appreciation, of Kent Yuen’s behind-the-scenes work in managing zoom set up for the Friday Forums.  There is time and labor and care and thought that goes into organizing and participating in these events: many thanks to all on behalf of all.

Along these lines, thanks also to Talia Schaffer for organizing our upcoming Friday Forum featuring Professor Elizabeth Freeman!  Please see here for information and a link to registration.  Titled “Committed to the End: On Care Work and Rereading,” this talk is sure to be most excellent.

We’re starting what I think is week 6 of the semester – so, about a third of the way through the term. How are you doing, I wonder? I keep wanting to write something about resentment and fury – my own, our collective – regarding the willful ignorance that produced and sustains the attenuating present and the overwhelming gratitude – again, my own, our collective – for practices of sustaining life that have amplified and proliferated correspondingly, but I’m not sure what that something is. I think it is at least in part that Chuseok – the Korean holiday in which we deliberately remember our ancestors who have passed as well as those to come – has just been celebrated, coupled with the reading I’ve been doing of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope – a lesser known book of his in which he revisits Pedagogy of the Oppressed – that I suspect that something has to do with hope, and more specifically, with the relationship between what we do and what Freire describes as the “ontological need” of hope.  Freire writes, “One of the tasks of the progressive educator, through a serious, correct political analysis, is to unveil opportunities for hope.” Time, labor, care, thought, mutuality, engagement – the stuff of “unveiling”….

And/but also, I want also to acknowledge all of us who cannot be present in these particular ways, because of the demands of the world distributed so very inequitably; because of the demands of family; because “normal” has never meant okay and “unprecedented” means even worse for many; because white supremacy, sexism, sexual violence, poverty, hunger, houselessness…These aren’t outside our purview. It is because the present is untenable/intolerable/impossible/excoriating that hope is necessary…mutuality means recognizing the conditions that prohibit and privilege participation of certain kinds as much as appreciating synchronic engagement. Offer no shade, only cover.

How are you doing, I wonder? 

I very much hope you can find hope in the reading/writing/dancing/laughing/screaming/eating/drinking/dreaming/walking/breathing you do this week.

Next week, news and notes following the various program and building committee meetings unfolding to then.

Bye for now!Kandice

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